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Summary: SB 15 would modify the relationship between the governing boards of Texas' institutions of higher education, commonly referred to as the board of regents, and would impact procedural requirements for the board members. This legislation would emphasize board autonomy, requiring that the regents promote effective operations and academic output. SB 15 would require the board to protect itself from a minority of members and external influences that could impact the board's policy. Specifically, a board member could not have contractual, employment, personal or familial financial interest with the institution. On the board's website, the governing body would have to publicly disclose the board's report, recommendation or vote no later than the end of day on the next business day. If a board member is appointed during a legislative interim, then the new member could not vote until the Senate Committee on Nominations reviewed the individual. The Committee chair has 45 days to respond to the Governor's review request, after which time the appointee can vote if there is no response from the Committee.
Furthermore, a board member would not be allowed to vote on budgetary or personnel matters if the individual had not received training in ethics, conflict-of-interest law, and role of governing boards. The board would not have the authority to terminate a president unless the system administrator recommended a termination based on the president's performance that is reviewed in conjunction with the board. During a board member's first year, the individual would have to attend a training program with specified content. The board would be required to establish long-term policy and goals for the institution every six years yet not unreasonably interfere with daily operations. Communications between the board and institution's staff would need to remain through the university system. Lastly, SB 15 would develop ways to inform the faculty, staff, and students of board meetings.
Analysis: SB 15 would create barriers that restrain the board of regents from effectively managing institutions of higher education which is their fiduciary responsibility already defined in statute. This legislation would place limitations on board members' ability to provide the oversight that they are statutorily responsible to provide in order to efficiently manage institutions of higher education. Therefore, we oppose SB 15.