At 11th Hour, Bill Authorizing New Engineering Building Dies

A legislative ping pong match ends with the late session death of one of UT’s most cherished priorities.

At Eleventh Hour, Bill Authorizing New Engineering Building Dies

The bill authorizing universities to seek bonds to build new capital projects, including UT’s desperately needed Engineering Education and Research Center, died last night. It was the second consecutive session in which UT’s most sorely needed building hit a legislative wall.

Senate Bill 16 was an omnibus bill containing some 60 tuition-revenue bond projects at colleges and universities in the state. The version of the bill that passed out of the Senate contained $2.4 billion in capital projects, including $95 million for the EERC. The House version added some additional projects and bumped up the total number to about $2.7 billion.

When it came back to the Senate Sunday, the senators asked for a conference committee to resolve some differences between the two versions, but the House refused to send conferees. Take it or leave it, they said.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member (D-Laredo), who authored SB16, said the Senate was unwilling to rubber-stamp the House version. “We can’t do that,” she told the Texas Tribune. “We’re talking about $2.7 billion in construction. You need a conference committee.”

Now the question is whether there will be a special session–the general consensus is that there will be–and if so whether Gov. Rick Perry would place campus construction on the docket.

The $95 million in tuition revenue bonds represented about a third of the total construction cost of the EERC. Without it, construction might not be able to begin this summer as planned.

On Monday morning, supporters were hoping the chancellors of the various Texas university systems would band together to try and persuade the governor to place campus construction on the docket for a special session.


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