FEATURED: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Chair, House Committee on Transportation, accepts the first-time Scenic Star award from Sarah Tober, Executive Director of Scenic Texas, at the State Capitol in January 2020. The statewide honor, presented to the House District 40 legislator before COVID-19 public health conditions, including face coverings and social distancing, took place in the state, was in recognition of his role in helping lead the passage of Senate Bill 357 during the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019. Senate Bill 357, which became a state law in September 2019, allows billboard advertisements to continue without doing undue harm to the environment and landscape next to the state highway system.
Photograph By DYLAN MATTHEWS
Rep. Canales makes Texas history again with reappointment as Chair of House Committee on Transportation by Speaker of the House Phelan
By DAVID A. DIAZ
By being selected as Chair, House Committee on Transportation, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Thursday, February 4, 2021, made history again by becoming the first Hispanic state lawmaker to lead that influential group of 12 fellow state representatives.
His reappointment by Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, R-Orange, also demonstrates Canales’ ability to work with the state’s Democratic and Republican leadership at the highest level of state government.
In a related action that also benefits the Rio Grande Valley, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, also is serving as a member of the House Committee on Transportation.
“One of the most important facts that I have learned over the last two years as that committee’s Chair is that Texas must better prioritize transportation infrastructure to be ready for the year 2050, when the state’s population is forecasted to be around 47 million,” said Canales. “I am extremely honored that Speaker Phelan appointed me to continue serving as the Chair of the Transportation Committee for 87th Texas Legislature.”
Two years earlier, in February 2019, Canales was named as Chair, House Committee on Transportation – the first time a Latino/a state representative achieved that role – by then-Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angelton.
This is also the first time in more than 50 years that a Valley state representative is serving as Chair, House Committee on Transportation.
The House Committee on Transportation is responsible for what often is the first to debate and vote on major proposals that shape the development of roads, highways, airports, railways, and ports in Texas, among other committee duties and responsibilities, for action by the full House of Representatives.
From Thursday, February 4, 2021, through Saturday, December 31, 2022, the House Committee on Transportation will command legislative authority over all matters handled by the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Transportation Commission, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Many leaders have worked tirelessly to help brighten Texas’ transportation future, and I wholeheartedly applaud their work. However, Texas’ transportation revenue is still not keeping pace with the state’s growth trajectory, with Texas expected to nearly double in population in 30 years,” Canales said. “We must recognize that additional transportation infrastructure revenue is an essential component in ensuring a prosperous future for our children, and I will continue my efforts to support public policy that ensures that we are prepared for that future.”
Canales, whose legislative House District 40 is anchored in Edinburg, also was selected by Phelan on Thursday, February 4, 2021, to serve on the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development.
The House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development – of which Canales is the only state representative from the Rio Grande Valley – handles legislation the deals with relations between the State of Texas and other nations, including matters related to trade relations and international trade zones, the relations between the State of Texas and the federal government other than matters involving defense, emergency preparedness, and veterans issues, and the relations between the State of Texas and other states of the United States.
From Thursday, February 4, 2021, through Saturday, December 31, 2022, the House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development will command legislative authority over all matters handled by the Office of State-Federal Relations, the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Workforce Investment Council.
“In the Texas Legislature, the House and Senate committees represent the most important part of the legislative process,” Canales explained. “If a lawmaker doesn’t get his/her bill scheduled for a public hearing before either a House or Senate committee, it is going to be more difficult to get their proposal to become state law.”
All legislation, when first introduced, are assigned by the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor to House and Senate committees, respectively, which have jurisdiction over the topic of each legislative proposal.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers (House of Representatives and Senate) of the Texas Legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state. “Bill” types include Senate and House bills, Senate and House joint resolutions, Senate and House concurrent resolutions, and Senate and House resolutions.
The Chair of each House and each Senate committee has the authority to decide which bills are scheduled for public hearings in their respective committee. Because of the high number of bills that are introduced by the 181 state lawmakers, many pieces of legislation never even receive a committee hearing, which is the only time that members of the public can testify for, against, and about legislation.
In the House of Representatives, a Chair of a committee, such as Canales, has great power and duties.
The Chair of each committee shall:
• Be responsible for the effective conduct of the business of the committee;
• Appoint all subcommittees and determine the number of members to serve on each subcommittee;
• In consultation with members of the committee, schedule the work of the committee and determine the order in which the committee shall consider and act on bills, resolutions, and other matters referred to the committee;
• Have authority to employ and discharge the staff and employees authorized for the committee and have supervision and control over all the staff and employees;
• Direct the preparation of all committee reports. No committee report shall be official until signed by the chair of the committee, or by the person acting as chair, or by a majority of the membership of the committee;
• Determine the necessity for public hearings, schedule hearings, and be responsible for directing the posting of notice of hearings as required by the rules;
• Preside at all meetings of the committee, and control its deliberations and activities in accordance with the acceptable parliamentary procedure; and
Have authority to direct the sergeant-at-arms to assist, where necessary, in enforcing the will of the committee.
Details, House Committee on Transportation
The legislation, House Resolution 4, approved in mid-January 2021, established the rules of the Texas House of Representatives, including providing details on the roles and the jurisdiction of each House committee.
House Joint Resolution 4 spells out the powers of the House Committee on Transportation in this way:
The House Committee on Transportation shall have 13 members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
• Commercial motor vehicles, both bus and truck, and their control, regulation, licensing, and operation;
• The Texas highway system, including all roads, bridges, and ferries constituting a part of the system;
• The licensing of private passenger vehicles to operate on the roads and highways of the state;
• The regulation and control of traffic on the public highways of the State of Texas;
• Railroads, street railway lines, interurban railway lines, steamship companies, and express companies;
Airports, air traffic, airlines, and other organizations engaged in transportation by means of aerial flight;
• Water transportation in the State of Texas, and the rivers, harbors, and related facilities used in water transportation and the agencies of government exercising supervision and control thereover;
• The regulation of metropolitan transit; and
• The following state agencies: the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Transportation Commission, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
The chief duties of the Texas Department of Transportation are to delineate, build, and maintain all state highway and public transportation systems; issue permits for the use of heavy trucks, and register motor vehicles. Administrative control of the department is vested in a three-person commission and an engineer-director.
The Texas Department of Transportation is governed by the five-member Texas Transportation Commission and an executive director selected by the commission. Commission members serve overlapping six-year terms and are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is one of only a handful of state agencies that raises revenue for the state. These funds are primarily used to build and maintain the state’s roads and bridges. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is overseen by a nine-member, governor-appointed board that is the agency’s policy-making arm. Daily operations are overseen by the agency’s executive director.
Each year the agency registers almost 24 million vehicles; regulates vehicle dealers; credentials buses and big trucks for intrastate and interstate commerce; issues oversize and overweight permits; and awards grants to law enforcement agencies to reduce vehicle burglaries and thefts.
Details, House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development
House Joint Resolution 4 spells out the powers of the House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development in this way:
The House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development shall have nine members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
• The relations between the State of Texas and other nations, including matters related to trade relations and international trade zones;
• The relations between the State of Texas and the federal government other than matters involving defense, emergency preparedness, and veterans issues;
• The relations between the State of Texas and other states of the United States;
• Commerce, trade, and manufacturing, including international commerce and trade and the regulation of persons participating in international commerce and trade;
• Cooperation between the state or a local governmental entity and the scientific and technological community, including private businesses, institutions of higher education, and federal governmental laboratories;
• Weights and measures;
• Workforce training;
• Economic and industrial development;
• Development and support of small businesses;
• Job creation and job-training programs;
• Hours, wages, collective bargaining, and the relationship between employers and employees;
• International and border regions (as described in Sections 2056.002(e)(2) and (3), Government Code) economic development, public health and safety issues affecting the border, tourist development, and goodwill, and economic development, tourist development, and goodwill in other areas of the state that have experienced a significant increase in the percentage of the population that consists of immigrants from other nations, according to the last two federal decennial censuses or another reliable measure,
• The provision of public services to persons residing in proximity to Texas’ international border or in other areas of the state that have experienced a significant increase in the percentage of the population that consists of immigrants from other nations, according to the last two federal decennial censuses or another reliable measure; and
• The following state agencies: the Office of State-Federal Relations, the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Workforce Investment Council.
The Office of State-Federal Relations is the state’s advocate in Washington, DC, representing state government with the administration, Congress, and federal agencies to advocate the interests of Texas, especially as interests relate to the missions and functions of Texas state government. State government includes the legislature, state agencies, and state officials. The executive director of the agency is appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate. The governor, the lieutenant governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives serve as its Advisory Policy Board who prescribes or sets its legislative agenda at the federal level.
Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office is responsible for promoting Texas as a premier travel destination. The office works in concert with its partners (convention and visitors bureaus, local chambers of commerce, private travel-related organizations, and associations) to promote travel to Texas in both the domestic and international tourism marketing arenas.
The Texas Workforce Commission is charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers of Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission strengthens the Texas economy by providing the workforce development component of the governor’s economic development strategy. The Texas Workforce Commission provides unemployment benefits and services related to employment to eligible individuals and businesses.
The State Workforce Investment Council assists the governor and the Legislature with strategic planning for and evaluation of the Texas workforce system, which is composed of eight state agencies, their local program providers, and over 20 programs. The State Workforce Investment Council provides information, data, analysis, and recommendations through the various reports, research, and publications that are posted on its website.
Curtis Smith contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation. Rep. Canales represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.