New UT Regent Picks Peppered With Questions Over Past Scandals, Infighting

AUSTIN - The University of Texas is a little closer to having three new regents after lawmakers peppered the nominees with questions about the board's recent infighting and divisive decisions.The Senate Nominations Committee on Thursday grilled Gov. Greg Abbott's picks for the board, but didn't take a vote on whether to approve them. This isn't unusual. Usually, the committee will debate the nominees first and vote on them days or weeks later. If approved by the committee, Janiece Longoria, Rad Weaver and Kevin Eltife would still need to be OK'd by the full Senate before their tenure could start in February.The three nominees promised to tackle rising college costs, poor communication with lawmakers and other university systems and concerns about a lack of transparency. They also expressed some opposition over the UT system's plan to build a massive new research center in Houston."I want it stopped because I want someone to explain to me why we spent $200 million on a piece of dirt," said Eltife, a former Republican state senator from Tyler. "You don't need new brick and mortar until what you already have is perfect."And I'm not sure that's the case."Longoria said she could not support it unless Houston lawmakers approve of the center's construction: "I don't believe without that alignment and support that the project could ever be successful."While the Senate is expected to OK Abbott's picks, the process is rarely without controversy and this time is no different. Abbott was criticized this week for naming no black regents to the board. He and the Senate have also been asked to delay the nominations process until after the Texas Supreme Court rules outgoing regent Wallace Hall's lawsuit against Chancellor Bill McRaven.This is a breaking news story. Check back here for updates.   Continue reading...

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