Navarro College is poised to fulfill its goal of providing students with the opportunity to pursue a four-year nursing degree. The state’s 87th Legislature recently passed House Bill 885, which would allow a Bachelor of Science Nursing program at Navarro and only awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature.

“Navarro College is excited and honored that HB 885 has passed through both the Texas House of Representatives and Senate and is now moving on to the Governor’s Office,” college president, Dr. Kevin G. Fegan, told the Sun. “We are very appreciative of (state) Representatives Cody Harris and Jake Ellzey’s leadership and outstanding support in the House of Representatives, as well as (state) Sen. Brian Birdwell’s leadership in both the Senate and Senate Higher Education Committee. In addition, we thank Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott for their support.”

Fegan pointed to the bill’s widespread support, which has ranged from the local to state levels.

“We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of our local city and county elected officials, community leaders, health care leadership, business and ISD education partners for their efforts in relation to HB 885 and their continued support of Navarro College,” Fegan said. “This legislation will allow Navarro College to pursue offering a BSN degree that aligns with our vision of providing innovative career pathways and student-centered learning opportunities for the individuals and communities that Navarro College serves.”

Indeed, the measure saw bipartisan and almost unanimous approval throughout its legislative process this legislative session, with Ellzey previously sharing with the Sun that the bill was a priority of his for the 87th Legislature, after a similar piece of legislation failed to complete the process during the 86th’s session

With the bill now awaiting the governor’s signature, Ellzey said, "Navarro College offering a baccalaureate degree in nursing will have an incredible impact on Ellis and Navarro counties, the surrounding area, and DFW region with an increased level of healthcare for our residents. I look forward to Gov. Abbott signing HB 885 and seeing the first students take advantage of this exciting opportunity."

HB 885 was filed early and prior to the legislative session (Dec. 18) by primary author Harris (R-Palestine), with Ellzey (R-Midlothian) and state Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) designated as joint authors.

The bill was first read in the House on March 1 and assigned to the Higher Education Committee that same day. The committee heard the bill March 25, when it received testimony from Fegan and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie president Will Turner. Others present but not testifying registered a position of support, with no one speaking or registering against the bill, which was written at that time to affect Navarro College only.

Previously passed legislation had extended the ability to have a bachelor’s program to community colleges; however, Navarro College did not meet that bill’s minimum $6 billion overall taxable property valuation amount for its home base county (Navarro County).

HB 885 reset the amount to $4 billion and applied that change to Navarro College (Navarro County) only.

Passing unanimously out of the House committee, HB 885 received its second reading on the House floor April 12 before progressing to its third reading April 13, when it received the unanimous vote of the 147 members present (the second reading vote was not recorded).

After moving over to the Senate, HB 885 was assigned April 14 to the Higher Education Committee, of which Birdwell is a member. The bill was placed on that committee’s calendar for May 19, with members hearing testimony from Fegan. The committee amended the bill to reflect it would apply to all community colleges meeting the criteria and passed it unanimously May 21.

The bill moved to the Senate floor May 22 under the local and uncontested calendar, receiving 27 yes votes and three no votes from Sens. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), Hughes (R-Quitman) and Seliger (R-Amarillo) on both second and third readings. (The Senate rules were suspended so as to have the second and third readings back-to-back).  

“On Saturday, May 22, the Senate passed important legislation that I had the privilege of working on with Rep. Cody Harris since last legislative session, House Bill 885,” Birdwell said in a statement to the Sun. “The passage of House Bill 885 gives Navarro College the opportunity to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree program in nursing. With the growing need for health care in our district, and across the state, House Bill 885 puts Navarro College in the right position to start producing BSN-degree holding nurses to meet the Ellis County medical sector's growing demand.”

Because the Senate had approved its committee’s amendments to the measure, HB 885 was returned to the House, where its members concurred with those May 28. The state’s website, Texas Legislature Online, reported the bill’s status as “enrolled” as of May 29. It now awaits Abbott’s signature. Having received two-thirds approval in both legislative bodies, HB 885 would go into effect immediately.

Once signed, Navarro College expects to begin the immediate process of gaining the appropriate approvals from its accrediting partners: the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

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