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Legislature Passes Bills Affecting UConn

Boost Given to Stem Cell Research

By Richard Veilleux - July 18, 2005

The Connecticut General Assembly this year passed a handful of bills that will directly affect UConn, including a resolution providing $100 million during the next 10 years for researchers to study stem cells.

During the session that ended June 8, legislators also cleared the way for adjunct professors, who play an increasingly large role in delivering instruction to college students, to join their full-time colleagues in the state’s Alternate Retirement Plan.

Connecticut became one of only four states in the country to dedicate funding for stem cell research. The bill, which prohibits cloning humans, among other safeguards, creates a Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee that will develop an application process for grants-in-aid to be made from the fund. The committee also will accept applications for funding, and make recommendations for awards. Applications are due by June 2006. UConn and Yale University are expected to be the prime conduits for the funding. The advisory committee will be appointed by Oct. 1.

At the UConn Health Center, a wide-ranging bill will make it easier for foreign-trained dentists to become certified in Connecticut, require all dentists to earn continuing education credits, expand the number of functions hygienists are allowed to perform, and create an alternate route to certification for students at the School of Dental Medicine.

“We went from one of the most regressive practice laws to one of the more progressive,” says Peter Robinson, dean of the dental school. “I’m very excited about it. It’s an enlightened law.”

Robinson says the state – and the dental school – have for years lost “extraordinary people” to other states because foreign-trained dentists, even dentists who have taught at dental schools for years, could only obtain provisional licenses to practice in Connecticut. The new law allows them to be certified after two years of advanced training or three years on the UConn faculty. An influx of foreign dentists to Connecticut, Robinson says, will increase the number of dentists available to treat economically disadvantaged residents, and of those who could work with people from their home country.

Allowing certification through a post-graduate year of training will give the state more dentists familiar with treating special needs patients, including mentally handicapped people and elderly patients in nursing homes.

In another bill, the chair of the Health Center’s Board of Directors and the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development were added to the University’s Board of Trustees as ex-officio members, enlarging that group to 21 members.

The legislature also passed a bill giving the Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital access to borrowing through the Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority. Until now, the Dempsey Hospital was the only hospital in the state which could not avail itself of CHEFA financing. The CHEFA helps eligible health, educational, and cultural non-profits gain access to low-cost, tax-exempt debt financing.

“Since UConn 2000 financing for Health Center projects is limited to construction for the research and academic enterprise, this new access to tax-exempt borrowing is an important step forward for UConn’s clinical operation,” says Lorraine Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer.

The bill allowing special payroll faculty to join the Alternate Retirement Plan (TIAA-CREF) “is a very positive development that makes UConn a better employer for part-time lecturers,” says Edward Marth, executive director of the UConn chapter of the American Association for University Professors (AAUP).

Marth says there are roughly 600 part-time faculty at UConn, teaching primarily at the regional campuses. About 300 could find the retirement option attractive. Under the plan, members contribute 5 percent of their income to the fund and the state contributes 8 percent.

The bill also allows emeritus faculty who have returned to teaching to participate in the plan. Due to complicated Internal Revenue Service regulations, however, the plan does not work for all part-time or emeritus faculty, Marth says. Information will be sent to eligible instructors soon.

Two bills clarify tuition procedures for retired and active military. The first bill makes it clear that any member of the armed services is immediately eligible for in-state tuition when assigned to a base in Connecticut. A second bill clarifies that a veteran who lives in Connecticut and is admitted to the University will receive a tuition waiver.

The legislature also created a new blue ribbon panel that will create and implement ways to promote technology transfer. University President Philip E. Austin was named one of the panel’s members.

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