Senate committee holds bill regarding regent operations

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate Committee on Higher Education left a bill regarding board of regent operations pending in committee to adjust the language of the bill.

SB 177, which Sen. Kel Seliger (R–Amarillo) filed, would establish certain restrictions and operation guidelines for the governing boards of public institutions of higher education, such as the UT System Board of Regents. If passed, the bill would establish new transparency and independence measures, ethics training and a clear definition of the board’s role in the university’s system.

Over the course of the last several years, UT administrators and the UT System Board of Regents have been involved in several highly-publicized debates concerning transparency. 

Last year, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations formally censured Regent Wallace Hall after he allegedly placed a burden on the University with a series of broad open records requests, spanning several hundreds of thousands of pages. 

The bill establishes that the board may not “unreasonably or unduly” interfere with daily university operations.

“My concern would be that in the event a board of trustees felt the need to have a little more interactive role in a day to day capacity, for whatever reason … I’m afraid this may put some handcuffs — if you will — on unforeseen circumstance,” Rep. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) said.

At the hearing, Seliger said the bill would “establish consistency” in governing body processes across the state.

“This bill clarifies and codifies the best practice of university governance,” Seliger said at the hearing. “It also increases transparency and training for members of boards of regents.” 

Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) said she is concerned about the standardization of governing boards. 

“I like the individual ability of each board to, kind of, oversee as they see fit,” Burton said.

The bill also establishes that a system may terminate employment of a president only after receiving permission from the university system chancellors.

Seliger filed a similar bill last legislative session, and it passed, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.