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Session could result in more BOT power

Midway through the second week of the Florida Legislature’s session, USF lobbyist Kathy Betancourt said Wednesday the atmosphere in Tallahassee has been quiet as legislators try to sort out shortcomings resulting from budget cuts.

She said, however, that legislators are beginning to put together their agendas, two of which could affect USF.

One is a recommendation from the Senate staff that would give state universities’ boards of trustees more specific powers, similar to that of community college boards, Betancourt said.

“(The BOT’s) power is unclear,” Betancourt said. “It’s kind of fuzzy.”

The new legislation will put in place more specific powers for the BOT so every time it and USF President Genshaft “want to get something done, they can run the show without having to come to Tallahassee,” she said.

Another issue, Betancourt said, was legislation based on Gov. Jeb Bush’s State of the State address last week. Bush proposed allocating $100 million for high-tech universities, and Betancourt said, as a result of the kind of work done at USF – marine science, macroelectronics, nano-biology, etc. – the university could benefit from additional funds.

State Rep. Chris Hart, chairman for the House Committee on Information Technologies and a USF alumnus, could be a key player in helping USF obtain some of the money the governor wants to set aside, Betancourt said.

Last September, Hart, along with State Sen. Ron Klein, wrote to members of the Florida Research Consortium – a group dedicated to high-tech research and development at the university level – about the importance of “enhancing progressive research programs at Florida’s universities, strengthening and expanding Florida’s high-tech intellectual capital, facilitating the work of transfer technology offices at member universities and promoting long-term collaboration between researchers, scientists and engineers and Florida’s high-tech sectors, entrepreneurs and their companies.”

Hart and Klein could not be reached for comment.Betancourt said the two issues will not be voted on until March.