Featured: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, left, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, center, are scheduled to be among the confirmed speakers for the annual Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s “Legislative Report Card Luncheon” from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at the Casa de Palmas Renaissance Hotel, 101 N. Main, McAllen. Tickets will remain available for purchase until Monday, July 29, 2019 from the organization for $50 per individual. For more information, contact the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at (956) 928-0060. This image was taken on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 during a legislative reception at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco.
Photograph By PAUL CHOUY
Valley state lawmakers to speak in McAllen during “Legislative Report Card Luncheon” scheduled for Wednesday, July 31 by RGV Hispanic Chamber
At least eight of the Rio Grande Valley’s 11 state legislators are scheduled to participate in the annual “Legislative Report Card Luncheon”, sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at the Casa de Palmas Renaissance Hotel, 101 N. Main Street, McAllen.
A summary by each lawmaker will be provided of how recent bills approved this past spring by the 86th Texas Legislature will affect business, education, health, transportation, and other matters in deep South Texas.
There will be an open question and answer session for those in attendance.
However, there is a fee to for members of the public to attend: $50 for an individual ticket, up to $750 for a table of 10. The last day to purchase tickets is 5 p.m. Monday, July 29, 2019 by calling the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at (956) 928-0060.
Confirmed to participate as of Friday, July 26, 2019 are Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville.
Former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, will be serving as the Mistress of Ceremony for “Legislative Report Card Luncheon.”
During the 140 day regular session of the 86th Texas Legislature (Tuesday, January 8, 2019 through Monday, May 27, 2019), 7,324 bills were filed, with 1,429 measures and 10 state constitutional amendments passed, according to McGuireWoods Consulting, which represented the City of McAllen at the State Capitol in Austin.
With so much that happened in the Texas Legislature, the local lawmakers, during their respective presentations and in their interaction with audience members, will also focus on the key measures of their respective legislative agendas.
Muñoz, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which writes the state budget for the House of Representatives, and Hinojosa, who serves as Vice Chair, Senate Finance Committee, which writes the state budget for the Senate, soon after the end of the regular session, noted the significant state funding increases for major programs statewide, and for specific state programs in deep South Texas.
“House Bill 3, the so-called School Finance Reform bill, fundamentally transforms the way Texas invests in its students and makes school funding formulas more efficient and equitable,” Muñoz said. “HB 3 provides $2 billion for teacher pay raises, $4.5 billion for classroom investments, increases the state share of funding from 38 percent to 45 percent, increased the base per-student funding from $5,140 to $6,160, and provides $5 billion in property tax relief.”
Canales said HB 3 “makes unprecedented investments in our children’s future.
“This transformational legislation will have profound, meaningful effects on students, teachers, and taxpayers. I was proud to co-author this legislation, and join my House and Senate colleagues in support of the bill,” Canales said. “We’re funding full-day Pre-K for low-income students, targeting money toward schools with higher concentrations of underserved students, establishing the first-ever dyslexia identification program, delivering dynamic pay for teachers, lowering property taxes statewide, and so much more.”
One of the positive effects of HB 3 already had made local news a few days ago, he added.
“House Bill 3 will bring across the board raises to Edinburg CISD teachers and employees,” Canales explained. “The proposed pay raise for teachers is $1,800 or 3.25% with no experience, $2,400 or 4.8% for one to five years of experience, and $3,000 or 6% for those with six years of experience and more.
Hourly workers would also receive an increase of $1 an hour, or a range from 3.5% to 8%. Over half, or 56% of these hourly workers would receive an 8% increase. Starting pay will be $14.25 an hour for bus drivers.”
Muñoz and Longoria are the two Valley members of the House Committee on Appropriations.
Hinojosa is the lone Valley member of the Senate Committee on Finance.
“Overall, I am proud of the accomplishments that my colleagues and I made this session such as crafting a state budget that meets the needs of Texans, addressed teacher pensions, and a reform to the school finance system,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz noted the findings of McGuireWoods Consulting, in its legislative report the the City of McAllen on Monday, July 8, 2019, which found the Valley achieved significant local state funding victories as well, including:
• The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received $266.15 million in state funding, an increase of $9.9 million two years earlier from the 85th Texas Legislature;
• South Texas College received $84.3 million in state financial support, an increase of $3.9 million two years earlier by the 85th Texas Legislature;
• The UTRGV School of Medicine received $69 million, an increase of $12 million two years earlier from the 85th Texas Legislature, along with new state funding of $2 million for a Cervical Dysplasia Cancer Immunology Center;
•The Raymondville Drain Project will receive up to $10 million in state funding;
• For a Level I Trauma Facility in the Rio Grande Valley, $6 million in state funding has been made available;
• The South Texas International Airport in Edinburg received $5 million in state money;
• The Wellness Center & Multi-Specialty Facility in Pharr will qualify for $5 million in state funding;
• Libraries across the border received $1.9 million in state funding;
• Border zone fire departments received $1 million in state money;
• The Texas Transnational Intelligence Center in McAllen received $500,000 in state funding;
• The Women’s Institute for Technology Employment Center received $500,00 in state funding; and
• St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Peñitas received $100,000 in state money.
Hinojosa shared similar sentiments about the work and successes of the Valley’s state legislative delegation, which also includes Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Chair, House Committee on Transportation, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, Chair, House Committee on Insurance; and Sen. Judith Zafirrini, D-Laredo, whose Senate District includes all of Starr County.
“I am proud of what we accomplished this session for South Texas and the entire State. We reformed the public education funding system, provided property tax relief, made the Teacher Retirement System actuarially sound and gave our retirees a much needed 13th check,” Hinojosa said. “We also passed legislation and funded projects to aid in the recovery and relief to areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Overall, we had important legislative victories and crafted a balanced budget that takes care of Texans. This session I passed about 43 individual pieces of important legislation and secured millions of dollars for our priorities in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend regions.
“This fiscally responsible budget invests in infrastructure, border security, healthcare, and our students, while paving the way for an educated and healthy workforce,” Hinojosa continued. “The work done by the 86th Legislature will benefit all Texans and ensure the continued success of the Texas economy.”
As Mistress of Ceremony for the “Legislative Report Card Luncheon”, Gonzáles is a recognized leader in the public and private sectors, having more than 20 years of experience in negotiating and advocating to obtain results – as an attorney, mediator, legislator, fundraiser and now serving as the Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations at UTRGV.
“We couldn’t ask for a better person to be Mistress of Ceremony as she personally knows what the legislators go through during session, so we know that she’ll be prepared with questions to each individual official,” said Cynthia Sakulenzski, President/CEO of RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Gonzáles’ division oversees local, state and federal governmental relations, signature programs for the university such as HESTEC, FESTIBA, Science Bowl, Science Fair and others, the Office of Community Engagement which includes the Non-Profit Resource Center and The Engagement Zone, a student-volunteer portal, and five offices in Economic Development, including the Small Business Development Center, the Veterans Business Outreach Center and a Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center among others.
She was the first in her family to go to college and credits education for her success and the many opportunities she has received. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law in Austin.
She is active in her community and sits on the boards of The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, Easter Seals RGV, Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas (AACT), and Lone Star National Bank’s Advisory Board.
AMANDA QUINTANILLA NAMED “A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION” BY RIO GRANDE VALLEY HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Amanda Quintanilla, a victim services specialist at UTRGV, was selected recently by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (RGVHCC) as a Woman of Distinction.
Quintanilla, who has worked with the UTRGV Police Department since October 2017, collaborates closely with area law enforcement to provide emotional support to UTRGV students, staff and faculty in the case of a crime. She also offers information about services available, including housing accommodations and counseling services.
Adelita Figueroa-Muñoz, secretary of the RGV Hispanic Chamber’s Board of Directors – which works to increase economic development, improve the capacities of small businesses and their assets, and promote educational opportunities – said Quintanilla’s dedication to serving the UTRGV community led the RGVHCC to name her a “Rising Star.”
“The Rising Star is especially important because the committee strives to choose a young professional who has demonstrated commitment and passion, who goes the extra mile and excels in whatever circumstances their profession finds them in,” Figueroa-Muñoz said.
Quintanilla said her community interactions at the university are different from her previous work experience in social services, where she worked with at-risk youth.
“People are trying to survive crimes of harassment and sexual assault, and I try to do my part to help them,” Quintanilla said. “I am fortunate to work with caring people that I can trust.”
It was her 13 years of social work that first drew the attention of the Women of Distinction committee.
“When I got the call, it was a big shock, but gladly received,” Quintanilla said.
Quintanilla accepted the honor in June at a dinner reception at the Double Tree Hilton in McAllen, along with seven other Valley women named Women of Distinction. Each was treated to a cocktail reception and presented with a plaque as proof of her accomplishments.
“I am humbled, I am grateful and I am proud,” Quintanilla said in the speech she gave that night. “I did not walk this way alone, and I am appreciative of all those who walked with me along the way.”
Priscilla Ramirez and Cinthia Monsiváis contributed to this article. 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).