Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency, Texas State Legislature

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Senate Committees

The Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency is a joint standing committee of the Texas State Legislature. The committee was formed on February 20, 2013.[1]

Membership

2013-2014

The following table describes committee membership at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session.

Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency Members, 2013
Democratic members (6)Republican members (10)
Judith Zaffirini, Vice ChairDan Branch, Co-Chair
Eric JohnsonKel Seliger, Co-chair
Michael VillarrealDennis Bonnen, Vice-chair
Donna HowardMyra Crownover
Kirk WatsonLois Kolkhorst
Royce WestJim Pitts
Brian Birdwell
Robert Duncan
Kevin Eltife
Dan Patrick

University of Texas investigations


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University of Texas Investigations

Background
Wallace Hall impeachment trialPolitical favoritism in admissions to the University of TexasForgivable loans program at the University of Texas Law School House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations (TSAO)Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency

UT Regents
Wallace HallPaul FosterEugene PowellSteven HicksErnest AlisedaJeffery HildebrandBrenda PejovichAlex CranbergRobert Stillwell

Elected Officials
Rick PerryJoe StrausCharles PerryTrey FischerDan FlynnNaomi GonzalezEric JohnsonLyle LarsonCarol AlvaradoFour PriceJim PittsDan Branch

UT Individuals
Bill PowersLarry SagerBarry BurgdorfKevin HegartyFrancisco CigarroaCarol Longoria
See also: Wallace Hall impeachment trial

After he was appointed in 2011, University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall began looking into what he believed to be clout scandals within the University of Texas system. Hall investigated the university's forgivable-loans program and admissions policies and preferential treatment to politically-connected individuals.[2] Hall, as an individual citizen, filed a large number of FOIA requests with the University system after his inquiries via his role as a Regent were rebuffed.[3] According to his accusers, Hall filed requests of more than 800,000 pages, which some Texas administrators called an unnecessary burden.[4][5] However, a letter from University chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in February 2014 said that Hall likely requested fewer than 100,000 pages.[6][7] In addition, Cigarroa wrote: "During testimony before the Select Committee, some early witnesses implied that the U.T. System has not protected the privacy rights of students, staff, and patients. This is simply not true."[8] Governor Rick Perry and University of Texas President Bill Powers have differed on education issues, specifically tuition, graduation rates, teacher roles and research.[9]

In 2013, the joint committee inquired into the possibility of an impeachment. In an April 2013 interview with Texas Monthly, Hall said that there was little outreach from state officials about the process prior to the impeachment proceedings. "[Committee co-chairman] Dan Branch has been a friend of mine for many years. He’s never asked me a question about this situation, and the next thing I know he’s asking his staff to investigate the rules for impeachment. I’m mystified by that, frankly," Hall said.[10]

An effort was begun in June 2013 to try and impeach Hall from his position as regent. On June 24, 2013, committee-member State House representative Jim Pitts (R) filed a resolution to advance along impeachment proceedings of Hall by the select committee.[11] However, State House Speaker Joe Straus issued a proclamation that expanded the jurisdiction of the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, allowing it to investigate a possible impeachment. Some legislators are justifying the impeachment on the grounds that Hall did not disclose several lawsuits that he was involved in when he originally completed his Regent background check. Hall updated Perry's office in April 2013 with the full list.[12][13] No unelected official in Texas has ever been successfully impeached or removed from office.[14] Perry's spokesperson said the investigations send a "chilling message" to gubernatorial appointees.[15] He added that the investigation was "extraordinary political theater."[16] Texas state legislators have never previously tried to remove an appointed official. Only two elected officials in the history of Texas have ever been successfully impeached.[17][18]

External links

References

  1. Texas State Legislature, "Committee Membership History," accessed November 20, 2013
  2. American Spectator, "Transparency for Thee," October 25, 2013
  3. Daily Texas Online, "Facing impeachment, Regent Wallace Hall defends actions in debate with Sen. Kirk Watson," September 28, 2013
  4. Daily Texas Online, "Former UT System vice chancellor alleges Regent Wallace Hall’s ‘clear intent to get rid of Bill Powers’," October 24, 2013
  5. Dallas Morning News, "UT regent sought 800,000 documents, official says in impeachment hearing," October 22, 2013
  6. Watchdog, "‘Witch hunt’ fallout: Speaker calls for narrower public records law," February 5, 2014
  7. Texas Tribune, "UT System Responds to Transparency Committee Directives," February 3, 2014
  8. Texas Tribune, "Cigarroa letter to the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations," February 1, 2014
  9. Austin American Statesman, "Perry pans impeachment proceedings, defends UT Regent Hall," October 30, 2013
  10. Texas Monthly, "The Wallace Hall Interview," April 15, 2013
  11. Alcalde, "Pitts Files Resolution to Impeach UT Regent Wallace Hall," June 24, 2013
  12. Texas Tribune, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Updates Lawsuit Disclosures," April 30, 2013
  13. Real Clear Policy, "The Campaign Against Wallace Hall," August 15, 2013
  14. News-Journal, "University of Texas regent not worried by impeachment inquiry," September 9, 2013
  15. Texas Tribune, "Transparency Committee to Mull Impeachment of UT Regent," June 25, 2013
  16. Texas Tribune, "Perry Blasts Impeachment Probe of Wallace Hall," October 30, 2013
  17. Texas Public Radio, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Will Testify In Impeachment Hearing," November 13, 2013
  18. Texas State House Committees, "Transparency in State Agency Operations Committee Members," accessed October 31, 2013