Legislators file bills to create new south Texas university, medical school
AUSTIN -- On Monday, the Rio Grande Valley Legislative delegation will file legislation to create a new University of Texas System university with a medical school in South Texas.
Senators filed a bill authored by state Sens. Eddie Lucio, Jr., Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Judith Zafririni, and Kel Seliger. House Bill 1000 by State Rep. Rene Oliveira is already filed, and also authored by state Reps. Dan Branch, Ryan Guillen, Armando Martinez, Eddie Lucio III, Sergio Muñoz, Jr. Bobby Guerra, Terry Canales and Oscar Longoria.
Lucio (Brownsville) said, “This is a historic day for the Rio Grande Valley. Today’s filing is the first important step toward creating the Valley’s only Tier One research university, with state-of-the art facilities and the ability to attract top-notch faculty. The inclusion of the future South Texas school of medicine as part of this new university is the culmination of a decade of work expanding medical education in the region. The Rio Grande Valley will soon become a center for multinational education, medicine, and industry. I want to thank my fellow delegation members for coming together on this important undertaking. I want to also thank Governor Perry, Lt. Governor Dewhurst, and the UT Board of regents for their support. I now call on fellow colleagues in the Texas House and Senate to support us in passing this crucial piece of legislation for the future of South Texas.”
Standing in the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday, University of Texas at Brownsville President Juliet García talked about the fortuitous timing of coming to Austin one day after Gov. Rick Perryendorsed a plan to let South Texas have access to the Permanent University Fund.
"There is something providential about all this," García said.
She was joined by University of Texas-Pan American President Robert Nelsen and faculty and staff from their respective institutions, for Rio Grande Valley Higher Education Day at the Capitol. Their top objective was to promote a proposal to combine the two universities to create a new institution that would include a new medical school and have access to the Permanent University Fund.
Spirits were high after the plan received what was for many, an unexpected endorsementfrom the governor in his State of the State address the day before.
Perry urges state lawmakers to give South Texas schools access to PUF funds
McALLEN — University of Texas-Brownsville President Juliet Garcia wasn’t expecting a mention of legislation granting her school and UT-Pan American access to the Permanent University Fund in the State of the State address. But she said hearing Gov. Rick Perry support the idea Tuesday in Austin was a “fantastic” surprise.
“We knew that the (UT System’s) chancellor and the regents had been talking to the governor’s office about it and asking if he would include it,” she said. “So apparently, they were successful.”
Perry’s endorsement is a significant step for university leaders and local lawmakers seeking approval from two-thirds of the Legislature for a university merger driven by access to the $12 billion Permanent University Fund, or PUF, endowments. UTPA and UTB are the only UT System schools that do not have access to the fund currently.
The governor made his remarks to members of the Texas Senate and House in the speech used to outline his legislative priorities before each session.
McALLEN — University of Texas System regents will consider a set of $800 million in bond projects at a meeting Wednesday, including a new science building at UT-Pan American and a new campus at UT-Brownsville.
The projects would be funded through tuition revenue bonds, a financing method backed by tuition and fees with legislative approval.
Hidalgo County representatives announced their support for the items this week ahead of the regents’ meeting. With approval from state lawmakers, the projects would be added to the System’s capital improvement program.
The $98 million science building would add 44 labs, 19 of them for teaching, and three new classrooms at UTPA that could seat up to 115 students.
Fallen DPS trooper Eduardo Chávez could have segment of U.S. 83 named in his honor by Legislature
A two-mile segment of U.S. Expressway 83, beginning at the Hidalgo-Starr county line and proceeding northwest for two miles, would be renamed Trooper Eduardo Chávez Memorial Highway under legislation filed by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.
The measure, House Bill 442, would honor the fallen DPS officer, a 1994 graduate from Edinburg High School, who was killed in the Valley while responding to a call for help in 2006.
House Bill 442, which is also co-authored by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, if passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, would designate the portion of U.S. Highway 83 in Starr County from the eastern boundary of Starr County to Farm-to-Market Road 2360 in Chávez’ honor.
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, will be signing on as a co-author of the legislation in the coming days. A Senate sponsor for HB 442 has not yet been announced.
Hidalgo County’s newest state representatives won’t feel out of place.
In a legislative session where 43 freshmen were sworn into the 150-member House — the most in four decades — Hidalgo County accounts for three of them. State Reps. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Oscar Longoria, D-Mission; and Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, took office Tuesday in the county’s delegation that is relatively lean on experience, both a blessing and a curse.
“Since half the House will be freshmen and sophomores, it provides a good opportunity for us to move up quickly,” said Longoria, a Mission attorney elected to the Rio Grande Valley’s new seat that runs between Hidalgo and Cameron counties.
Texas legislators began their 140-day session Tuesday cast around a budget battle where the high number of newcomers will play a big role. While the state’s major responsibility will be passing a new budget after historic cuts the last go-around, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will push fiscally and socially conservative measures that include drug testing for welfare and unemployment recipients and a lean budget that steers clear of the state’s surplus.
EDINBURG — Standing with leaders from the University of Texas System and local universities Friday, area legislators said they would do whatever it took to win the two-thirds approval of state lawmakers for a new Rio Grande Valley university.
A plan approved by the UT board of regents this week would merge the University of Texas-Pan American, the University of Texas at Brownsville and regional academic health science centers into an institution that could equal the state’s emerging research universities.
“I will work tirelessly to make sure the legislature supports these efforts,” said state Rep. Terry Canales, who begins his first legislative session in January. “I know that I speak for the rest of the Valley delegation when I say you can have faith that we will pursue this vigorously and tirelessly.”