The following UT Pan American-related legislation was approved by the 75th Texas Legislature in its regular session this spring:
• HB 1235 Authorizes a grand total of $638.5 million in tuition revenue bonds to be issued by various public universities and health-related institutions, including $17 million for construction at UT Pan American. Projects financed by these bonds are exempt from the approval authority of the Coordinating Board. (The Campus Facilities Planning Council has recommended that the first priority for the use of the funds would be a general classroom/office building. The second priority would be to expand the Computer Center or build a new administrative computing facility.)
• HB 2332 Allows the UT System Board of Regents to enter into a contract to convey real property to a political subdivision located in Hidalgo County. The political subdivision would be required, as a condition of the contract, to construct a special events center and related facilities and contract with the UT System for joint use of the special events center. No funds have been appropriated for this facility.
• HB 2564 Authorizes the UT System Board of Regents to acquire by purchase, exchange, gift or otherwise certain properties to be used for campus expansion. This legislation provides UT Pan American the opportunity to act expeditiously on opportunities for adjacent land purchases that may arise on short notice without requiring Coordinating Board approval. Acquiring the properties would be undertaken over a period of 20 to 30 years.
Other higher education legislation that passed includes:
• SB 606 Grants the UT System the authority to establish a Regional Academic Health Center within the four-county Rio Grande Valley. The UT System Board of Regents may place the management of the RAHC under any of the UT System health components. The legislation requires that an impact statement be delivered to the UT System Board of Regents and the chairs of the standing committees over higher education in each house of the legislature by May 31, 1998. HB 1 appropriates $1.3 million for operating costs and $1.05 million for debt services in 1999. HB 1235 authorized $30 million in tuition revenue bonds for the design and construction of the RAHC.
Among legislation that failed to pass was HB 1776, which would have authorized the governing board of an institution of higher education to exempt a student who is an employee of the institution from the payment of all or any part of a fee imposed by the institution. The legislation was prompted by the UT Pan American Staff Senate.
SB 1514, which would have established a group of agency coordinators of colonia initiatives, was vetoed by Gov. George W. Bush. One of the named agencies was UT Pan American.