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FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Leslie Ward, President, AT&T Texas; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; and J.D. Salinas, III, Director, Internal Affairs, AT&T Texas, and former County Judge for Hidalgo County. This image was taken at the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Excellence, located at 3100 South Cage Boulevard in Pharr, on Thursday, January 23, 2020.

FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Leslie Ward, President, AT&T Texas; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; and J.D. Salinas, III, Director, Internal Affairs, AT&T Texas, and former County Judge for Hidalgo County. This image was taken at the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Excellence, located at 3100 South Cage Boulevard in Pharr, on Thursday, January 23, 2020.

Photograph By PETER SALINAS

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UTRGV could receive $30.4 million and TSTC-Harlingen $15.12 million for new construction through House Bill 1530, set for action on Thursday, April 15, 2021, before House Committee on Higher Education, reports Rep. Muñoz

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Texas State Technical College in Harlingen could receive $30.4 million and $15.12 million, respectively, for unspecified construction projects at their campuses under legislation set for a public hearing on Thursday, April 15, 2021, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, has announced.

The legislation – House Bill 1530 – does not state in which UTRGV campus or campuses the proposed funding would be used.

Legislation is a proposed or enacted law or group of laws.

Muñoz is the only state representative from the Rio Grande Valley serving on the House Committee on Higher Education, which will hold the public hearing at the Texas Capitol beginning at 8 a.m. 

A committee is a group of legislators appointed by the presiding officer of the House of Representatives or the Senate to which proposed legislation is referred or a specific task is assigned.

House Bill 1530 is authored by Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, who serves as Chair, House Committee on Higher Education, thus giving the proposal a good chance of being approved by the 11-member House panel and quickly being scheduled, debated, and voted upon by the full 150-member House of Representatives.

As the author, Murphy is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).

The file refers to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.

A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers (House of Representatives and Senate) of the legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state. “Bill” types include Senate and House bills, Senate and House Joint Resolutions, Senate and House concurrent resolutions, and Senate and House resolutions.
A live video broadcast of this hearing will be available at:

https://house.texas.gov/video-audio/

Texas residents who wish to electronically submit comments related to House Bill 1530 without testifying in person can do so until the hearing is finished by visiting:

https://comments.house.texas.gov/home?c=c290

House Bill 1530 proposed raising construction money for UTRGV and TSTC – and several dozen other public university campuses throughout the state – through the use of revenue bonds.

In general, tuition revenue bonds (TRBs) generate money through the sale of bonds, which are financial instruments where investors make loans to an entity (typically corporate or governmental), and those loans are repaid with interest over a period of time. Bonds are used by companies, municipalities, states, and sovereign governments to raise money and finance a variety of projects and activities. Owners of the bonds are debtholders, or creditors, of the issuer. 

(https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bond.asp)

When legislation goes before a House committee or a Senate committee for a public hearing, or for debate and vote by the full 150-member House of Representatives or the full 31-member Senate, it includes a bill analysis, which becomes available online to the public.

A bill analysis is a document prepared for all bills and joint resolutions reported out of committee. A bill analysis may include background information on the measure, a statement of purpose or intent, and an analysis of the content of the measure.

In 2019, similar legislation known as House Bill 2000 was filed and passed by the House of Representatives – but the measure died in the Senate without a Senate committee public hearing or Senate vote.

House Bill 2000 proposed the use of tuition revenue bonds for public university construction projects statewide.

What follows are some highlights from House Bill 2000’s bill analysis in 2019 that provided pros and cons of using tuition revenue bonds for new construction projects at public universities statewide:

Supporters said in 2019:

House Bill 2000 in 2019 would have authorized tuition revenue bonds essential for the state’s institutions of higher education to build and maintain facilities, provide for enrollment growth, and remain competitive.

Tuition revenue bonds historically have been the favored method of the Legislature to fund construction projects at institutions of higher education because the bonds allow a large cost to be spread over a long period of time. This makes tuition revenue bonds a cost-effective method for funding large construction projects, such as updating or replacing classrooms, laboratories, and academic centers. Additionally, many facilities listed in House Bill 2000 are in need of significant renovations or are beyond repair. 

Addressing these projects listed for deferred maintenance ultimately would save the state money while meeting student need.

As Texas’ population and workforce needs increase, demand for higher education in the state is growing. Several campuses have buildings that are at capacity and are unable to adequately serve the surrounding population. House Bill 2000 in 2019 would have provided the funding necessary for these schools to address the surge in demand through the construction and expansion of facilities. Enabling these schools to educate more students also would help Texas achieve the goals set in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60×30 Plan.

At the local level, House Bill 2000 would have helped smaller institutions obtain the funding necessary to complete capital projects and meet demand. Other, larger institutions are able to rely on alumni donations to help pay for new facilities, but most small schools do not have this luxury and rely on the Legislature to fund facilities that enable them to meet workforce needs and provide a quality education.

Tuition revenue bonds authorized under House Bill 2000 in 2019 would have been a good investment for the state because they would expand research capabilities at leading institutions and provide campuses with the resources necessary to adequately meet increased demand for higher education, preparing students to enter the workforce. Additionally, the institutions included in the bill have proven adept at refinancing tuition revenue bonds, which has saved the state millions in debt service.

House Bill 2000 in 2019 would have provided important funding to institutions of higher education through the use of an inappropriate mechanism, tuition revenue bonds.

Opponents said in 2019:

The state should not authorize bonds to fund the creation of facilities when renovating existing structures would be more economical. Instead, the state should give greater priority to addressing deferred maintenance, which restricts enrollment growth and limits student success, and institutions should be encouraged to finance capital construction through private capital campaigns or by using existing facilities more efficiently.

In 2021, House 1530 proposes bond construction funding for different campuses of the Texas A&M University System, the University of Houston System, Texas State University System, University of North Texas System, Texas Women’s University System, Midwestern State University; Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas Tech University System, University of Texas System, and Texas State Technical College System.

The proposed funding for the different campuses of the University of Texas System and Texas State Technical College System follow:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

relating to authorizing the issuance of revenue bonds to fund capital projects at certain public institutions of higher education.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1.  Subchapter B, Chapter 55, Education Code, is amended by adding Sections 55.1791, 55.1792, 55.1793, 55.1794, 55.1795, 55.1796, 55.1797, 55.1798, 55.1799, 55.17991, and 55.17992 to read as follows:

Sec. 55.1792. THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM; ADDITIONAL BONDS.  (a) In addition to the other authority granted by this subchapter, the board of regents of The University of Texas System may acquire, purchase, construct, improve, renovate, enlarge, or equip property and facilities, including roads and related infrastructure, for projects to be financed through the issuance of bonds in accordance with this subchapter and in accordance with a systemwide revenue financing program adopted by the board for the following institutions, not to exceed the following aggregate principal amounts for the projects specified, as follows:

(1)  The University of Texas at Arlington, $53.6 million;
(2)  The University of Texas at Austin, $40 million;
(3)  The University of Texas at Dallas, $34 million;
(4)  The University of Texas at El Paso, $40 million;
(5)  The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, $ 28 million;
(6)  The University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley, $30.4 million;
(7)  The University of Texas at San Antonio, $64.5 million;
(8)  The University of Texas at Tyler, $ 30.4 million;
(9)  The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, $54.4 million;
(10)  The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, $44 million;
(11)  The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, $66 million;
(12)  The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, $200 million;
(13)  The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, $ 43,679,085.60; and
(14)  The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, $221,567,008.

(b) The board may pledge irrevocably to the payment of bonds authorized by this section all or any part of the revenue funds of an institution, branch, or entity of The University of Texas System, including student tuition charges. The amount of a pledge made under this subsection may not be reduced or abrogated while the bonds for which the pledge is made, or bonds issued to refund those bonds, are outstanding.

(c)  If sufficient funds are not available to the board to meet its obligations under this section, the board may transfer funds among institutions, branches, and entities of The University of Texas System to ensure the most equitable and efficient allocation of available resources for each institution, branch, or entity to carry out its duties and purposes.

Sec. 55.17992.  TEXAS STATE TECHNICAL COLLEGE SYSTEM.  (a) In addition to the other authority granted by this subchapter, the board of regents of the Texas State Technical College System may acquire, purchase, construct, improve, renovate, enlarge, or equip property and facilities, including roads and related infrastructure, for projects to be financed through the issuance of bonds in accordance with this subchapter for the following entity and institutions, not to exceed the following aggregate principal amounts for the projects specified, as follows:

(1)  Texas State Technical College System, $ 13.4 million;
(2)  Texas State Technical College–Fort Bend, $ 16,720,000;
(3)  Texas State Technical College–Harlingen, $15,120,000;
(4)  Texas State Technical College–Marshall, $6 million;
(5)  Texas State Technical College–North Texas, $5.4 million;
(6)  Texas State Technical College–Waco, $21,440,000; and
(7)  Texas State Technical College–West Texas, $5.4 million.

(b)  The board may pledge irrevocably to the payment of bonds authorized by this section all or any part of the revenue funds of an institution, branch, or entity of the Texas State Technical College System, including student tuition charges. The amount of a pledge made under this subsection may not be reduced or abrogated while the bonds for which the pledge is made, or bonds issued to refund those bonds, are outstanding.

(c)  If sufficient funds are not available to the board to meet its obligations under this section, the board may transfer funds among institutions, branches, and entities of the Texas State Technical College System to ensure the most equitable and efficient allocation of available resources for each institution, branch, or entity to carry out its duties and purposes.

SECTION 2.  This Act does not affect any authority or restriction regarding the activities that a public institution of higher education may conduct in connection with a facility financed by bonds authorized by this Act.

SECTION 3.  This Act takes effect on September 1, 2021.

A copy of House Bill 1530 – which details the projects for all of the other public university systems – as it will be presented to the House Committee on Higher Education, is available online at:

https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/HB01530I.htm

GOV. ABBOTT REAPPOINTS NOLAN PÉREZ, MD, OF HARLINGEN TO UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM BOARD OF REGENTS

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, announced that he is reappointing Nolan Pérez, MD of Harlingen and Kevin Eltife, and appointing Stuart W. Stedman to the University of Texas System Board of Regents for terms set to expire on February 1, 2027. Additionally, the governor will reappoint R. Steven “Steve” Hicks for a term set to expire February 1, 2023.

Pérez is CEO of Gastroenterology Consultants of South Texas, PLLC. He is a member of the Texas Medical Association, American Medical Association, American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the American Gastroenterologic Association, and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology. 

He has served as a member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents since 2019. Previously, he served as a member of the Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents from 2015 to 2019.  

He is a Trustee for Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, having first been elected in 2010. He also serves on the UT Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee and the Holdsworth Center Governing Board. Additionally, he is a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas, Lone Star National Bank Board, Sen. John Cornyn’s Service Academy Nominations Board and an alumnus of the Texas Lyceum. 

Pérez received a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas at Austin and a Medical Doctorate from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, and fellowship training in Gastroenterology at Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center. 

After medical school, he served in the U.S. Navy as a Medical Corps Officer.

Eltifeof Tyler is the owner of Eltife Properties, Ltd.  He formerly served as senator for Texas Senate District 1, as the Mayor of Tyler, and on the Tyler City Council. He is chair of the University of Texas System Board of Regents and a former gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. 

During his career in the Texas Senate, he was elected President Pro Tempore and served as chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee and Administration Committee. He also served as a member of the Senate Committees on Finance, Natural Resources, International Relations, Open Government, Redistricting, and Facilities. He is a director at Citizens 1st Bank and board member of the Tyler Police Foundation. 

Eltife received a Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.

Stedman of Houston is President of Stedman West Interests, Inc. He is currently chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is a member of the State Bar of Texas. Additionally, he serves on the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute Advisory Board. 

He is actively involved at the University of Texas at Austin: a member of UT Development Board, the Advisory Council of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas, of the Blanton Museum’s National Leadership Board, and former chairman of the Liberal Arts Advisory Council. He is also a member of the UT System’s Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee.  

Stedman received a Bachelor of Arts, Juris Doctor degree, and Master of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.

Hicks of Austin is Chairman of Capstar Partners. He is Chairman of the Finance and Planning Committee and serves on the Academic Affairs Committee, Facilities Planning and Construction Committee, Health Affairs Committee, System Review, and Structure Task Force, and the UTIMCO Board of Directors. 

He is an alternate member of the Board for Lease and a former member of the Houston Land Task Force. In 2018, he was awarded as a Distinguished Alumni by the Texas Exes. 

Hicks received a Bachelor of Arts in Government from The University of Texas at Austin.

These appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

The nominee must be confirmed by an affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the Texas Senate. The Senate bases its decision on the panel’s assessment, its own application of the statutory list of qualifications, and other factors it deems relevant.

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For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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