Regents Bill Gains Final House Approval

Regents Bill Gains Final House Approval

A bill designed to more strictly define the role of public university regents passed the Texas House of Representatives on third reading Tuesday, the final major vote before heading to Gov. Rick Perry for approval—or veto. Senate Bill 15, authored by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and guided through the House by Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas), was amended twice before final passage by a vote of 134-11.

Dubbed the “higher ed clean-up bill” by Branch, Senate Bill 16 reflects this session’s tension between legislators and some members of the UT System Board of Regents over alleged “micromanaging” of UT-Austin and “witch hunts” against its president, Bill Powers.

It prescribes training for regents in best practices for governing boards, which must be completed within a year of appointment and prior to voting on budgetary or personnel matters. It also 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. Regents approved a change to their own rules this month that makes the chancellor an explicit voice in the presidential selection process.

Three amendments were added to the bill, all by Branch. One allows the university systems to conduct the required ethics training and another removes a provision that barred regent nominees from voting before they were vetted by the Senate nominations committee. The final amendment makes it so that regents’ terms expire in February of odd numbered years—during legislative sessions. Explicitly scheduling gubernatorial appointments during the biennial legislative session would, theoretically, help the Senate review the governor’s appointees and avoid recess appointments.

Perry has appointed two new regent candidates to the UT System board during the current session, and nominated vice chair Paul Foster for re-appointment. A Senate nominations committee meeting is expected on May 20.

If the Senate agrees to the amendments, the bill then goes to Perry for approval.

Seliger says he’s “very optimistic” about his bill, and expressed support for the amendments and said he does not expect the Senate to challenge the amended version of the bill.

“The amendments are staying with the intent [of the bill], which is good governance,” Seliger said Tuesday.

Asked about whether he thinks Perry will sign the bill into law, Seliger said that legislators have had an “ongoing dialogue” with the governor, and that the governor is aware of the bill and its intentions.

Learn more about Texas Exes advocacy efforts here.

Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission via Flickr Creative Commons.


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