Hi 88 / Lo 65
|Volume 68, Issue 143,
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Senate committee OK's 'One Fund' bill
By Matt Dulin
A bill to combine the stateis two largest higher education research funds won favor in the Senate Finance Committee, who approved the bill 9 to 4 on May 22 to send it to floor discussion and possibly a vote.
Texas State Sen. Ron Ellis introduces UH System Day in Austin on Feb. 18 when more than 500 UH supporters advocated for "One Fund" legislation.
Cougar file photo
The bill, championed by UH supporters at UH System Day in Austin on February 18, was on the senateis intent calendar to be discussed late Tuesday or today.
"Itis down to the last moments," Grover Campbell, UHis vice chancellor for governmental relations, said. "But itis still too early to declare victory."
If the bill is not discussed in the time allotted by the intent calendar, the bill effectively dies -- a possibility Campbell admits that could be just as likely as its passage.
"It has survived some pitfalls and obstacles. It is impressive that it was able to get to this point with all of the other distractions the legislators are facing," he said, alluding to the stateis multi-billion dollar budget shortfall that has legislators in Austin scrambling for solutions.
Campbell said the Universityis efforts in February played a role in the billis passage through the legislative process, but said "an ultimate analysis of how that day affected the bill is months away."
"We did have a good day (in February) with a lot of participation. We got good feedback even weeks after," Campbell said.
The bill would mandate that the University Research Fund and the Texas Excellence fund combine to form a $70 million fund that all state universities would be able to tap. Currently, the funds, each set at $34.8 million apiece, serve unbalanced student populations.
The University Research Fund dollars is split up to serve a little more than 80,000 students. The Texas Excellence Fund dollars serve roughly three times as many -- 244,626.
The creed of the 500 students, faculty and alumni that greeted state legislators in February was "One goal -- one research excellence fund." Vocal proponents of the bill, including professors and University leadership, said combining the funds was necessary to help give UH a leg up in competing for research dollars.
"The idea here is to allow for equitable distribution of funds," Campbell said, adding that many state universities have voiced support of the measure, including Texas Tech, Texas A&M and North Texas.
However, components of the University of Texasi expansive system have cried foul, saying that they stand only to lose research dollars.
"My response to that is to keep in mind that this bill has a sunset. It would only effective until the biennium ends ... we should all be working towards equitable distribution," Campbell said.
"Itis better to get some kind of solution out now and deal with it instead of waiting until the next biennium," he said.
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