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Featured: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Friday, October 4, 2019, announced that he is seeking a sixth two-year term in the Texas House of Representatives for House District 36, which includes all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. Muñoz is one of only two Rio Grande Valley lawmakers who serve on the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, which shaped the two-year $250.7 billion state budget that went into effect on September 1, 2019.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. announces reelection bid for the sixth term to represent all or parts of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Friday, October 4, 2019, announced that he is seeking a sixth term in the Texas House of Representatives for House District 36, which includes all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr.

Muñoz currently serves on the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, which shaped the two-year $250.7 billion state budget. 

He also serves as Vice-Chair of the Land and Resource Management Committee. 

“The 86th Texas Legislature marked tremendous improvements and I am eager to continue working to ensure that public education continues to receive funding to properly attend to Texas students and school administration needs, push for a cost-of-living adjustment for our retired educators, address criminal reform, improve the current Medicaid Managed Care system, and continue working with South Texas College and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine to secure necessary funding towards their educational goals,” Muñoz said.

Throughout the years, Muñoz has continually championed measures to address the widespread abuse of both synthetic drugs and whip-its, improve the delivery time in which healthcare providers are reimbursed for services provided to Medicaid patients, and protect the rights of Texas consumers by promoting transparency, combating corruption, and promoting accountability. 

“I understand the need for job creation and economic development. I work with industry to create legislation and secure funding to ensure that the movement of goods is processed efficiently and effectively through the international bridges. I constantly work to ensure the availability of a wide array of employment opportunities for the region and promote measures that enable businesses to thrive,” Muñoz said. 

He continues to be a strong advocate for education. 

He has worked to reduce the high school dropout rate, authored legislation to bring substantive changes to the state’s healthcare system regarding access, and has worked with higher education institutions in the Valley, including South Texas College and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine, to expand higher education opportunities. 

Muñoz is coauthor of House Bill 3, also known as the school finance bill, which allocates a total of $11.6 billion from current revenue; $6.5 billion for public education (including $2 billion to increase compensation for teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses) and $5.1 billion for property tax relief. 

That new state law also provides a statewide average increase of approximately $1,020 per pupil in additional funding through the basic allotment, from $5,140 to $6,160. 

Another achievement of the House of Representatives includes the policy and funding package for retired teachers that resulted in them receiving the 13th check of no less than $2,000 in September 2019. 

Muñoz was a cosponsor of this measure, also known as Senate Bill 12, which basically ensured that retired teachers received their 13th check, along with incremental increases of the state’s contributions to their pension fund over five years. 

“Senate Bill 12 is crucial to the future of retired educators because the state is prohibited from issuing a cost-of-living increase or supplemental payment to retired teachers until the fund is deemed actuarially sound,” said Muñoz. “The bill was designed to make the Teacher Retirement System pension fund financially healthy and is the first of its kind to move the fund in the right direction.”

Muñoz voted to appropriate $684 million, through Senate Bill 500, from general revenue to the Teacher Retirement System and $658 million from the economic stabilization fund (more commonly known as the ‘Texas Rainy Day Fund’) for the 13th check for retired teachers. Both financial measures supported by Muñoz have allowed for the TRS contribution increase.

VOTING AT UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY LOCATIONS INCREASED IN 2018

The percentage of students voting in last year’s elections at locations on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campuses across the region has gone up to 43.2 percent, from 39.1 percent in 2018. 

The finding is part of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University. 

Verónica Gonzáles, Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations, UTRGV, said the numbers are good news. 

“UTRGV was up in all categories, including our voter registration numbers and actual voting numbers,” the former state legislator said. “At UTRGV, we are committed to increasing civic engagement, including voter participation. I give much credit to our Vaqueros Vote Initiative team, who work collaboratively to register, educate and get out the vote.” 

The Vaqueros Vote Initiative is a nonpartisan coalition of UTRGV faculty, staff, students and nonpartisan community organizations committed to increasing political and civic participation among the UTRGV community. 

It also works to increase public awareness about the value of participation in democracy through the electoral process. It is led by the Office of Student Activities and the Office of Governmental Relations, who have been hosting on-campus voter registration events. 

The deadline to register to vote in the next election is Monday, October 7, 2019. 

The Student Activities offices on the Edinburg (EUCTR 215) and Brownsville (BSTUN 1.28) campuses are open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to provide information and assist voters on what they need to do to be able to vote in the next election on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. 

“We are hopeful that, with next year being a presidential election year, the numbers will be even higher,” Gonzáles said. 

The NSLVE report shows that, nationwide,voting rates at participating college campuses doubled, on average, compared to the previous 2014 midterm. In 2018, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent – nearly 20percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses nationally seeing an increase over 2014.

About the report

The NSLVE report is based on the voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.IDHE does not receive any information that could individually identify students or how they voted. 

The study provides reports to participating colleges and universities, like UTRGV, which use them to support political learning and civic engagement, as well as to identify and address gaps in political and civic participation.

About IDHE

Part of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, IDHE is an applied research center focused on college and university students’ political learning and students’ voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,000 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

About UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. 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.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

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Letty Fernández contributed to this article. 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.2 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. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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