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University recruitment fund gets green light from Legislature

Texas A&M University-Commerce and other state universities are likely looking at less state funding over the next two years.
Texas A&M University-Commerce
Abbott has said he plans to use the fund to attract major researchers, including Nobel laureates, to the state's public universities.

Fulfilling one of Gov. Greg Abbott's top higher education priorities this session, lawmakers on Sunday gave final approval to the elimination of the state's startup investment fund and directed much of its money to a new governor-controlled researcher recruitment effort.  

That action requires two bills, Senate Bill 632 by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and House Bill 26 by Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson. The measures — both of which passed on Sunday — would formalize the end of the Emerging Technology Fund, a signature project of Abbott's predecessor, Rick Perry.  

In its place, it would create the Governor's University Research Initiative, which has $40 million earmarked in the state budget. Abbott has said he plans to use the fund to attract major researchers, including Nobel laureates, to the state's public universities.  

Both bills now await Abbott's signature. 

Abbott has touted the plan numerous times in recent months. He mentioned it in his State of the State speech, cited it as a key reason for including higher education in this session's emergency items, and invited many of the state's Nobel Prize winners to the Governor's Mansion this month to draw attention to the idea.  

On Sunday, he said the fund would "harness our resources to empower Texas' higher education institutions as integral participants in our economic advancement." 

"I commend the Texas Legislature for passing legislation that will allow us to make great strides toward my goal of elevating our higher education system, and ultimately creating better jobs and more opportunity for all Texans," he said in a statement. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/31/lawmakers-approve-abbotts-university-recruitment-f/.