FEATURED: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, seen here at the Texas Capitol, recently showed off the Super Bowl XII ring earned in 1978 by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, standing next to the Valley state lawmaker. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys in 1973, Pearson enjoyed an accomplished 11-year career in the NFL and totaled 489 receptions and 7,822 yards. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and played on three Super Bowl teams. Pearson was honored by the Texas Legislature on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 for those achievements, and for being selected earlier this year to the NFL Hall of Fame.
Photograph Courtesy REP. ARMANDO “MANDO” MARTÍNEZ FACEBOOK
Plan to combine federal and state inspections of commercial traffic at ports of entry, sponsored by Rep. Martínez, approved by Texas Legislature
Legislation to develop a plan to combine federal and state inspections of commercial vehicle traffic that travels through Texas’ ports of entry was approved on Wednesday, May 26, 2021by the Texas Legislature and is on the way to Gov. Greg Abbott for his approval.
Legislation is a proposed or enacted law or group of laws.
Ports of Entry are officially designated areas at U.S. land borders, seaports, and airports which are approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Texas currently has 29 official U.S. ports of entry, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
Senate Bill 1907, sponsored by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, would require the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to consult with the Texas Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas to conduct a study on colocated federal and state inspection facilities at ports of entry in Texas.
Colocated inspections are those which are conducted at the same location. Colocation has been effectively used at ports of entry in Arizona and California to cut down border wait times for commercial vehicles and improve efficient cross-border trade.
As sponsor of Senate Bill 1907, Martínez is the legislator who guided the measure through the legislative process after the bill has passed the originating chamber. The sponsor is a member of the opposite chamber of the one in which the bill was filed.
File is a term used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.
Sen. César J. Blanco, D-El Paso, is the author of the Senate Bill 1907.
As the author of the bill, Blanco is the legislator who filed the bill and guided it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by the House of Representatives and the 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.
“All vehicle traffic that passes through Texas’ ports of entry is subject to inspection. Many states, including Texas, have their own inspection processes and requirements which differ from the inspections required under federal law,” Blanco said. “Therefore, commercial vehicles go through two separate inspections when crossing from Mexico into Texas at ports of entry.”
According to the Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan, which was presented on Thursday, December 10, 2020 to the Texas Transportation Commission:
Border inspection processes among multiple federal and state agencies are currently disjointed (disconnected), impacting total border crossing time efficiency.
For instance, a commercial motor vehicle crossing from Mexico into Texas may undergo up to five separate inspections:
• At U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Customs and Border Protection facilities;
• At Texas Department of Public Safety facilities;
• At weigh-in-motion stations to ensure weight limit compliance;
• At inspection facilities for specialized goods (such as produce); and
• Potentially with border patrol inspections (not always encountered).
All this contributes to total crossing times, especially when these processes cause bottlenecks at inspection points.
The Texas Department of Transportation, in collaboration and partnership with the Border Trade Advisory Committee, worked with binational federal, state, regional, and private sector stakeholders to undertake the development of the Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan.
The Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan is a comprehensive, multimodal, binational plan that identifies transportation issues, needs, challenges, and opportunities, and strategies of moving people and goods across the border and in the border regions and beyond. The Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan developed potential transportation investment strategies that support binational, state, regional, and local economic competitiveness.
During his prepared remarks delivered on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 before the House Committee on Transportation, Martínez also emphasized the economic importance of Texas’ ports of entry.’
“Trade with Mexico is an important component of the Texas economy. According to the United States Department of Commerce, trade between Mexico and Texas totaled $441.9 billion in 2019. This trade supports about 463,132 jobs and thousands of small businesses and manufacturers. All signs point to trade with Mexico continuing to increase over the coming decades,” Martínez stated. “The efficiency of the ports of entry between Texas and Mexico is therefore crucial for Texas’ economic future.”
A committee is a group of legislators appointed by the presiding officer of the house or the senate to which proposed legislation is referred or a specific task is assigned.
A bill analysis prepared by the House Research Organization provided additional information about Senate Bill 1907.
A bill analysis is a document prepared for all bills and joint resolutions reported out of committee. A bill analysis may include background information on the measure, a statement of purpose or intent, and an analysis of the content of the measure.
The House Research Organization is a nonpartisan independent department of the Texas House of Representatives. It provides impartial information on legislation and issues before the Texas Legislature.
The House Research Organization is governed by a broadly representative steering committee of 15 House members elected by the House membership to set policy for the organization, approve its budget, and ensure that its reports are objective.
The bill analysis, published on Saturday, May 22, 2021, follows:
HOUSE RESEARCH ORGANIZATION
Senate Bill 1907:
(2nd reading) Blanco (Martínez)
Commissioning a study on colocation of certain vehicle inspections
Transportation – favorable, without amendment
12 ayes — Canales, E. Thompson, Ashby, Bucy, Harris, Landgraf, Lozano, Martínez, Ortega, Pérez, Rogers, Smithee
1 absent — Davis
On final passage, April 29 — 31-0, on Local and Uncontested Calendar None
Senate Bill 1907 would require the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, in consultation with the Texas Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety, to conduct a feasibility study on erecting and maintaining a colocated federal and state inspection facility at each port of entry in Texas for the inspection of motor vehicles for compliance with federal and state commercial motor vehicle regulations.
The study would have to include a summary of:
• Past efforts by the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to maintain colocated federal and state inspection facilities at each port of entry;
• Any current efforts to colocate or separate federal and state inspection facilities at ports of entry in other states;
• Current wait times at inspection facilities at each port of entry;
• Current priorities and expectations of the Texas Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety regarding motor vehicle inspections at ports of entry;
• The perspectives of the Texas Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety on the advantages and disadvantages of colocated federal and state inspection facilities; and
• The perspective of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the advantages and disadvantages of colocated federal and state inspection facilities, as solicited by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
The study also would be required to include:
• Potential scenarios for the colocation of federal and state inspection facilities at each port of entry in Texas and an analysis of each scenario’s advantages and disadvantages;
• An analysis of potential economic benefits of colocating federal and state inspection facilities at each port of entry; and
• An analysis of the potential effects of colocating federal and state inspection facilities at each port of entry on wait times at inspection facilities.
In conducting the study, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute would be required to solicit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of colocated federal and state inspection facilities.
Before the study was completed, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute would have to contact the FMCSA to arrange receipt of the report. By December 1, 2022, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute would be required to report the study’s results and any recommendations to the FMCSA in the manner and format requested by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute would be required to submit to the Legislature a report on the results of the study and any recommendations for legislative or other action by December 1, 2022.
Implementation. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute would be required to implement the bill’s provisions only if the Legislature appropriated money specifically for that purpose. If the Legislature did not appropriate money for that purpose, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute could, but would not be required to, implement the bill’s provisions using other appropriations available.
The bill would take effect September 1, 2021, and its provisions would expire January 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 1907 would require a study to explore potential efficiencies for the colocation of federal and state inspection facilities at each port of entry in Texas. Trade between Mexico and Texas totals hundreds of billions of dollars annually and is only expected to increase, making the efficiency of the ports of entry between Texas and Mexico crucial for Texas’ economic future. Commercial vehicle traffic that currently passes through ports of entry in Texas is subject to separate federal and state inspections, leading to long wait times and less efficient cross-border trade. California and Arizona have had success with colocation strategies for federal and state inspections at ports of entry. The feasibility study proposed by Senate Bill 1907 could set Texas on a similar path to more efficient trade at the border.
No concerns identified.
According to the Legislative Budget Board, the bill would have a negative impact of $350,000 on general revenue through fiscal 2023.
The House companion bill, House Bill 4201 by Martínez, was considered by the House Transportation Committee in a public hearing on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, reported favorably as substituted on May 4, and placed on the General State Calendar for May 12.
A companion bill is a bill filed in one chamber that is identical or very similar to a bill filed in the opposite chamber. Companion bills are used to expedite passage, as they provide a means for committee consideration of a measure to occur in both chambers simultaneously. A companion bill that has passed one chamber can then be substituted for the companion bill in the opposite chamber.
UT SYSTEM RESEARCH EXPENDITURES HIT RECORD $3.4 BILLION
Research expenditures across the University of Texas System hit a record $3.4 billion in the fiscal year 2020, indicating the significant role UT institutions have in improving Texans’ quality of life, advancing treatments for deadly and debilitating diseases, and attracting new industry and jobs to the Lone Star State.
“It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the research conducted at UT institutions,” Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “UT researchers are helping us live longer, healthier, and safer lives. Their work is for the good of Texas, and in many cases, the good of the world.”
Most research conducted at UT institutions is funded by federal, state, or private grants. According to federally-sponsored research expenditures – the benchmark for research success at a university – the UT System is No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation, behind only the University of California System.
The increase in research expenditures can be attributed to continued efforts by UT scientists to tackle society’s grand challenges. Those efforts have perhaps never been more critical than over the past year, with UT institutions playing a pivotal role in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and in the state’s recovery from the pandemic.
For example, the McLellan Lab at UT Austin redesigned a key protein from the coronavirus that became the basis for the development of all vaccines U.S. citizens are receiving. They’ve now engineered a second, more stabilized generation of the protein to create a more affordable vaccine for developing nations.
Likewise, at UT Medical Branch – one of only two university campuses in the U.S. with a Level 4 Bio-Safety Lab – scientists engineered a method to evaluate the vaccine more quickly and study the evolution of the virus to determine whether the vaccines protect against new variants.
The research enterprise across all 13 UT institutions is one of the most comprehensive in the nation, and UT institutions regularly rank among the top 10 of the world’s most innovative universities.
UT San Antonio, which increased its research expenditures 66 percent in 2020, announced last year that it had entered into a five-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to launch the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute. CyManII will help American manufacturers adopt more secure approaches to protect supply chains from cybercriminals.
UT institutions also serve as incubators for new companies that create jobs for Texans. Over the past 10 years, entrepreneurs at UT institutions created more than 330 new companies.
And the work of UT researchers informs public policy, helping to guide decision-making and allocation of resources at the state and local level. For example, a team of researchers at UT Austin has been working on a project that could help Texas create a more resilient power grid, a timely and critical need following the statewide power outages in February.
The breakdown of research expenditures by institution can be found on the UT System Dashboard.
About The University of Texas System
For more than 130 years, The University of Texas System has been committed to improving the lives of Texans and people all over the world through education, research, and health care. With 14 institutions, an enrollment of more than 240,000 students, and an operating budget of $21.7 billion (FY 2021), the UT System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States.
UT institutions produce more than 64,000 graduates annually and award more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and more than half of its medical degrees. Collectively, UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics accounted for more than 9.2 million outpatient visits and 1.8 million hospital days last year.
UT institutions also are among the most innovative in the world, collectively ranking No. 3 for most U.S. patents granted in 2019, and the UT System is No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation in federal research expenditures. The UT System also is one of the largest employers in Texas, with more than 21,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies – and more than 85,000 health care professionals, researchers, and support staff.
Karen Adler contributed to this article. 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).