FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2013
General Counsel & Press Secretary
AUSTIN — Today, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 24, the bill which will create a new Valley-spanning university comprised of the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas - Pan American, and the UT Health Science Center San Antonio Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.
Senate Bill 24 was announced last month in Austin. The bill is authored by Senators Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville), Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Judith Zaffririni (D-Laredo), and Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo). Sixteen other senators have joined the bill as coauthors.
Senate Bill 24 is a companion to House Bill 1000 by State Representative Rene Oliveira, which was passed out of the House Committee on Higher Education last week. House Bill 1000 will be considered by the full Texas House of Representatives Tuesday.
Now passed in the Senate, Senate Bill 24 will move to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.
Today, Senator Lucio offered the following statement to his colleagues on the floor of the Senate:
"Mr. President and members, I am deeply honored to rise today to encourage passage of Senate Bill 24. Today is a historic day for the Rio Grande Valley. Today, by our vote, we place South Texas on the path to establishing a Tier One university for the 21st Century, with state-of-the-art facilities, top-notch faculty, and the future medical school.
"I commend my fellow joint authors on the bill, — Senator Hinojosa, Senator Seliger, and Senator Zaffirini, as well as all of my colleagues who subsequently signed on as coauthors — for recognizing and supporting the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this new university presents to transform the Valley into a future center for multinational culture, science, and commerce.
"Indeed, marshaling our higher education resources for the creation of a new university of this scale just makes sense. For one, it capitalizes on the region's bicultural heritage. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the largest and fastest-growing geographical areas in Texas. Our demographics already offer a preview of what the nation's demographics will look like within a generation. This new university will immediately become one of the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the country.
"The passage of Senate Bill 24, of course, also offers more immediate positive impacts to the Valley in terms of jobs, access to health care, and greater educational opportunities. Through our actions today, we begin to correct generations of inequity in this economically-distressed area of the state.
"Right now, the median household income in the Valley is less than $30,000 per year. Passage of Senate Bill 24 is a first step toward building a vibrant healthcare industry that will attract professionals from all over the world, as well as build multinational industry around our water and international ports.
"Right now, the Valley doesn’t have nearly enough doctors to serve its citizens. Passage of Senate Bill 24, and the creation of the Valley's first four-year medical school, will ensure that as many as 75 or 80 percent of future medical students will be able to stay, train, and practice medicine in the Valley after they complete their residencies.
"Right now, we're desperate to find ways to educate our young people — young people that President Garcia at UTB and President Nelson at UTPA can tell you are eager and hard-working; they just need a chance to prove it. After passage of Senate Bill 24, we will attract more students by using technology, online learning, and the additional state-of-the-art campus facilities that will be made possible with access to the Permanent University Fund.
"To me, today marks the culmination of work that spans three decades for me of increasing education and health care in the Valley — from the creation of the University of Texas at Brownsville, creation of South Texas College, to the creation of the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Regional Academic Health Center, to passage of Senate Bill 98 in 2009 to create the region's first medical school — and finally to today.
"In particular, building the medical school has always been intended to be a regional project. I couldn't be more proud to stand here with my colleagues and take one more certain step toward realizing that goal.
"We knew when we started the Session that creating this new, Valley-spanning university would be monumental. We couldn't afford to limit ourselves. Congratulations members on taking this bold step toward creating a more prosperous Texas."