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UHV/A&M switch: What if the bill fails to pass?

By Gabe Semenza
March 21, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2011 at 10:21 p.m.


WHAT'S THIS ABOUT?

In the 12th part of an ongoing series, the Advocate answers questions related to HB 2556, legislation filed March 8 by Rep. Geanie Morrison.

If passed, the bill would change the University of Houston-Victoria's name to Texas A&M University-Victoria, and move everything and everyone under its umbrella into the A&M system.

QUESTIONS ABOUT BILL?

Contact Advocate Public Service Editor Gabe Semenza at gsemenza@vicad.com or 361-580-6519.

What happens if the legislative bill fails?

While much talk recently centers on whether HB 2556 should have been filed, one important question looms:

What if the bill fails to pass?

If it fails, the University of Houston-Victoria would remain with the University of Houston System.

But would the system retaliate in some way? Act more favorably because of the lengths to which Victoria leaders have gone? Operate as usual?

The answers to those questions remain unknown until - and if - the bill fails. The UH System won't say how it would react, citing law that forbids it from commenting on pending legislation.

So, the Advocate gathered estimations from Victoria leaders who stand on both sides of the issue.

Emett Alvarez, a businessman, opposes the switch; Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi favors it.

"Well, I think everybody would need to go back to the table," Alvarez said. "I would hope we could turn a page here and start over. I hope the governor would appoint someone from Victoria to the University of Houston System board of regents. If we'd had someone on the board of regents, maybe we wouldn't be having these discussions."

Morgan O'Connor is the last Victoria resident to serve on the UH System Board of Regents.

Former Texas Gov. George W. Bush appointed O'Connor to the board of regents in 1999. O'Connor served in that capacity until February 2008.

While regents serve six-year terms, O'Connor was a two-plus-year holdover because Gov. Rick Perry did not immediately replace her.

Pozzi, meanwhile, said he can't know if any awkwardness or hard feelings from the UH System would further spoil relations.

"I'm certainly going to continue to work with the system, whichever system that may be," Pozzi said. "We'll continue to work for higher education in this community - no matter what. We will move forward with whatever system we have."

How will VEDC educate Crossroads residents about the switch?

The Victoria Economic Development Corp. has $100,000 at its disposal to woo legislators and inform Crossroads residents about reasons to switch systems.

The Advocate asked this: Why is the money being used to inform Crossroads residents, and how specifically will this occur?

Dale Fowler, economic development president, said it's important for the region to remain informed about higher education.

"This is very much a local issue," Fowler said. "It's so important to have an educated workforce, and for us to improve higher education."

Part of the plan to inform residents is to hire Mike Sizemore of Sizemore Media, a Victoria media and public policy consulting firm.

Sizemore has 30 years of experience in media, public policy and politics.

"This bill was not filed hastily. A lot of serious thought went into it," Sizemore said. "I was hired to to get the word out, to help people here understand why the bill was filed."

To inform residents, Sizemore plans to launch later this week a specialized website and social media blitz.

The website will, for starters, explain the potential effects of the legislation on this region.

"We're going to make information available so that people understand why this was done and what this holds for Victoria's higher education future," Sizemore said.

Sizemore had not signed his contract as of publication time on Monday. Thus, he said it was premature to discuss how much money he could earn. The Advocate will publish the amount once it's public.

As for the $100,000: The economic development corporation is not obligated to spend it all. Any unused money would be reallocated to the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp., the agency from which the money originates.

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