Perry Vetoes Regents Bill

Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed a bill intended to address legislators’ concerns with the behavior of some University of Texas regents.

Perry Vetoes Regents Bill

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed Senate Bill 15 Friday, putting another twist in the ongoing saga between legislators and some UT System regents.

Called the “higher ed clean-up bill” by higher education chair Dan Branch, Republican of Dallas, Senate Bill 15 was the product of 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.

After tough questioning of Perry-appointed regents and regent nominees, numerous records request of the System from legislators, and the ultimate passage of SB 15, it was thought that the controversy may have quieted down, at least for the summer.

In a statement Friday, Perry explained his reasons for the veto:

As governor, I have focused on making higher education more affordable, accountable and accessible, and I will continue to support innovative ideas that will improve the quality of our universities.

Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents, however, is a step in the wrong direction. History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance.

The veto comes the same week that Regent Wallace Hall made another data request of the UT-Austin campus. It was the same kind of request that had gotten legislators so worked up in the first place and led to the drafting and passage of SB15.

In his letter sent to the flagship campus Tuesday, Hall asked for emails from Powers or his deputy, Nancy Brazzil, and members of the Texas Coalition for Higher Education, which has vocally opposed Hall’s behavior. Hall’s latest request irritated two of his fellow regents, who asked the chairman of the board, Gene Powell, to put a stop to them. Powell responded that Hall was acting within his rights.

The bill prescribed training for regents in best practices for governing boards, and emphasized the role of the chancellor, who serves as the main channel of communication between boards and their institutions. It was authored by Senate higher education chair Kel Seliger, Republican of Amarillo, and passed overwhelmingly by both chambers: the Senate by a vote of 29 yeas to 2 nays, the House with 134 yeas and 11 nays, with two not voting.

The veto comes as Perry denied a number of bills passed by the legislature, including debt service for tuition revenue bonds (TRBs), which provide for new campus construction projects, like UT’s proposed Engineering Education and Research Center. TRB bills were also passed by both chambers, but House and Senate versions could not be reconciled by the end of the regular session.

Perry has stated that he will not add any additional items to the agenda of the current special session.

Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes supported SB15 as a measure to ensure good governance at the University of Texas System. You can read the Texas Exes’ legislative priorities here.

Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons.


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