AUSTIN - Rio Grande Valley lawmakers joined colleagues from the Texas House and Senate on Monday morning to announce legislation to form a new South Texas university that will host a medical school.
The institution will also have access to the University of Texas System's coveted Permanent University Fund endowment. UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville will be dissolved and consolidated into a new, regionwide university under the legislation. The Edinburg and Brownsville institutions are the only UT schools that currently do not have access to the PUF, which local leaders see as key to funding a tier one university.
“To be able to bring the PUF fund to our kids is something that will be a lasting legacy of this session,” said state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville. “It will be one that will be felt for decades and decades and decades to come.”
The bill’s supporters in the Legislature will need to garner support from two-thirds of members of both houses for passage. The item appeared to gain momentum last week as Gov. Rick Perry used his State of the State address to urge lawmakers to approve.
The respective chairmen of the House and Senate higher education committees also appeared with the Valley delegation at the news conference Monday at the Legislature to emphasize their support. State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, promised to give the the bill the “first substantive” hearing in the House higher education committee.
The legislation leaves unanswered for now ongoing questions about the location of a medical school campus and other related facilities. An advisory board of experts on medical school organization and administration would instead make recommendations to the UT Board of Regents.
State Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said local community leaders continue to work on an agreement to match the $100 million in funding allocated for the medical school by the regents in December.