House Committee Approves Bill To Define Regent Roles

Making its way through the Legislature, a bill that would more carefully define the role of public university regents now heads to the House—and possibly the Governor’s desk.

House Committee Approves Bill to Limit Regent Roles

The higher education committee of the Texas House of Representatives reported favorably on a bill to more tightly define the role of university regents Friday, two weeks after the bill was passed by the state Senate. The bill, which the committee approved unanimously, would outline the regents’ statutory power in governing public university systems across the state. It now heads to the full House membership for a vote. If passed, the bill must then be signed by Gov. Rick Perry.

The bill prescribes training for regents in governance best practices within a year of appointment, and before they can vote on budgetary and personnel matters. It also promotes governance, rather than management, and emphasizes the role of the chancellor, who serves as the main channel of communication between boards and their institutions. Another provision requires the chancellor to recommend the removal of a university president before one can be fired.

The same day the measure passed the Senate earlier this month, the UT System Board of Regents voted unanimously to comply with legislative demands for transparency. Regents voted to release system documents requested by legislators, and to turn over authority of an inquiry into the UT Law School Foundation to the state attorney general—two issues which have been points of contention between lawmakers and some regents.

Students and friends of the University have supported the bill through the legislative process, and the Texas Exes has advocated for it. In March, Texas Exes executive director and CEO Leslie Cedar testified in favor of the bill to the Senate higher education committee.

Provisions of the bill, while affecting all public university governing boards, were drafted in response to ongoing tensions this session between legislators and the UT System Board of Regents. Responding to allegations that regents were attempting to remove UT-Austin president Bill Powers, legislators have spoken out against what they call “micromanagement” of UT, and “witch hunts” against President Powers.

While the bill has seen bipartisan support in both chambers, the final step in the legislative process requires approval by Gov. Perry. Two new nominees for the UT System Board were announced by Perry in February, along with the reappointment of vice chair Paul Foster, though the legislature has yet to approve the nominees. Perry has appointed every current member of the UT System Board.

Learn more about Texas Exes advocacy efforts here.

Photo courtesy Dave Wilson Photography via Flickr Creative Commons.


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