March 23, 2007
  Feature Story

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We’ve HIT the Legislative Road
Our Health Institutes of Texas proposal gets new attention in Austin

On March 6, Senator Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville) filed Senate Bill 1248 in the Texas Senate, which, if passed, would allow the establishment of the Health Institutes of Texas (HIT) here at the Health Science Center. Not only did Sen. Nelson’s filing send a message of support for our “discovery-to-delivery” approach to expeditiously solving the critical health care problems of Texas, it also increased the likelihood of HIT’s funding.

And that funding would translate into people. If SB 1248 passes, and we receive the full funding we’ve requested for a five-year start-up period, we have the potential to gain 176 new faculty positions, 460 new staff positions and 125 new students.

Keep reading Campus Connection and The Daily News for updates on the progress of SB 1248.

The path that a bill takes through the Legislature may seem difficult, and possibly downright tricky, to understand. The Texas Senate Web site provides the following explanation of the basic steps in the Texas legislative process as part of its Citizen Handbook.

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The Handbook explains that after a bill is filed, whether in the House of Representatives or Senate, the Texas Constitution mandates that the bill must be read on three separate days in each house of the Legislature before it can be passed and become law. The first reading occurs when the bill is introduced and referred to a committee. SB 1248 was read on March 14 and was referred to the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education.

The committee will hear the bill; hold a public hearing about the bill; attach impact statements about the measure to the bill; vote on the bill; then, if the bill receives a passing vote in the committee, the committee will report favorably on the bill to allow for a second read on the Senate floor.

The bill, if approved by its committee, will be placed on the calendar for floor consideration. At this point, the author of the bill, Sen. Nelson in the case of SB 1248, will make a motion on the Senate floor to suspend all necessary rules for consideration of the bill by the members of the Senate – this must be done in order for the bill to be read on the floor the second time. This motion must also receive a favorable two-thirds vote of the Senate to be read.

The Senate will then hear the bill, debate its contents, offer amendments and vote on the bill. Amendments and approval on the second reading require only a majority favorable vote. If the bill does receive a majority vote on the second read – or receives passage to engrossment – the Senate usually suspends the constitutional requirement that the bill be read on three separate days. This motion must be approved by a four-fifths majority, however.

If this motion fails, a motion to again suspend the regular order of Senate business must receive a two-thirds favorable vote on a subsequent legislative day, allowing for the third reading of the bill and a vote by the Senate.

Debates in the Senate have no time length, so a senator may filibuster a bill by holding the floor for an unlimited amount of time, usually in an effort to either kill the bill or call public attention to its contents.

If the Senate passes the bill, it is then sent to the House of Representatives, where it follows a similar path on its way to the governor’s desk. If passed, the bill would amend Chapter 105 of the Texas Education Code (the chapter relating to the University of North Texas system). UNT HSC Logo  


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