Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
May 9, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Ellis/West TSU reorganization bill

SB 2039 also clarifies gubernatorial powers regarding interim agency appointments

AUSTIN -- The Texas Senate today unanimously passed legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) to allow the Governor to abolish the governing board of a university or state agency after a finding of a financial or administrative exigency by the Governor. The Legislative Audit Committee allows the Legislature to veto the Governor's finding. The legislation also clarifies gubernatorial powers regarding interim agency appointments in the wake of efforts to reform and increase state oversight of the Texas Youth Commission scandal.

The legislation is an effort to head off the appointment of a conservator at Texas Southern University, which experts and legislators fear will lead possible accreditation issues and take away the ability to find consensus reforming TSU. Questions have arisen regarding loss of accreditation and other serious problems associated with dissolution of the Board of Regents and appointment of a conservator.

"This piece of legislation is important because it will ensure that Texas Southern University maintains its independence and vitality," said Senator Ellis. "I believe this bill will move TSU forward in becoming an important part of Texas' higher education system. Our first priority must be to protect the students' degrees and the degrees of all those students to come. We have worked closely with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to ensure that the bill does not put TSU's accreditation status at risk."

The legislation would allow for the reconstitution of the governing board of a university or state agency with a new 5-member board which will be authorized to appoint an interim president or chairman to serve during the duration of the reconstituted board. The interim board will be authorized to develop a financial oversight and accountability plan and consult with accreditation agencies, as necessary, to make sure that the university or state agency maintains accreditation. In addition, the legislation would require the interim governing board to report to the Governor, legislative audit committee and a legislative oversight committee on the progress of the administration improvement plan.