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Bill Would Overhaul State Cancer Agency

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Two state lawmakers who led the charge to create the now-embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) unveiled legislation today that they say will fix the $3 billion agency. A state audit found major problems with how CPRIT doled out grants, and the taxpayer-funded organization is under criminal investigation.

State Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) said today that CPRIT officials interpreted policies in ways that no "reasonable person would."

“I was going to tell my grandchildren about sitting in that rocking chair as one of our great accomplishments that we funded the research that cured cancers," Nelson said on the floor of the Texas Senate. "It is deeply disappointing that the people we entrusted with this important effort took such egregious liberties with our rules and our laws.” 

State Representative Jim Keffer (R-Granbury), another founding legislator of CPRIT, blamed the organization's failures on what he called the “antics” and “high handedness” of its leaders, adding that "the curtailing of this dreaded disease is still paramount, and still needed, and I still think is a worthy goal." 

Proposed legislation to overhaul CPRIT, Nelson's Senate Bill 149, includes more stringent measures to ensure compliance with rules governing the peer review process and conflict of interest. It bans CPRIT employees from having an office in an organization that receives money from CPRIT. The Senate Research Center posted this analysisof the bill. 

Also on Tuesday, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed a bill that she says would address "severe transparency and accountability weaknesses" at CPRIT. Senate Bill 386 would, among other things, move the date of CPRIT's Sunset Reviewup to 2015 from 2021.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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