(KCPW News) A bill that requires the State Board of Regents to get approval from the governor and the Utah Senate before hiring a Commissioner of Higher Education narrowly passed the House of Representatives this morning. Senate Bill 39 also gives the governor the authority to fire the commissioner. GOP Representative Bill Wright, the bill’s house sponsor, said it keeps the two branches of government in the loop when making a decision on who will lead Utah’s higher education system.
“We’re not moving very far here,” said Wright. “All we’re trying to do is just create a system that basically we have the legislature involved to a little more extent than what they have been previously. We have the executive branch involved a little more extent than what they have been previously.”
Wright added the Board of Regents would still have the responsibility of finding and vetting candidates.
But Democratic Representative Patrice Arent said the bill is unnecessary because there isn’t a problem in higher education that needs fixing, adding that it undermines the commissioner’s authority.
“To have an effective system, the commissioner has to have standing among the presidents and the academic community. And to do that he or she needs some insulation from the political system and I think this doesn’t help that,” said Arent.
Arent added she doesn’t want to the see the commissioner subjected to undue political pressure. Senate Bill 39 makes similar changes regarding the president of the Utah College of Applied Technology. It passed the house by a vote of 39 to 34 and will go to Governor Gary Herbert after it’s signed by Senate President Michael Waddoups.
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