FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Nolan Pérez, MD, Member, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System; John H. Krouse, then-Dean, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Guy Bailey, President, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. This image was taken in the Student Union Building at UTRGV in Edinburg on Monday, October 21, 2019, following a press conference regarding a new early-assurance, pre-med program for high school students throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa was the author in 2013 of Senate Bill 24, which resulted in the creation of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine.
Photograph By JENNIFER GALINDO
Sen. Hinojosa announces his bid to file for the Democratic Party primary nomination, to be decided March 1, 2022, for 11th term in Texas Senate
Within two weeks after the 87th Texas Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, had ended its 140-day regular session, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, announced he is seeking reelection in 2022 for an 11th term in the Texas Senate.
“I am honored to serve the people of Senate District 20 and I am running again to finish the work I started when I was first elected. I have dedicated my legislative career to advocating for fully funding public education, increasing access to affordable health care for everyone, especially our most vulnerable, investing in our transportation and drainage infrastructure, creating high paying jobs, and improving the quality of life for our South Texas families,” he said.
Hinojosa, 75, who previously served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1981 to 1991, and again from 1997 to 2003, made his announcement on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.
He has served as the state senator for Senate District 20 since the 78th Texas Legislature in 2003.
His current term ends on Monday, January 9, 2023.
The primaries for political parties in Texas will be held on Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
Primary elections, often abbreviated to primaries, are a process by which voters can indicate their preference for their party’s candidate, or a candidate in general, in an upcoming general election, local election, or by-election.
The general election, which determines which nominees from political parties in Texas will win the positions they are seeking, will take place on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.
Hinojosa’s Senate District 20 features 100 percent of Brooks County and of Jim Wells County, 99 percent of Nueces County, and 58 recent of Hidalgo County, according to the most recent state demographic findings by the Texas Legislative Council.
The Texas Legislative Council is a nonpartisan legislative agency that serves as a source of impartial research and information. Its staff assists legislators in drafting and analyzing proposed legislation and in obtaining information on specific legislative problems and on matters affecting the general welfare of the state. Council staff also handle the printing, processing, and distribution of legislative documents and provide computer support to the legislature and all of the other legislative agencies.
Corpus Christi, the county seat of Nueces County, is the most populous city in Nueces County and the most populous city in Senate District 20.
One hundred percent of Corpus Christi is located in Senate District 20.
McAllen (90 percent), Mission (100 percent), Edinburg (100 percent), and Mission (21 percent) are the most populous cities in Hidalgo County.
Alice (100 percent) is the most populous city in Jim Wells County, while Falfurrias (100 percent) is the most populous city in Brooks County.
With his legislative career so extensive, Hinojosa’s announcement focused on only a few of his many measures and actions which have had a statewide impact throughout the decades.
For some of those key successes, Hinojosa provided the following remarks:
During the recently concluded 87th Texas Legislature, Hinojosa said that as Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence, “I had the opportunity to work with members of the committee to address the serious shortfalls Winter Storm Uri presented us earlier this year. Several of the significant structural reforms to ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission were discussed and passed out of this committee. I supported legislation to make sure Texans and our state are better prepared for another winter storm and the changes we made will help our electric grid be ready for another storm.”
The North American winter storm, unofficially referred to as Winter Storm Uri, was a major winter and ice storm that had widespread impacts across the United States, Northern Mexico, and parts of Canada from February 13 to 17, 2021.
According to a University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs survey, dated March 29, 2021, and titled “New Report Details Impact of Winter Storm Uri on Texans”:
“Winter Storm Uri was a catastrophic weather event that impacted millions of lives across our state. By digging deeper into its impact on Texans, we are learning critical information that will help inform future plans so a tragedy of this magnitude never happens again,” said Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School.
The entire Hobby School report is available here.
On Sunday, May 30, 2021, the Senate approved legislation late Sunday, May 30, 2021, that would require the weatherization of critical energy facilities and completely overhaul the management and oversight structure of the organization that oversees the state electric grid. In a session that looked to be dominated by other concerns, the February winter storm put the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) at the top of the agenda.
The two major bills, Senate Bills 2 and 3, would revamp the organizational oversight over the state’s electric grid. Senate Bill 2 would drastically change the ERCOT board from one that is populated with industry insiders with conflicts of interest to one that is wholly independent of the state electric market.
Senate Bill 3 deals with many of the issues that arose during Winter Storm Uri by requiring that all critical electric, transmission, and natural gas facilities are prepared to operate in extreme weather conditions. It provides for inspection of these efforts, as well as fines of up to $1 million for companies that don’t comply.
• Hinojosa said his ability and willingness to work with Democrats and Republicans in the Texas Legislature are important for his Senate District 20 constituents.
“While we had a busy and productive regular session, elections have consequences, and several pending issues will be brought up in at least two special sessions (later in 2021). In this political environment, we need legislators who can work across the aisle to address issues and put people over politics, and govern with compassion. I am committed to continuing fighting to finish my work and meet the needs of our communities across Senate District 20.”
A session is the period during which the legislature meets. The regular session convenes every odd-numbered year and may last no more than 140 days. A called session commonly referred to as a special session, is so designated because it must be called by the governor. A called or special session may last no more than 30 days.
Redistricting is the process by which the geographical divisions of the state into congressional, state representative, state senator, and State Board of Education electoral districts are periodically revised. District boundaries are redrawn every 10 years following the publication of the U.S. Census to maintain approximately equal populations across all electoral districts in the state.
• Hinojosa said he is proud that funding for public education is the highest it has been since he was first elected to the Texas Senate.
“Our schools in South Texas, even with a high percentage of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, are outperforming other regions of the state. This past session (87th Texas Legislature), we kept our promise to protecting investments made by House Bill 3 during the 2019 legislative session by fully funding public education and protecting the salary increases to our teachers and school employees.”
• Hinojosa was the lead author of Senate Bill 24 in 2013, which created the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the positive impact it has had on our community. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the medical school was already increasing the number of specialized doctors in the region, conducting research in diabetes and cervical cancer, and opening clinics in medically underserved areas of our community,” Hinojosa said. “Having this asset in our region saved lives when the pandemic hit the Rio Grande Valley. This is an important first step, and I hope to build upon it by bringing a cancer treatment center to South Texas, which will save even more lives in our community.”
The author is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).
Filed is used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers (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.
• In 2009, working with the business community and university leadership, Hinojosa helped secured $2 million in state funds for A&M Corpus Christi to establish a mechanical engineering program, which was expanded to include an electrical engineering program in 2015. Since then, Hinojosa also helped provide nearly $30 million in additional dollars for engineering at A&M Corpus Christi. In 2019, Hinojosa also secured $2.3 million in new funding to establish the Civil & Industrial Engineering Program.
“Increasing the number of engineers in the region is something I take seriously and will continue to push for more resources to accomplish this goal. Just as important are the investments we have made to the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft System (LSUAS) Center,” Hinojosa said. “Since 2015, nearly $28 million in state funds have been appropriated to this center including an additional $3 million this past session (87th Texas Legislature) to enhance LSUAS’s ability to provide statewide service by supporting critical emergency response and disaster relief demands.”
• Infrastructure has also been a legislative priority for Hinojosa.
“The reconstruction of the US 281 Pharr Interchange is underway; the Bicentennial reconstruction in McAllen is almost complete; the funding to bring US 281 in Hidalgo County and Brooks County to interstate standards is already in the TxDOT Unified Transportation Program, and the Premont bypass is under construction in Jim Wells County,” he said. “However, the Harbor Bridge Project is not yet complete. I worked for almost 10 years to get the funding for this $1 billion project. My goal is to see this bridge connect Nueces and San Patricio County over the Port of Corpus Christi. I also want to make sure the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority receives the funding and approval to move forward with the State Highway 365 project.”
The RESTORE Act is a law created to respond to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico., according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a state agency. These funds can be used for ecosystem restoration and protection in the Gulf Coast region.
The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority is an independent governmental agency created by the Texas Transportation Commission and the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on November 17th, 2005, to accelerate needed transportation projects in Hidalgo County.
The State Highway 365 corridor project connects Pharr International Bridge to Anzalduas International Bridge.
• To address drainage issues, Hinojosa said he has worked for years with the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 to secure more than $50 million from the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to reduce frequent flooding problems and accommodate the area’s rapid urbanization and future economic development.
“I have worked with our local leaders to secure these funds from several sources including the state budget, RESTORE funds, and most recently from the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF). I have also worked with Nueces County leadership to provide safe and clean drinking water to residents in colonias,” he said. “Furthermore, I am proud to have worked with and supported the collaboration between the Nueces County Drainage District No. 2 and Nueces County to obtain $2.7 million from FIF for the Nueces County Regional Drainage Master Plan project. With all these projects in motion, flood relief is on the way.”
Colonias are substandard housing developments, often found along the Texas-Mexico border, where residents lack basic services such as drinking water, sewage treatment, and paved roads.
Job creation and economic development have also been a priority.
“I have worked tirelessly to support our maritime ports and international ports of entry. The Port of Corpus Christi is an economic driver not only for the region but for the State of Texas. I have advocated for and secured funding from the Port Access Improvement Grant Program to improve connectivity,” Hinojosa said.
The Port Access Improvement Program provides funds to Texas seaports for selected projects that address connectivity and congestion issues on public roadways outside the gated boundaries of the port.
“I also led the fight in securing funds for our international ports of entry from TxDOT. With these funds, the Anzalduas International Bridge will be expanded and the Pharr International Bridge has been able to make improvements to its facilities to expedite the flow of goods and people across the bridge. These investments create jobs and help our local economies.”
Anzalduas International Bridge is an international bridge over the Rio Grande, which connects the western outskirts of both the city of Mission, Texas in the United States and the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, in Mexico.
The Pharr International Bridge serves as one of the most important ports of entry for the U.S.-Mexico border. It handles both commercial and passenger-operated vehicles and crosses about a hundred and seventy-five thousand vehicles a month.
Hinojosa Biographical Summary
Born in McAllen, Texas, Hinojosa is the eldest of eight children. He attended Mission Independent School District schools as a child and worked as a farmworker during his teen years. Hinojosa led the Mission Eagles football team as their quarterback, and after graduation, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Hinojosa served his country with distinction in Vietnam before returning home to continue his education. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Pan American University (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), where he graduated with honors, and a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
After returning to South Texas, Hinojosa served as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Nueces County and later as an Assistant Attorney General for the Texas Attorney General. Since 1980, Hinojosa has operated a private practice in Hidalgo County representing clients in both civil and criminal matters.
Hinojosa served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1981 until 1991 and again from 1997 to 2003.
During his tenure in the Texas House of Representatives, Hinojosa passed landmark legislation, such as the establishment of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC), which promotes physician training on the Texas/Mexico Border. As the Chairman of House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence in 2001, then-Rep. Hinojosa sponsored the Texas Fair Defense Act, reforming procedures for providing court-appointed defense counsel to indigent defendants, and carried DNA legislation that has resulted in freeing many wrongly convicted citizens.
Since his election to the Texas Senate in 2003, Hinojosa has secured nearly $1 billion for the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge Replacement project and $300 million for the Pharr Interchange Project to address traffic congestion. This funding is in addition to the active $200 million in construction and maintenance projects currently being administered by the Texas Department of Transportation’s Pharr District, including the funding secured to demolish and re-construct the Bicentennial Boulevard overpass in McAllen.
During the 77th Texas Legislature in 2013, Hinojosa authored Senate Bill 24, historic legislation that created the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and UTRGV School of Medicine by merging UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville. The School of Medicine is already providing greater access to healthcare and is boosting the South Texas economy. The educational and healthcare opportunities are endless and will serve the unique and critical needs of South Texas for decades to come.
Hinojosa has also passed legislation to allow South Texas communities and hospitals to draw down millions of federal matching funds to expand and invest in their healthcare infrastructure and to reimburse hospitals for indigent care through a federal 1115 Healthcare Transformation Waiver.
For his work, Hinojosa has earned dozens of honors, awards, and other public recognition from groups throughout Texas, including:
He has been named a “Top Ten Best Legislator” byTexas Monthly magazine three times. He has also been named a “Top Ten Legislator” byCapitol Insidethree times.
In 1987, Hinojosa, along with then-Sen. Kent Caperton, D-Bryan, were the first recipients of the James Madison Award – which recognizes Texas leaders for outstanding achievements and distinction in open government and First Amendment rights – presented by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
Open government is the governing doctrine which sustains that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. In its broadest construction, it opposes reason of state and other considerations which have tended to legitimize extensive state secrecy. The origins of open government arguments can be dated to the time of the European Age of Enlightenment when philosophers debated the proper construction of a then-nascent democratic society. It is also increasingly being associated with the concept of democratic reform. The United NationsSustainable Development Goal 16for example advocates for public access to information as a criterion for ensuring accountable and inclusive institutions.
Luis Moreno 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).