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Featured: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, in his seat at his desk on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. 

Photograph by PETER SALINAS

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, whose legislation protects children, consumers, crime victims, and public education, will seek a fifth, two-year term as state lawmaker for House District 36, a key South Texas region which includes all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. Muñoz, whose achievements have earned him membership to key House legislative panels, including the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, also has used his eight years experience in the Texas Legislature to make improvements on border trade and economic prosperity, educational funding and opportunities for students, teachers and education professionals, while successfully championing a higher quality-of-life and access to health care for his constituents. “There is no substitute for experience in life, and the same goes for the Texas Legislature,” said Muñoz, an attorney by profession. “When it comes to getting results for our area, I have an expert knowledge of the legislative process, so I know how to work with my colleagues and the state leadership, and I am able to get big things done for us in House District 36.” Muñoz and his wife María Elena have three children – Gael Sebastián, Sergio Emiliano, and Caterina Violetta. He is the son of former Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Sr., a local healthcare businessman and Connie Muñoz, a long-time educator from the Mission area. His sister, Marla Muñoz-López, is a healthcare professional. He attributes his success and commitment towards civic duty to the values instilled by his parents and strengthened by his love for his family. In addition to his immediate family and his service in the Texas Legislature, Muñoz is a civil and criminal law attorney and sole principal of the Muñoz Law Firm, serving the South Texas region. He served as a Municipal Judge in Palmview, Texas and is a member of the Hidalgo County Bar Association. Beyond his professional service, Representative Muñoz is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Knights of Columbus. He attends both Our Lady of the Guadalupe Catholic Church and St. John of the Field’s Catholic Church. Muñoz has served in the Texas Legislature since 2011 and represents all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. His Capitol office is located at CAP 4S.4 in the Texas Capitol, and may be reached at (512) 463-0704. His District Office is located at 121 E. Tom Landry, Mission, and may be reached at (956) 584-8999.

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Rep. Muñoz, whose legislation protects children, consumers, crime victims, and public education, to seek fifth term as House District 36 lawmaker

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, whose legislation protects children, consumers, crime victims, and public education, will seek a fifth, two-year term as state lawmaker for House District 36, a key South Texas region which includes all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr.

Muñoz, whose achievements have earned him membership to key House legislative panels, including the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, also has used his eight years experience in the Texas Legislature to make improvements on border trade and economic prosperity, educational funding and opportunities for students, teachers and education professionals, while successfully championing a higher quality-of-life and access to health care for his constituents.

“There is no substitute for experience in life, and the same goes for the Texas Legislature,” said Muñoz, an attorney by profession. “When it comes to getting results for our area, I have an expert knowledge of the legislative process, so I know how to work with my colleagues and the state leadership, and I am able to get big things done for us in House District 36.”

Muñoz is one of only two Valley state representatives who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which writes the $217+ billion, two-year budget proposal for action by the House of Representatives.

“I will continue to support and author legislation that maintains the momentum and improvements we’ve made thus far,” he emphasized. “I am committed to ensuring that businesses maintain control over their own practices and will continue supporting opportunities for economic prosperity, funding for infrastructure needs, health care expansion, and work to address other community needs as they arise.”

What follows are summaries of some of his many legislative accomplishments, in which he served as the author, joint author, co-author, sponsor or co-sponsor of those measures, during his first four terms in the Texas Legislature:

• Serves on the House Committee on Appropriations, which over the next year will be coming up with ways for Texas – including the Valley –  to reduce the impact of future natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, which in late August 2017 in the Houston region caused catastrophic flooding, with many nearby areas receiving more than 40 inches of rain as the system, with peak accumulations of 51.88 inches, killed at least 81 people, and is estimated to have caused as much as $180 billion in damages;

• Serves as Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Insurance, and in that role, he opposed legislation which threatens a consumer’s ability to file a lawsuit against insurance companies which refuse to pay out claims;

• Introduced landmark legislation proposing that Texas voters have the power to create a law that women receive half of all gubernatorial appointments to powerful state boards, commissions, and agencies, such as the Texas Transportation Commission and The University of Texas System Board of Regents;

• Passed legislation authorizing voters during the statewide constitutional amendments election in November 2017 to extend the same well-deserved property tax exemption given to surviving spouses of veterans and disabled veterans to surviving spouses of first responders;

• Passed legislation authorizing South Texas College the authority apply to the state to offer a bachelor degree in nursing. The Institute of Medicine, now called the National Academy of Medicine, is recommending at least an 80 percent increase in the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce by 2020. In previous legislation sessions, Muñoz also led efforts to allow STC to offer university-level bachelor degrees in Medical and Health Services Management (MHSSM) and Organizational Leadership-Competency Based;

• Passed legislation creating the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, located in Pharr, to provide education and training for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley. “This Education Center will benefit the region by adding additional programs in public safety, law enforcement, border security, and fire science. These programs provide college level certificates and degrees for public safety and law enforcement professionals in the Rio Grande Valley. Furthermore, this Center will be able to accommodate the professional continuing education courses required by all law enforcement officers.  The spectrum of courses offered will cover all the needs of our region,” said Mario Reyna, Dean for Business and Technology at STC. “Traveling to College Station or San Antonio for specialized training will be a thing of the past.”

• Passed legislation requiring the state government to pay more than 365,000 persons who receive their pension, death and survivor benefits from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) to get their monthly payments on the last working day of the month, instead of the first working day of the following month – a now former practice that delayed those payments by up to five days;

• Passed legislation authorizing the establishment of a foreign trade zone at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. United States foreign trade zones are usually located in areas with geographic trade advantages, such as major seaports, international airports, and national frontiers. Interested parties note that these zones, in addition to potentially being eligible for state and local tax benefits, can be used for the unloading, manufacturing, reassembling, testing, sampling, processing, repackaging, and reexporting of certain goods without the intervention of United States customs authorities. These parties assert that, because of the large amount of traffic traveling between the United States and Mexico through the Pharr International Bridge, the City of Pharr is a prime area for the establishment of a foreign trade zone;

• Secured $652,500 to fund a Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program aimed at reducing wait times along the Texas-Mexico border. The program allows the Department of Agriculture to make a grant to a nonprofit organization to promote the agricultural processing industry in Texas by reducing wait times for agricultural inspections of vehicles at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border;

• Passed legislation aimed to provide colonias in Hidalgo County with street lighting. Hidalgo County has more colonias than any other county in the United States. Colonias are unincorporated communities in counties that are usually characterized by poor infrastructure, lower quality homes, and higher incidences of crime. While these communities have long been neglected by the state, the actual community members within colonias are strong, determined individuals living within their means;

• Championed legislation restricting access of Texas young people to synthetic drugs and creating measures to stop deceptive advertisement of nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”, but which if abused as a recreational drug, results in short-term and long-term effects to health, and in rare causes, can result in death. According toRehabCenter.net,  as is true with abuse of many inhalants, nitrous oxide abuse can cause staggering effects to health, both short-term and long-term. Some of the short-term effects include: Delusions; Dizziness; Euphoria; Feeling of lightheadedness; Hallucinations; Lack of coordination; and Slurred speech. Some of the more severe long-term effects which may be damaging to one’s health include: Brain damage; Damage to the bone marrow, heart, kidney, liver, or other organs; and Vitamin B12 deficiency—in severe cases, this can lead to nerve damage;

• Passed legislation providing more protections for women and children in Texas who are exploited by human traffickers, along with stiffer punishments for those smugglers, including increasing penalties for certain offenses related to increasing penalties for certain offenses related to prostitution involving children and elimination the statute of limitations for compelling prostitution of children, and allowing victims of trafficking to participate in a state address confidentiality program;

• Passed legislation providing certain regulatory authority to Hidalgo County to prohibit unregulated vendors on or in the right-or-way of a public highway with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour or faster. According to interested parties, some counties consider the solicitation of business by unregulated roadside vendors to be a major problem in unincorporated areas. The parties allege that the vendors sometimes create traffic and health and safety issues, encroach into rights-of-way, or skirt sales tax laws. The parties note that even though current law does provide certain regulatory authority to a county, a county attorney, or a district attorney, enforcement of certain matters is time-consuming and inefficient;

• Passed legislation authorizing South Texas College to enter into an articulation agreement with one or more school districts located in Hidalgo and Starr counties to provide a dropout recovery program on an STC campus for students to successfully complete and receive a high school diploma. As part of this legislation, STC also was required to offer advanced academic and transition opportunities, including dual credit courses and college preparatory courses, and coordinate with each partnering school district to provide that it retained accountability for student attendance, student completion of high school course requirements, and student performance on assessment instruments necessary for the student to receive a high school diploma;

• Passed legislation that created The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. According to UTRGV, this transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions;

• Helped restore some of the rate reductions for Medicaid acute therapy services for children;

• Defended children with physical disabilities or who are victims of child abuse; Encouraging students to develop valuable skills that will expand opportunities after high school;

• Improved the financial ability of kinship caregivers to care for children placed in their homes.

• Protected children in the care of the state by helping eliminate delays in child welfare decisions that impact their well-being;

• Reduced out-of-pocket expenses for families with hearing-impaired children;

• Preserved a functioning program that provides pharmacy benefits to the Medicaid population in a cost-effective manner;

• Required Texas government to better identify and come up with solutions to communicable diseases; and

• Allowed first responders to access the treatment they need for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder without fear of professional risk or stigma.

“Serving the people of District 36 is a privilege that I greatly enjoy and I hope that you will allow me the opportunity to continue being your voice,” Muñoz addressed his constituents. “Together, we can work towards finding solutions to the various challenges we face. Throughout the past seven years, we’ve succeeded in passing numerous milestones for our community and I am eager to continue building on those accomplishments.”

He said House District 36 and the Rio Grande Valley are recognized statewide as one of the most important regions of Texas, in terms of economic growth, international trade and commerce, transportation, natural resources, technology and human capital.

“The Eyes of Texas are upon us,” said Muñoz, borrowing the famous slogan of his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. “Its our people that make us great. We have the work ethic, the energy, the intellect, the integrity, and the determination to overcome all challenges, and those characteristics are what continue to transform deep South Texas into a major and successful metropolitan region.”

Muñoz and his wife María Elena have three children – Gael Sebastián, Sergio Emiliano, and Caterina Violetta. He is the son of former Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Sr., a local healthcare businessman and Connie Muñoz, a long-time educator from the Mission area. His sister, Marla Muñoz-López, is a healthcare professional. He attributes his success and commitment towards civic duty to the values instilled by his parents and strengthened by his love for his family.

In addition to his immediate family and his service in the Legislature, Muñoz is a civil and criminal law attorney and sole principal of the Muñoz Law Firm, serving the South Texas region. He served as a Municipal Judge in Palmview, Texas and is a member of the Hidalgo County Bar Association.

Beyond his professional service, Muñoz is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Knights of Columbus. He attends both Our Lady of the Guadalupe Catholic Church and St. John of the Field’s Catholic Church.

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, has served in the Texas Legislature since 2011 and represents all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. His Capitol office is located at CAP 4S.4 in the Texas Capitol, and may be reached at (512) 463-0704. His District Office is located at 121 E. Tom Landry, Mission, and may be reached at (956) 584-8999.

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