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Outlook for Higher Ed in TX Legislature

By Chuck Hempstead

TACT Executive Director

Normally (are we tired of “The New Normal” yet?), we would be talking about the Interim Committee Charges and hearings that were identified last fall and so often lead to spring legislation and new laws affecting faculty. Like so much else, these issues have changed.

Finance first: Institutions have submitted their five percent spending reduction plans and the Controller says we’re going to be $4.6 Billion short in revenues. Scuttlebutt says not even the coming biennium but the following could be the toughest to find resources. Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Brandon Creighton has said publicly that he wants to be appointed to the Finance Committee. We can hope that is in addition to his chairmanship, but that doesn’t often happen.

House Higher Ed today announced its Interim “hearings”, which probably means only written testimony and on issues somewhat different than we previously reported; heavy on online instruction, infrastructure needs and managing pandemic issues. Further analysis and reporting on these changes will follow.

Senate Higher Education begins with new member Senator Judith Zaffirini, who was appointed to replace Senator Kirk Watson. Watson resigned to take a Dean position at University of Houston. Zaffirini has always been very involved in higher education issues and a TACT friend.

We’ve already begun discussions about conducting our annual Fall legislative visits online. Maybe you’ll join us without the requirement of driving to Austin. We encourage you to be active in the runup to November elections. At the very least, communicate with your local Senator and House Member about university needs. They usually listen very closely right before elections.

And, as always, pass along this newsletter to your colleagues who are not TACT members. You’re carrying their load, and it would be nice to share that responsibility.

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