The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday merging two Rio Grande Valley universities and establishing a medical school within the new institution.
The bill also gives the new regional university access to the $13 billion Permanent University Fund. That measure required two-thirds support from both legislative chambers but supporters’ persistent lobbying of colleagues helped get a 149-0 vote.
The Senate last week voted to approve identical legislation by a 30-1 margin.
“Passage of this bill… isn’t just good for South Texas, it’s good for all of our state,” said state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, arguing that the medical school will help address a doctor shortage in the state.
The University of Texas System has reached verbal agreements with regional hospitals that would expand the number of residency slots for medical graduates to 150, meaning physicians could stay in the state to complete their education.
The vote clears another legislative roadblock before lawmakers can send the bill to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry, who has already announced his support for the new regional university.
Andrew Kreighbaum covers education for The Monitor. He can be reached at email@example.com, (956) 683-4472 and on Twitter, @akreighbaum.