Local lawmakers talks about last minute bill approval - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


Local lawmakers talks about last minute bill approval


By Ben Lawson  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Just back from Austin, State Representative Delwin Jones spoke with NewsChannel 11 Tuesday evening about last minute negotiations that allowed lawmakers to approve the bill that will help Texas Tech University become a flagship institution of Texas.  The heart of House Bill 51 creates funding pools and incentives for emerging research universities to advance to nationally recognized "Tier One" schools.

"Tier One "is another name for a National Research Institution. Right now, Texas only has three "Tier One" schools, two of them public, the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University. We also have on private "Tier One" school, Rice University in Houston. Now, Texas Tech and six other universities hope to gain the same status.

"Time was just running out on us," Jones said.  It was a close call in the Texas Legislature, but HB 51 received last minute approval late Sunday night, just one day before the session ended. Jones says there were times he didn't think it would pass.  "We had that point two or three times that night," Jones said. 

The final version of the proposal is now on its way to Governor Rick Perry. Sticking points included $150-million for the hurricane ravaged UT medical campus in Galveston, and adjustments to funding for some other schools.  "Both of these issues were Bob Duncan Senate Bills, and I quickly got him involved, we had to sit down and take about 15 minutes to go through details," Jones said. 

No matter how close to deadline, the measure made it through. It sets up the criteria for how Texas Tech and other universities seeking "Tier One" status can receive millions in funding for research and more that the state plans to make available.  "Once the governor signs it, it will be in place and Texas Tech can start making their plans and using these resources to make their approach to get grants and research money," Jones said. 

Jones says he believes the governor will approve the bill.  Besides Texas Tech, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board designated the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-El Paso, and UT-San Antonio as emerging research universities.

So why's this status so important? Well, UT-Dallas made this comparison. At MIT, alumni have founded more than 4,000 companies that employ more than one-million people, and generate $232-billion in sales. They say that's roughly equal to the economic output of Houston or the Metroplex.  

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