Legislation barring state-funded colleges from implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring practices has passed the Texas Senate.
On a party-line vote of 19-12, Senate Bill 17 by Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe) moved closer to becoming law after an hours-long debate. The measure must now pass through the House before it can go to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.
The legislation is one of 30 priorities for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. After it passed the upper chamber, he issued a statement saying it would “ban divisive DEI offices and hiring practices at our universities to make sure that individual merit and achievement are rewarded.”
“The woke left’s drive to divide Texans is never-ending,” he said, arguing that “DEI hiring practices have caused division and must be stopped.”
“Texas universities improve and the educational environment is enhanced when we recruit the best faculty based on merit and equal opportunity, not arbitrary quotas based on equity,” Patrick concluded.
Senate Bill 17 prohibits public universities from establishing a DEI office, using DEI criteria in their hiring practices, or requiring employees or prospective employees to provide a DEI statement or attend a DEI training. Employees or contractors who violate these prohibitions would be disciplined, and accrediting organizations are barred from taking negative action against an institution for adhering to the law.
To ensure compliance, the bill states that public universities may not spend any money appropriated by the state until certifying they did not engage in any of the prohibited activities during the previous fiscal year. The measure also requires a representative from each state-funded institution of higher education to testify before lawmakers about their compliance during each legislative interim.
The state auditor must also conduct an audit of each public university at least once every four years, and if any institution has violated the law, it would be ineligible to receive state funds for a full year.
Notably, a provision of the bill states that the prohibitions listed are subject to federal law. In a floor amendment, Creighton clarified that they also do not apply to academic instruction, student admissions, student organizations, guest speakers, or scholarly research.
During the debate, Democrats offered several amendments, none of which were adopted.
Creighton posted a brief statement to social media when the bill passed.
— Brandon Creighton (@CreightonForTX) April 20, 2023
The legislative session ends May 29.