Board of Governors opposes amendment proposal

03/04/08 Mitch E. Perry
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A day after a legislative committee approved a bill that could cut more than $90-million from state universities and colleges, the State Board of Governors announced today it will fight hard to stop a proposal to be introduced in the Legislature this week that the Board says will severely impact its influence and the quality of higher education over all in the state.

At issue is a proposed constitutional amendment that would strip the board of much of its power, including its authority to appoint university trustees.

It’s being combined with a more popular issue – having the voters elect an education commissioner, as opposed to that position now being selected by the governor. The sponsor in the Senate is GOP legislator Lisa Carlton.

Mark Rosenberg is the chancellor of the Board of Governors. He says the bill would be devastating for the public university system.

The proposal was first discussed a few weeks ago by Senate President Ken Pruitt, who has been in a bitter war of words and now legal action with the Board of Governors about who actual can ask for a tuition hike, the Legislature or the Board.

On a conference call, Board of Governors Chairwoman Carolyn Roberts hesitated before answering a question about whether the measure being proposed is retaliation against the Board for its fight to control tuition rates.

Rosenberg said the question would be better asked of the Legislature. Both Rosenberg and Roberts spoke with the other members of the Board today, asking them to meet individually with legislators to lobby them against the proposal.

Board of Governor member Gus Stavros said now was not the time to alter the governance system.

If the proposed constitutional amendment makes it on the ballot, it would need 60 percent support to pass.

On the conference call, members of the Board asked where the clamor for making such a change was coming from. Chairwoman Carolyn Roberts said she thought it mostly came from the Legislature, not the citizens of the state.

The first meeting on Senator Carlton’s bill takes place tomorrow. A companion bill in the House gets its first read through on Friday.

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