Despite overwhelming support in both the Texas state senate and house chambers for S.B. 15, Texas governor Rick Perry (R) vetoed the bill, which would have limited his power over the state higher education system.
The bill was an attempt to limit Perry’s power to appoint whomever he wants to the Board of Regents by requiring Senate approval. According to The Eagle news website in Texas, all of the regents currently serving on the board have been appointed by Perry during his 13 years as governor.
In addition, the power of the board itself would have been restricted as the bill would have required university chancellor approval if the board wanted to fire a university president. It would have also required regents to undergo training in ethics, auditing, conflicts of interest and governance before being able to vote on issues.
University officials and local legislators were strong supporters of the bill, which they saw as an improvement for ensuring transparency within the system. In fact, the bill was actually inspired by a standoff between the Board of Regents and Bill Powers, the president of the state’s flagship school University of Texas. The clash occurred in 2012 when Powers attempted to instate a tuition hike as a way to accommodate growing university expenses, but the regents refused. In the aftermath of the argument, many students and alumni of UT have accused the board of micromanaging the system and Perry of appointing regents bent on firing Powers.
Perry sent a press release out Friday after he vetoed the bill.
"Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents, however, is a step in the wrong direction," he said in the press release. "History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance."
However, lawmakers disagree with Perry’s characterization of the bill. They believe the bill would greatly help increase accountability by separating powers the board of regents monopolize.
"I supported S.B. 15, as did a vast majority of each chamber, because it increased transparency and accountability of gubernatorial appointees to a Board of Regents," wrote Rep. John Raney in an email. "The governor's veto of S.B. 15 and his decision to not add Tuition Revenue Bonds to the special session call was — in my opinion — a hit to higher education. I look forward to addressing both matters next session."