Senator West files bill to create Dallas' first public law school
AUSTIN -- State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) and senators Florence Shapiro, Bob Deuell and John Carona were joined by fellow members in filing Senate Bill 730, legislation that if passed by lawmakers, will create the first-ever publicly supported law school in Dallas. The law school would be located in downtown Dallas at the Old Municipal Building at 106 S. Harwood St. through an agreement with the City of Dallas.
"I am encouraged by the level of support received so far from my fellow legislators on this project," said Senator West. "This has been a bipartisan effort. Those familiar with Senate rules know that it takes a two-thirds vote to bring a matter to the floor for debate. I have obtained those 21 names. But in the larger context, this is yet another step in developing a greater presence for institutions of higher education for Dallas and the surrounding cities."
In December 2004, the University of North Texas and the City of Dallas announced their collaborative plans on bringing a law school to Dallas. The historic Municipal building site would be part of a larger effort to revitalize downtown Dallas. Earlier this month, Atmos Energy announced they were donating to the City, two buildings that formerly housed TXU Gas, acquired by Atmos last year. Both buildings are blocks away from the proposed law school location. In the same area is the Universities Center of Dallas, a higher education consortium now managed by the University of North Texas System.
In 1999, Senator West successfully passed legislation that created what is now the University of North Texas - Dallas Campus. Prior to its creation, there was no state-supported college or university in Dallas. The University of North Texas - Dallas Campus now offers junior, senior and graduate-level courses to more than 1,200 students.
"It is vital for this state's progress that an accessible, affordable means of obtaining a college degree is available to our young people," said Senator West. "In just a few years there will be a four-year, public university within Dallas' city limits that will serve all of North Texas. But in its findings, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board determined that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of two areas in Texas that is underserved in terms of the availability of venues for students to earn a law degree. This bill will rectify that problem."
SB 730 authorizes the law school to be operated by the University of North Texas System until the permanent four-year Dallas campus is established. At that time, it will become part of UNT - Dallas. Currently, there are two private law schools serving the Dallas/Fort Worth, northern Texas region, an area that generates an estimated 1,700 new legal jobs annually according to a UNT study. The two closest existing public law schools are in Austin and Houston.
For more information, please call David Quin or Kelvin Bass at 512-463-0123.