Featured: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Sunday, August 26, 2018, at the City of Edinburg-owned $88.3 million Bert Ogden Arena, which is in his Senate District 20. The 190,000 square foot, first-class indoor multi-purpose center is located at the corner of Interstate Highway 69-Central and Alberta Road in southeast Edinburg.
Photograph Courtesy BERT OGDEN ARENA
Sen. Hinojosa announces bid for fifth term to continue representing Hidalgo, Nueces, Jim Wells, and Brooks counties in Senate District 20
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Friday, June 21, 2019, announced his bid for a fifth term to continue representing Senate District 20, which features the McAllen/Edinburg/Pharr/Mission and Corpus Christi regional population centers, along with all of Jim Wells and Brooks counties.
For Democrats, the filing period for candidates running for federal, state, or county office runs from Saturday, November 9, 2019 to Monday, December 9, 2019, in order to appear on the ballot for the March 3, 2020 party primary nomination.
The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
In his announcement, Hinojosa pledged to continue his work for Senate District 20 by providing for an educated and healthy workforce, investing in critical infrastructure, creating jobs, and furthering economic development.
“With the incredible population and economic growth in our South Texas communities, our region is increasingly playing a larger role in shaping our state’s future. Although we had a great session benefiting all Texans, we still have issues and challenges that need to be addressed next session (in 2021),” he said. “This past midterm election proved that elections have consequences and we must continue to support leaders who have the courage to put people over politics and govern with compassion.”
Hinojosa was referring to the recently-concluded 140-day regular session of the 86th Texas Legislature, which began on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 and ended on Monday, May 27, 2019.
Senate District 20 currently includes 100 percent of Jim Wells County, 100 percent of Brooks County, 99 percent of Nueces County, and 58 percent of Hidalgo County. As of the 2010 US Census, Senate District 20 had a population of 833,339. That figure had increased to 883,806, according to 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Summary File estimates.
“I am honored to serve the people of Senate District 20. I have not stopped working and I will continue fighting to make Texas a better place to live for all our families,” he said. “Semper Fi.”
Semper fidelis (Latin pronunciation: [?s?m.p?r f??de?.l?s]) is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal”. It is the motto of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment & the United States Marine Corps, usually shortened to Semper Fi. It is also in use as a motto for towns, families, schools, and other military units.
Hinojosa is an attorney who came from humble beginnings, including being a farm worker who worked his way through school to earn a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Also as a young man, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving his country as a combat squad leader in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.
Hinojosa has been a member of the Texas Legislature for more than 25 years, serving first in the House of Representatives beginning in January 1981, and then in the Senate, where his current term expires in December 2020.
His reelection bid announcement focused on his performance in the 86th Texas Legislature, including his “proven ability to work across party lines to get things done for South Texas families” – a reference to the fact that the majority of the Texas Legislature is Republican, along with the state’s three highest elected officeholders: Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen.
“I take a fair and balanced approach to public policy, fight tirelessly for my district and use my knowledge and experience to navigate the legislative process,” Hinojosa said. “
During the recently-completed 86th Texas Legislature, Hinojosa said he played a critical role in securing funding for Senate District 20, especially as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, which writes the Senate’s version of the state budget.
He also serves on the Senate Committees on Property Tax; Natural Resources & Economic Development; Transportation; Agriculture; and Select Committee on Texas Ports.
Among the funding priorities for Senate District 20 which he helped secure during the 86th Texas Legislature are:
Public Education Funding
Invested an additional $11.5 billion in public education. The minimum per-student amount the state uses to fund schools will increase from $5,180 per student to $6,160. Senate District 20 area school districts will see an increase in funding of more than $272 million for the next two years.
Teacher Pay Raise and Retired Teacher Pensions
Allocated $2 billion to increase compensation for teachers, counselors, librarians, and nurses. An additional $1.1 billion will go towards the pension plan, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), to ensure actuarial soundness. Additional funding was also provided to TRS-Care for health insurance, so that retirees will not see a health insurance premium increase in 2020. Also, provided funding for a much needed one-time 13th check capped at $2,000.
Property Tax Relief
By increasing the state’s share of public school funding from 38% to 45%, school property taxes will be reduced by $5 billion while at the same time capping property taxes at 2.5% for schools. The passage of Senate Bill 2 will help slow the growth of property tax rates by setting a 3.5% trigger for cities and counties, anything above that would have to be approved by the voters.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi will receive $139 million from the state, which is an increase of $8.4 million from the previous session. This includes $2.3 million in first time funding for a much needed civil and industrial engineering program. Del Mar College will receive an increase of $1.2 million and South Texas College an increase of $3.9 million in state funds. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine will receive $69 million from the state, which is an increase of $12 million from the previous session (in 2017). This includes $2 million in first time funding for the Cervical Dysplasia Cancer Immunology Center.
$40 million for infrastructure to improve access to and from Texas Ports.
Harvey & Flood Control
$3.5 billion to help the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild from Hurricane Harvey and prepare for future disasters. This includes an investment of $990 million to initiate the development of a statewide flood plan, the construction of flood control infrastructure, and critical dam repairs.
Border Infrastructure and Security
$5 million for the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg to expand an airport hangar for emergency and first responders; $1 million in grants for border zone fire departments; $500,000 for the Texas Transnational Intelligence Center in McAllen; and, operations funding for the Center for Public Safety Excellence from the Governor’s Border Security Grants.
$7.8 billion in total behavioral health spending across 23 state agencies including $100 million for the Texas Child Mental Health Consortium to provide early intervention for students at risk of suicide, substance abuse, or becoming a danger to themselves or others.
Level 1 Trauma
$17 million to strengthen trauma system infrastructure statewide, of which at least $6 million of the funds will go towards ensuring that South Texas has a life-saving Level 1 trauma center in the near future.
$30 million to help military communities protect their facilities from closures or reductions. This is critical to Corpus Christi, which is home to the Corpus Christi Army Depot, the world’s largest military helicopter repair facility that accounts for more than 6,000 jobs in the Coastal Bend; and
Reformed the Texas Windstorm Association by requiring hurricane damages paid for beyond one year trigger the next level of formula funding. This will help prevent unnecessary rate increases and lead to more reasonable, fair, and affordable rates.
GOVERNOR ABBOTT SIGNS DISASTER RELIEF AND PREPAREDNESS LEGISLATION INTO LAW
Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday, June 13, 2019, signed into law several monumental bills related to disaster relief and preparedness in Texas. As a result of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Abbott made this issue an emergency legislative item for the 86th Texas Legislature, resulting in several bills being passed that will better prepare the state for future disasters.
Additionally, the Legislature voted to appropriate $3 billion in relief for Harvey-impacted areas from the Rainy Day Fund.
The governor was joined by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, R-Houston, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and members of the Legislature, including:
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham;
Sen. Brandon Breighton, R-Conroe;
Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston;
Sen. Carol Alvarado, R-Houston;
Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood;
Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston;
Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels;
Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont;
Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston;
Rep. Gina Calanni, D-Katy;
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston;
Rep Sarah Davis, R-West University Place;
Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston;
Rep. Sam Harless, R-Spring;
Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston;
Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe;
Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land;
Rep. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston;
Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City;
Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston;
Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring;
Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands; and
Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston.
The bill signing was held at Gallery Furniture in Houston, owned by Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, McIngvale opened two of his stores as shelter for Houstonians displaced by the storm. McIngvale’s company also deployed its largest moving truck to help rescue those displaced by flooding.
“Thanks to the work of the legislature, we are rebuilding Texas stronger and more resilient than ever,” said Abbott. “In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we saw the unshakable spirit of the Lone Star State through the generosity of Texans helping their neighbors. These important pieces of legislation are a symbol of that spirit, as well as a sign of Texas’ commitment to improving the way we respond to natural disasters.”
Highlights of the Legislature’s disaster relief and preparedness legislation signed into law include:
• House Bill 5 (Phelan, Kolkhorst) requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to develop a catastrophic debris management plan and training and establishes a work group to make recommendations on how local governments and property owners’ associations can assist with recovery efforts. It also requires TDEM to develop a model contract for debris removal;
• House Bill 7 (Morrison, Huffman) requires the Office of the Governor to develop a list of waivers that could be implemented following a disaster, and requires TDEM to develop a plan to assist local communities with disaster preparation contracts for services;
• Senate Bill 6 (Kolkhorst, Morrison) requires TDEM to develop a disaster response model guide and a wet debris study group for local communities. SB 6 also creates a disaster recovery loan program within TDEM for communities that suffered significant infrastructure damage; and
• Senate Bill 7 (Creighton, Phelan) establishes the framework for providing a total of $1.6 billion through the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund (TIRF) as matching funds available to those communities hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey, and through the Flood Infrastructure Fund for statewide infrastructure projects to mitigate future flooding events.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).