University of Texas

Capital Tonight: Reversing course on ‘rainy day’ money

There’s been a lot of talk about it, and now state lawmakers appear ready to finally dip in to the state’s Rainy Day Fund this session.

The Senate Finance Committee voted to take 6 billion dollars out of the fund to pay for water and infrastructure projects.


Taking on the Governor

We don’t know if Gov. Rick Perry will run for re-election, and we don’t know if Attorney General Greg Abbott will throw his hat into the ring. But we do know of one former state agency leader who will seek your vote as a Republican candidate for governor.

Click the image below to see our one-on-one interview with Tom Pauken.

Senate Standoff Ends

The push for new gun safety legislation cleared a major hurdle Thursday.

With the help of 16 Republicans, the Senate voted to block a threatened Republican filibuster. That means debate on background checks and other, less popular legislation can begin.

Sen. John Cornyn voted to block the debate, but said he hoped for a substantive discussion afterward. Click the YNN logo below to watch the full episode.


Chancellor writes Perry about guns on campuses

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa is expressing concern once again over legislation relating to allowing concealed handguns on university campuses.

According to a press released issued by the UT System on Wednesday, the chancellor has sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry on the matter. The letter was also delivered to House Speaker Joe Straus, Chairman Joe Pickett of the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee and Chairman John Whitmire of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

“I respect the legislature’s authority to decide this public policy issue, and that neither all legislators nor the Texans they represent will agree,” Cigarroa wrote in his letter to Perry. “However, during my tenure as Chancellor, parents, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and institutional law enforcement officers have all expressed concern that the presence of concealed handguns on our campuses will make the campus environment less safe.”

Cigarroa expressed similar concerns in a letter to the governor in 2011, when the issue was last before legislators.

Perry names new regents to UT board

Gov. Rick Perry named two new members and one re-appointment to the University of Texas System Board of Regents Thursday.

Once confirmed by the Senate, Ernest Aliseda of McAllen and Jeff Hildebrand of Houston will replace James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary, whose terms were scheduled to expire this month.

Aliseda is the managing attorney for Loya Incurance Group and a municipal judge. He graduated from Texas A&M University. Hildebrand is chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company and is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Texas.

The third appointment, Paul Foster, is currently a sitting member of the board. All three will serve six-year terms, set to expire in 2019.

The appointments come as the board faces new scrutiny from Texas lawmakers. Wednesday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for a joint committee of higher education lawmakers to investigate the board of regents.

The Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence & Transparency will be co-chaired by Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Dan Branch. No date has been set for hearings to begin, but the committee would have subpoena power and could bring in sitting regents for testimony. Dewhurst has alluded to personal attacks on Powers and his family by the regents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


UT Regents approve 4-year guaranteed tuition plan

One of Gov. Rick Perry’s stated goals for this session is about to become a reality.

Today, UT’s Board of Regents approved a four-year, guaranteed tuition plan. That means a freshman starting in 2014 would pay the same rate on his or her fourth year of college as on day one, regardless of whether tuition rates go up in the meantime.

Gov. Perry called for the change in his State of the State speech last month.

For UT officials, it’s part of a larger plan to get students to graduate on time. According to the University of Texas, just over half of its undergraduates earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. UT’s goal is to get the rate up to 70 percent. In addition to fixed tuition, the university hopes to reach its goal through increased student counseling, along with $5 million in targeted financial aid.