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May 11, 2007 (512) 463-0300

WEEK IN REVIEW: SENATE ADDRESSES TEXAS SOUTHERN ISSUES

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(From left) Richard Salwen, Glenn Lewis, and Javier Loya answer questions before the Senate Committee on Nominations Friday. They were confirmed by the whole Senate later that day as Regents for Texas Southern University.

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate has approved five new regents for Houston's Texas Southern University, in an effort to put that school's administration back on track. Last week, the nine-member board of regents resigned from their position amid allegations of financial mismanagement at TSU. One university official has already been convicted of misuse of state funds, and other indictments against officials are pending. Governor Rick Perry initially wanted to place the university under a conservatorship, but that could have affected the school's accreditation. Wednesday, the Senate approved a bill that would create a new system for fixing state agencies without using a conservatorship. The bill, by Houston Senator and TSU alumnus Rodney Ellis, would permit the governor to appoint a five-member governing board, subject to approval by the Senate, to implement a rehabilitation plan for a dysfunctional state agency. "One size fits all does not work for every state agency," said Ellis. The regents approved Friday would become that governing board should the Senate bill become law.

Also this week, Governor Rick Perry decided not to veto a bill that would effectively cancel his January mandate requiring HPV vaccines for sixth-grade girls. Both the Senate and House had approved this measure, sending a message that the Legislature, not the Governor, should set immunization policy in the state. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said the whole controversy over this mandate could have been avoided if the Governor had communicated with the Legislature. "All the Governor would have had to do was talk to us, and he would have seen we would have embraced a program that was opt-in instead of opt-out," he said.

Most of the session's major bills are in conference committee as lawmakers from both houses try and work out differences between the House and Senate versions of these bills. The budget conference committee is moving closer to a compromise, and could be finalized next week. Conferees were appointed this week on Jessica's Law and the Texas Youth Commission reform bill. Both chambers continue to work on a compromise on SB 1892, the transportation omnibus bill that would stop construction of private toll roads for two years and limit the scope of public-private partnerships.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 14, at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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