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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mississippi HBCU merger dies in Legislature

The most controversial part of Governor Haley Barbour’s legislative agenda – the merging of universities – died a quiet and not unexpected death Tuesday.

The proposal was not taken up in committee in either chamber of the Legislature. Tuesday was the deadline for bills to be passed out of committee in the chamber where they originated.

Normally it is not safe to say an issue is dead for the session because of various methods of getting around the committee process, such as amending legislation on the floor of either chamber.

But both the House and Senate Universities and Colleges committees chairs said Tuesday they do not see a mechanism to revive the merger proposal during the 2010 session.

In November, to deal with the state’s budget crunch, Barbour had proposed merging Mississippi University for Women in Columbus with nearby Mississippi State University and placing the three historically black universities – Mississippi Valley State University, Alcorn State University and Jackson State University – all under the JSU umbrella.

In the House, Universities and College Committee Chair Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs, said early on he would not consider legislation to merge universities.

On Tuesday, his Senate counterpart, Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said he did not bring up the legislation in his committee because “as of right now at this time, I don’t think the votes are there to pass it.”

The other most notable proposal Barbour made in November called for consolidation of 152 school districts into 100. But the governor has formed a commission to study the issue and to make a recommendation in early April.

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