Perry expands the call

Governor Perry is feeling confident about now, and I can’t say I blame him.

Signaling the likely passage of tax cut legislation, Gov. Rick Perry today opened the special legislative session’s call to include new funding for the state’s college’s and universities.

Perry’s order will allow lawmakers to debate tuition revenue bonds – a special form of financing that allows institutions of higher education to pay for new construction out of tuition revenue.

Because the legislation always lists specific projects at specific universities, the tuition revenue bond bill often is used by legislative leadership as a bargaining chip to get reluctant lawmakers to back pieces of legislation.

That doesn’t really say much, does it? Let’s try this:

Tuition revenue bonds are bonds issued by public colleges and universities to pay for construction needs. They are usually paid off by the state but colleges use their tuition revenue as collateral on them.

According to Perry’s office, the Lege can now discuss:

  • Legislation that provides for the issuance of revenue bonds or other obligations to fund capital projects at public institutions of higher education.
  • Legislation that provides for an appropriation to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to fund debt service on revenue bonds or other obligations on capital projects at public institutions of higher education.
  • Legislation relating to appropriations to pay for damages and disruptions suffered by Lamar University and its related institutions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • Legislation relating to the recovery and securitization of reasonable and necessary hurricane reconstruction costs incurred by certain electric utilities outside of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas area.

That’s a bit better. I’m not sure how much of this can or will get done with sine die happening next Tuesday, but I guess we’ll see. Between the Bills has the Perry press release.

One item that the Lege will thankfully not take up is stem cell research.

The House was able to sidestep the stem-cell debate when the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, the state’s center for cutting edge stem-cell research, took itself out of the bonding package.

The author of the bond bill, Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, had planned to accept an amendment that would have restricted embryonic stem cell research in facilities built with the bonds.

She abandoned that plan in the face of opponents who said an interim House committee studying the issue should settle the stem-cell debate in 2007.

Charming. I can hardly contain my excitement over that prospect.

And finally, via QR, something that should get taken up but probably won’t:

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) filed legislation on Thursday that would undo the eligibility changes in the Children’s Health Insurance Program ordered by the Legislature in 2003.

He argued the eligibility changes – an assets test, shortening the enrollment period from 12 to six months, among others – contributed to the significant decline of children in the low-cost insurance program over the last two-and-a-half years.

This would be a good time for Speaker Craddick to reward Turner for his loyal service over the last two sessions by letting this bill come to the floor for debate. What do you say, Tom?

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