Texas Legislature: All-In on Leadership Struggle Within UT-System

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

After a public display of support for embattled UT-President William Powers on Monday, the Texas Legislature officially entered the discussion with the renewal of a Joint Oversight Committee on Education

Well, that didn't take long.

Monday Lt. Governor David Dewhurst made made a public and impassioned defense of William Powers over his struggle with the Texas Board of Regents.

Wednesday, Dewhurst, after meeting with House Speaker Joe Strauss and Governor Rick Perry, officially empaneled a joint legislative committee to determine if the System Regents are overstepping their bounds.

The special legislative oversight committee on Higher Education, Governance and Transparency will include members of the Senate and House higher education committees. Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, will serve as co-chairs.

Dewhurst said the committee should start its work within two weeks and it will have subpoena power.

"There has been a legitimate question asked by our constituents all across the State of Texas," Dewhurst said. "People have asked how universities are being run today."

The two co-chairs meanwhile gave strong indications on just where the committee would aim its oversight questions. Sen. Seliger has introduced a bill (Senate Bill 15), that would limit the role of public higher education governing boards.

The bill would limit Regents authority to areas only specifically assigned by law. Everything else would fall under the purview of the individual campuses. The bill would also severely limit the Governor's power of appointment of Regents outside of the legislative session. Currently the Governor can make "Recess" appointments, who would serve until they face a confirmation hearing the next time the legislature meets.

Seliger's bill would bar any governing board member who had not been confirmed by the Senate from voting on any budgetary or personnel matter.

Perhaps even more interesting is that Rep. Branch has asked for a legal ruling on whether there is a process for the impeachment of university regents.

This panel is a reconstruction of a similar committee from the 2011 legislature when controversy surrounded both the University of Texas and Texas A&M Systems.

A legislative committee with subpoena authority looking into the power struggle going on within the University of Texas System.

Pull up a chair, because once again Texans are about to prove that politics is the only sport that can rival football in popularity.

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