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May 4, 2009 (512) 463-0300

SENATE APPROVES CAP ON UNIVERSITY COST INCREASES

Sen. Zaffirini
Senator Judith Zaffirini of Laredo won unanimous passage of her bill to limit the increase of total academic cost at public universities.

(AUSTIN) — Senators unanimously approved a measure Monday that would set a cap on increases to the cost of education at public universities in Texas. Many legislators have expressed dismay at the rate of tuition increases following deregulation in 2003. The bill passed Monday, SB 1443 by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, would cap education cost increases at five percent per year or the rate of inflation based on a three-year average, whichever is less. The cap would apply to the 17 universities whose total academic cost exceeds the state median, just above $5000 in 2009. This includes not only the price of tuition, but mandatory fees and fees for classes. "There will be no more games played, about comparing tuition versus tuition plus fees," said Zaffirini. "Every institution will now be looking at total academic cost, and that is a significant improvement."

Sen. Estes
Wichita Falls Senator Craig Estes discusses provisions in his bill to reform the process of eminent domain in Texas.

In the initial years, universities would be treated differently based on how they have increased the price of education in the past. Universities that did not increase cost last year would be permitted to raise total academic costs by 5 percent or $315, which ever is greater, through the 2011 semester. Universities that have increased costs more than five percent for 2009-2010 could not increase those costs by more than $630 over the next two years. Following the 2010-2011 school year, all universities above the state median would be under the five percent or inflation-based limit. The Legislature could use the power of the purse to keep academic costs low, as the bill permits budget writers to reduce general revenue to institutions that exceed the limit set by lawmakers.

Also Monday, the Senate voted in favor of a bill that would reform the system of eminent domain in Texas. SB 18, by Wichita Falls Senator Craig Estes, would require any land taken by a governmental entity to be for public use, though the bill does not define what constitutes public use. It would require a bona fide offer to be made in writing to a property owner, and includes penalties for entities that do not operate in good faith. The bill would require compensation to an owner for loss of market value to property due to diminished access. The bill would also permit the original owners or his or her heirs to repurchase the land taken at the price paid by the governmental entity after ten years if the public use of the land is cancelled or there is no progress toward the purpose for which the land was taken. SB 18 now heads to the House for further consideration.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 5 at 7 a.m. to consider the Local and Uncontested Calendar, and will reconvene in regular session 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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