The state Senate Committee on Higher Education will meet Wednesday morning to discuss Senate Bill 24, which would merge the University of Texas at Brownsville and UT-Pan American into a large emerging research institution with its own medical school.
The bill will be presented by State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, the legislation’s main author.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, one of the co-authors on the bill, said the legislation is short one senator for the needed two-thirds support that would grant the future university access to the Permanent University Fund.
Lucio said he is optimistic that the needed support would be gained.
“I feel very confident we’ll get the support of the 21 senators and beyond,” Lucio said.
House Bill 1000, which is identical to Senate Bill 24, already has the two-thirds support required for passage.
“I’m very proud of the Rio Grande Valley delegation for working so hard,” Lucio said.
He said the creation of the new, combined universities would help an area that needs doctors and more educational opportunities.
“The region has been underserved for many years,” he said.
Because Committee Chair Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Vice Chair Kirk Watson, D-Austin, have signed on to the bill, Lucio said he is optimistic that the bill will be voted out of committee in the coming week.
UTB President Juliet V. Garcia will be in Austin on Wednesday to answer any questions during the hearing, she said.
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville said he expects the Higher Education Committee to approve the bill during Wednesday’s meeting slated for 2 p.m.
If it receives a majority approval, Oliveira said it could be possible to have a floor discussion in the House during the next two weeks.
“I’m hoping nothing comes up, that’s why I’m anxious to move it,” Oliveira said. “You leave something lying around here, it might get some opposition.”