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Friday, May 24, 2019

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UH PAC does important work, students should care about it


The Texas State Capitol houses the legislative body of Texas. The UH PAC uses its influence and funds to advocate for the University of Houston System to the legislators in hopes of furthering its legislative agenda. In years past, the UH PAC has worked to make sure important initiatives were funded. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/user: Mav

There is about a month left in the Texas legislative session, which ends May 27. State politics are not very exciting — except whenever a state congressman does something dumb — so, it’s not a surprise most students do not care about it.  

We have UH Day at the Capitol each legislative session, allowing students to go and advocate for UH at the Texas State Capitol for a day. Along with that, President and Chancellor Renu Khator works with the state in some capacity throughout each session.

If you look online, you’ll find the legislative initiatives for the UHS during the 2019 legislative session. These initiatives include Hurricane Harvey recovery (remember, the session was out when Hurricane Harvey hit), funding for the UHS Katy expansion and funding for a renovation of the University of Houston Law Center.

These are all initiatives, so there’s no guarantee these funds will be allocated, but the UHS hopes so.

While some students might be aware of the above legislative work, most do not know about one very important piece of the legislative puzzle: the University of Houston Political Action Committee, or UH PAC. Students should know about it, though, because it helps the UHS — especially our UH Main Campus — a lot.

What is it?

A political action committee, or a PAC, is simply a committee that raises money to advocate for a certain cause or candidate. This is the thing Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with other politicians, really hates, because there’s no limit on the amount of money the PAC can raise.

Before I go further, I need to point out — for legal reasons — that the UH PAC is not affiliated with the University in any way. Any UHS official involved in the PAC does so outside of their official University capacity. This is true for all PACs — the PACs themselves are not affiliated with the cause or candidate the PAC is supporting.

The UH PAC is a general purpose Texas State PAC. This just means the UH PAC has a special interest and advocates for that special interest.

According to their website, the UH PAC has helped advocate for the Hobby School of Public Affairs (which is on the UH Main Campus), an increase in the Higher Education Fund and an increase in funding for the University of Houston Victoria and University of Houston Clear Lake.

Along with that, the UH PAC advocates on behalf of UHS to local representatives. Representatives include Texas Sen. John Whitmire from northern Harris County who is also a UH alumnus, and the multitude of other senators and representatives who represent the Houston area in the state legislature.

The UH PAC helps further UH interests. These members advocate in a way the UHS cannot do itself. I’m talking about money. But it’s necessary, especially to further the UHS interests.

Necessary representation

The University of Houston needs representation in the Texas Legislature. As much as we hate to compare ourselves to the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, those two universities are the two biggest (in name value) in Texas.

The University of Houston, as of right now and for the foreseeable future, is behind.

The UH PAC works to make up for that name disparity through advocacy to the legislators. But UH’s representation at the State Capitol remains subpar.

The University of Texas has a lot of representation. Governor Greg Abbott is a UT alumnus. The Texas Senate has 31 senators, and five of them graduated from UT. The Texas House of Representatives has 150 members, and 33 representatives graduated from UT.

Texas A&M representatives make up the Aggie Legislative Caucus. Texas A&M and UT alumni come together for an Orange and Maroon Legislative Day.

During the last legislative session, the University of Houston System was granted appropriations totaling roughly $843 million for the years of 2018 to 2019. Compare that to the University of Texas System, which received about $2.69 billion, and the Texas A&M University System, which received roughly $2 billion.

Needless to say, the University of Houston is somewhat behind when it comes to legislative representation. There is a hierarchy of schools that cannot be denied. That’s why the UH PAC is so incredibly important. It’s entirely possible that UH interests can be forgotten and thrown to the wayside when it comes to higher education funding.

We are a Tier One school that deserves to be treated as such by lawmakers and officials in Austin. The UH PAC does incredibly important work for the students in the University of Houston System.

Students, like you, can also make a difference when it comes to UH’s representation in Texas. Talk to representatives in your area, advocate to others about UH when you can and maybe run for office one day. We can all do a part, but in the meantime, the UH PAC will be there.

Opinion Editor Jorden Smith is a political science and creative writing senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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