Public university governing boards in Texas would have to broadcast their meetings over the Internet under legislation approved Friday by the Senate Higher Education Committee.
The panel also passed a bill that would modify provisions of the state’s automatic-admission law for the University of Texas.
House Bill 31, authored by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, would require governing boards to broadcast all of their meetings except for closed-door sessions where certain legal, real estate, personnel and other matters are discussed. Boards of regents would also have to post agendas and supplemental materials online “as early as practicable” in advance of meetings.
The UT System’s board currently broadcasts most, but not all, of its meetings. Although the system has posted virtually all of its agendas online in recent years, it does not always post supplemental materials in advance.
HB 31 now goes to the full Senate, where it is expected to win easy approval. It would then go back to the House for approval of a minor change made by the Senate panel.
The automatic admission measure, HB 1843, also authored by Branch, is a response to a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges UT’s consideration of race and ethnicity in undergraduate admissions.
Under a 1997 state law, students in the top 10 percent of their Texas high school class are entitled to enroll at any of the state’s 38 public universities. A 2009 modification to that law lets UT cap such students at 75 percent of the university’s freshmen from Texas. As a result, students have had to rank somewhat higher in recent years to gain automatic admission.
If the Supreme Court bars UT from considering race and ethnicity when filling out the balance of its freshman classes, a clause in the 2009 legislative revision would trigger elimination of the 75 percent cap. Thus, UT would have to admit all top 10 percent applicants. School officials say this would make it difficult to assemble a class with the right mix of talents, interests, economic backgrounds and other characteristics.
HB 1843 would retain the 75 percent cap through the 2017-18 academic year. The measure has already passed the House and is expected to be approved by the full Senate.