Budget negotiators on Monday agreed to allocate $595 million in bonds for CPRIT, which would ostensibly give the organization the funding it needs to resume operations. The decision, which would fund CPRIT through the 2014-15 biennium, will not be implemented into the budget until SB 149 is passed in the House and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry. The Texas Senate has already passed the bill.
Concerns over whether or CPRIT would be funded before the close of the Congressional session in Texas were heightened back in early March, when the organization was conspicuously left out of the $195.5 billion state budget. Because the legislative arm of the Texas government only meets every other year, failing to keep CPRIT out of the budget plans would have ostensibly stalled funding until 2015.
The tone of lawmakers in Austin is also beginning to change from a steady stream of criticism to more constructive timbre. Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, a co-sponsor of the CPRIT reform bill in the Senate, remarked that, “I was very disappointed in the poor decision making and mistakes that came to light this session, but believe we must keep up our fight against cancer,” adding that the new legislative efforts “will ensure CPRIT operates in a transparent and accountable way in the future and that these issues will be solved.”
Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland and the sponsor of the House version of SB 149, underscored how efforts in the House have been focused chiefly on ensuring that conflicts of interests are neutralized as a result of the new reforms, remarking that, “We have painstakingly gone over conflict of interest in this bill.”
Wayne Roberts, the interim executive director of CPRIT, has also endorsed SB 149 as a viable path toward effective reform for CPRIT. In a recent statement, Roberts commented, “Senate Bill 149 is the critical next step in restoring the trust that was shaken in 2012. That trust can only be fully restored by responsible, accountable, and transparent operations as we move forward.”
Among the many reforms in the new bill is the reduction of the executive director’s power, being replaced by an appointed panel, as well as a complete restocking of the oversight committee. What remains to be seen, however, is how the new reforms will impact the scope of funding that CPRIT engages in.
Regardless, Texas cancer research institutions and researchers alike continue to early anticipate the resumption of CPRIT funding, as the 7-month funding freeze continues to have a crippling effect on pending research that could potentially lead to improved cancer prevention and treatments, as well as a continued influx of businesses and research professionals into the state.