Legislature should move more quickly in impeachment process

05/22/2014 5:35 PM

05/22/2014 5:36 PM

The unprecedented step toward impeachment of an appointed state official is moving forward, but the question is: at what pace, and with what damage from political fallout?

A Texas House committee has found grounds to impeach University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall, who has been waging a campaign to get rid of the president at the UT System’s flagship campus in Austin.

While the chairman of the board has called for Hall to resign, Hall has stated emphatically that he will not. Gov. Rick Perry this week threw his support behind his appointee, declaring, “Hall is doing exactly what every regent and every appointee in the state of Texas should be doing: asking tough questions, gathering facts and searching for the truth.”

The battle lines have been drawn, with the governor crosswise with the board chairman (whom he also appointed), and perhaps against many of his fellow Republican leaders in the House and Senate.

The Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations began drafting official articles of impeachment Wednesday but warned that it will be a long process that could take at least a couple of months.

If it takes that long, by the time the full House votes — and then, if necessary, the Senate is assembled for a trial — it would be at the height of the fall election campaigns, and leaders may find it difficult to proceed on the matter then.

Because the Legislature is not in session, convening the House would require a proclamation from the governor, the speaker (if petitioned by at least 50 members) or a majority of House members.

A similar process would be necessary to call the Senate into session, with the lieutenant governor acting if the governor does not or the president pro tempore (Democrat Leticia Van de Putte) having the responsibility if the two higher office holders don’t act.

It would be in the best interest of the UT System, and indeed all of Texas, if the House committee completed its articles of impeachment work faster, putting into motion procedures for the Legislature to resolve this matter before the fall elections.

Otherwise, the impeachment process could become even more of a distraction to UT than Hall’s disruptive behavior.

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