One of the controversial bills that would allow a community college to annex another college’s non-taxing service area, and causing an uproar at Lee College, is set for a hearing this week.
State Sen. Brandon Creighton’s bill, SB 2344, is set for a hearing at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. The hearing is slated to be broadcast on the Texas House of Representatives video/audio site at https://house.texas.gov/video-audio.
“Barbers Hill’s booming economy requires highly skilled workers, and Lone Star College is both a well-equipped and cost effective option for students to get the training they need to enter the job force prepared. Providing educational options to students and families is always a positive,” Creighton said in a statement.
Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, filed a House version of the bill - House Bill 3835. It currently has no hearing date set. Both bills were filed on the last day bills could be filed for the current legislative session. In addition, Creighton has also filed a similar bill – HB 3797 – that also relates to annexing territory by a junior college. No hearing has been set.
The bills have caused officials at Lee College to become exasperated since it appears Lone Star College has an interest in annexing Barbers Hill ISD from Lee College’s 17-school district service area along with its skyrocketing tax value.
District 23 Rep. Mayes Middleton said in January he would not follow suit of his predecessor, Rep. Wayne Faircloth, who filed two bills in 2015 and 2017 to change the law to allow BHISD to have its own community college. Both bills died before the legislative deadline.
However, Middleton did say he would file a bill to lessen the burden of the “Robin Hood” recapture system, legislation, which would
Middleton has also filed legislation – HB 1203 - to expand the authority of community colleges to be able to offer four-year degrees. As of last week, it was left pending in the Higher Education Committee.
The ongoing conflict between Lee College and BHISD over the issue led to some contentious words between the two entities.
Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown has used the word “incensed” to describe his feelings about having to fight BHISD for a third time over their desire to have a community college in their district.
“When I use the word incensed, it is because there is not any reason this legislation had to be filed,” Brown said. “I met with Dr. Poole three weeks ago for over an hour in his office. He is always pleasant, but once I leave, it is a different story.”
Poole insists the legislation, if passed, would not affect Lee College’s authority in any shape, form or fashion.
Poole has also hit the college over its tax rate, saying the thought of having competition is getting the Regents to consider lowering its current $0.25 tax rate.
Brown said despite what Poole or Dr. Stephen Head, Lone Star College chancellor, say about Creighton’s bill, the state senator is not invested in the bill.
“BHISD asked him to do it and so did Lone Star. He did not do it of his own volition,” Brown said. “If either institution said for him to back off, he would.”
Brown also said he met with Toth and claimed he didn’t know much about the bill.
“It is a mirror-image wording of the Senate bill,” Brown said. “Also, he doesn’t represent any area for Lone Star, and only part of BHISD.”
Brown added he has also met with Middleton.
“He said he absolutely would not support the bill,” Brown said. “So, they had to go outside to get a state representative to file on the House side, and he will oppose it.”
Regent Gilbert Santana was scheduled to speak during the public comments period at the BHISD board meeting Monday night. Look for more coverage in Wednesday’s Sun.