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August 18, 1998     (512) 463-0300

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON HOPWOOD MEETS AT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS IN SAN ANTONIO

SAN ANTONIO - Members of the Senate Special Committee on Hopwood, State Contract, and Employment Practices met in a public hearing on Tuesday, August 18, at the downtown campus of the University of Texas in San Antonio. The committee was formed in order to evaluate the impact of the Hopwood decision of 1996 which challenged affirmative action policies in areas of higher education admission policies, employment standards, and state contracts. The members believed holding a hearing in San Antonio, whose population is mostly Hispanic, African-American, or female, would be especially effective in gathering testimonial regarding these issues.

Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock appointed former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier as chair of the committee. Members include Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin (vice-chair), Frank Madla of San Antonio, Rodney Ellis of Houston, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, and Teel Bivins of Amarillo. Senator Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant also serves on the committee, but was not present at the hearing.

Throughout the Interim the committee has held meetings gathering testimony and other data on programs that different regions are instituting in order to give minorities workplace advantages, educational opportunities, and other benefits. The members have studied state and federal legislation and court orders, state programs, and legal restrictions regarding access to higher education and employment opportunities. With recommendations submitted to the Legislature in their October report, the committee hopes to ensure fair and equal access to higher education and employment to all Texans, including minorities and those who are disadvantaged.

Tuesdays hearing centered around invited public testimony from representatives of several agencies, councils, and universities. José Menéndez, councilman from the city of San Antonio, briefed the members on a program, the city is instituting in order to give women, Hispanics, and African-Americans an opportunity to open small businesses. Professor Barbara Aldave testified recommending that the committee disregard the Hopwood decision altogether and support the use of affirmative action in conjunction with a discretionary higher education admissions system.

Others testifying included Robert Furgason, president of Texas A & M University in Corpus Christi, Al Kauffman and Javier Maldonado, both counsel for MALDEF, and Stephen Russell of the Texas Indian Bar Association. Jess Romero representing Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez also testified. Additional public testimony followed.

The next meeting is scheduled for September 16, 1998 in Dallas.

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