FEATURED: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen – whose Senate District 20 includes Edinburg – and former Edinburg City Councilmember and retired attorney Ofelia De Los Santos, on Saturday, December 1o, 2022, at the Mission Event Center for the wedding reception of fellow lawyers Omar Ochoa and Leah Wise.
Photograph Courtesy SEN. JUAN HINOJOSA FACEBOOK
Edinburg’s priorities for 88th Texas Legislature to be reviewed and acted upon during City Council’s 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, January 3, 2023
A draft of a state legislative agenda for the City of Edinburg will be up for public comment followed by review and action by the Edinburg City Council during its upcoming regular meeting on Tuesday, January 3, 2023 at Edinburg City Hall.
The initial list of priorities to take before the 88th Texas Legislature, which begins its five-month regular session at the Texas Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, was prepared by Edinburg city attorney Omar Ochoa, himself a veteran of legislative advocacy on behalf of the community.
The Edinburg City Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. and is open to the public, takes place at Edinburg City Hall, located at 415 W. University Drive.
“In preparation, the City has solicited feedback regarding legislative priorities from the City Council, city departments, and from the general public through public comment and a public hearing held on December 6, 2022,” Ochoa said. “The list generated and presented in this draft represent the city’s policy priorities and anticipated legislative opportunities to address the needs of residents.”
So far, the Edinburg City Council priorities are general in nature.
No specific legislation by bill number or legislator has yet been identified.
Legislation is proposed or enacted law or group of laws.
A bill number is a unique number assigned to each bill filed with the secretary of the senate or the chief clerk of the house. A bill’s number remains the same throughout the legislative process.
A bill is type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers of the 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 of Representative bills, Senate and House joint resolutions, Senate and House concurrent resolutions, and Senate and House resolutions.
“Once approved, the City Council, city staff, and the city’s legislative consultants will work with departments and the community to identify, analyze, and take advocacy positions on legislation,” Ochoa further noted. “The draft list of legislative priorities is separated into topics: economic development, local decision making, infrastructure, safety, open government, education, healthcare, and quality of life. The priorities also includes that the city government will monitor legislation specifically impacting funding for public safety, utilities, and transportation.”
Pathfinder Public Affairs, which has offices in Edinburg and in Austin, is the legislative lobby team for the City of Edinburg for the 88th Texas Legislature for the regular session, which ends on Monday, May 29, 2023, through mid-November 2023.
The firm, led by René A. Ramírez (https://texaspathfinder.com/rene-ramirez/), a former longtime chief of staff for Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was hired for a one-year period effective November 15, 2022 through November 15, 2023, for $10,000 (ten thousand) a month.
Pathfinder Public Affairs also features Evelyn C. Castillo, Policy Analyst (https://texaspathfinder.com/evelyn-c-castillo/) and Amanda Saldaña, General Counsel (https://texaspathfinder.com/amanda-saldana/).
Transparency in government has been a theme for Mayor Ramiro Garza, Jr. during his campaign and election in November 2021.
According to Ballotpedia, which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia that covers federal, state, and local politics, elections, and public policy in the United States:
• Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency.
• In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
• Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood.
This transparency allows good and just governance. Government transparency is traditionally broken into three different types: proactive disclosure, requesting public records, and campaign finance disclosure.
On Tuesday, November 16, 2022, Fern McClaugherty, representing the public activist group Objective Watchers of the Legal System (O.W.L.S.), during the public comment segment of the city council meeting, recommended that the city council include three legislative issues before the 88th Texas Legislature dealing with transparency in government.
In her comments, which she presented to the city council, McClaugherty read into the record the following statements:
“Since Agenda Item 8C (of the city council agenda) includes developing the state legislative agenda for the City of Edinburg, I would like to recommend that you instruct the city’s legislative team to have the following measures – known as “bills” – publicly written, introduced and promoted as quickly as possible for passage by the 88th Texas Legislature and approval by the governor.
McClaugherty: Announce Participants in Executive Session
“Number 1. Have legislation that would require all governing bodies which come under the Texas Open Meetings Act – to announce in public, and immediately after the executive session – the names and affiliations of everyone who comes before that governing body when it meets behind closed doors, known as Executive Session. Have that legislation require such information to be included in the agenda packets and official minutes of that governing body. The people deserve to know who is meeting in Executive Session with such a governing body.”
(Note: The Open Meetings Act (Government Code, Chapter 551) provides that meetings of governmental bodies must be open to the public (except for expressly authorized executive sessions). Both state and regional agencies file notices of open meetings with the Secretary of State’s office. State agencies are governmental bodies with statewide jurisdiction. Regional agencies are agencies with jurisdiction of four or more counties.)
McClaugherty: Announce All Contract Details Before Approval
“Number 2. Have legislation that would require all governing bodies which come under the Texas Open Meetings Act to provide in public the initial and final terms of contracts which require approval by a governing body. Have that legislation require that information to be included in the agenda packets and official minutes of that governing body. A governing body should not be allowed to approve a contract until all versions of a contract which require a vote by a governing body are made public.
McClaugherty: Require All Governmental Bodies to Post Full Agenda Packet Ahead of Meetings
“Number 3. Have legislation to require every governing body which comes under the Texas Open Meetings Act to post their entire agenda packet on the Internet. Many such governing bodies in Texas may not be doing this. Such a law would benefit all of the people who believe in open and transparent government.
Omar Ochoa: Draft of Edinburg City Council’s Legislative Priorities
In alphabetical order by category, here is the draft of the proposed Edinburg City Council’s legislative priorities:
The city supports legislation which provides the highest level of community safety to all Edinburg residents.
• Increased community and neighborhood policing resources,
• Intervention and victim protection programs,
• Expanded social services, and
• Emergency management recovery assistance.
The city supports legislation which strengthens the local economy by providing resources to attract and retain competitive-wage employers, supporting locally-owed small businesses, and creating a more revenue-diversified city.
• Support legislation to provide meaningful property tax relief;
• Support legislation that empowers local governments to remove barriers to housing for low-income families and increase the local affordable housing stock;
• Support the continuation of local and state incentives to supplement local economic development strategies to recruit and retain employers;
• Support legislation that invests in educational and job placement programs to provide support for the city’s growing workforce to complement the city’s voter-approved workforce initiative, SA Ready to Work, to include veterans and military spouses; and
• Support legislation that enhances an effective and sustainable education system from early childhood to higher education.
The city supports legislation which advances access to quality education, from preschool through higher education where each student has the educational resources to achieve success.
• Expanded broadband coverage;
• Suitable education facilities and properly trained/paid educators;
• Increased access to student meal programs; and
• Additional higher education programs aligned with in-demand, local occupations.
Health and Medical Care
The city supports legislation which creates greater healthcare systems and improved access to suitable, low-cost, and preventative health care coverage and resources.
• Removal of healthcare barriers for low-income, socially at-risk, venerable, genetically predisposed, and individuals with chronic mental or health conditions; and
• Support legislation that encourages responsible pet ownership and improves the health, safety and welfare of our residents and pets
The city supports legislation and funding to address the need for critical community development infrastructure.
• Resources for added flood mitigation & drainage improvements;
• Support legislation to address Edinburg’s rapid population growth and reduce congestion;
• Ensure a continued and fair allocation of state transportation funding;
• Support legislation that would enhance pedestrian safety and continue to support safety initiatives;
• Support opportunities for enhanced transportation infrastructure such as airport, road, hike and bike trails, and public transit;
• Environmental quality and waste management; and
• Support legislation, in coordination with stakeholders, that ensures and funds infrastructure, connectivity and affordability of broadband Internet service.
The city supports the continued ability to equitably collect tax revenue and implement local decisions, ordinances, and policies to address the specific and individualized needs of its community.
• Support legislation that would benefit the city and the continued ability of local elected officials, the level of government closest to the people, to pass ordinances to meet the unique needs of the community;
• Oppose legislation that would be detrimental to the city’s interests and results in the loss of revenue or negatively impacts the authority to generate revenues, including mandates that increase costs to cities; and
• Oppose legislation that would erode municipal authority to enforce development-related regulations, such as land use, permitting, and inspections, as well as legislation that interferes with the city government’s cost-recovery model.
The city supports legislation which enhances open government and accountability to the residents of the city.
• Support efforts to allow for internet publication of legal notices rather than requiring publication in a paper of record;
• Support legislation that expands local transparency efforts; and
• Oppose legislation that seeks to require declarations of political party affiliation in local municipal elections.
Quality of Life
The city supports legislation which contributes to the expansion of “quality of life” resources and infrastructure providing numerous health, economic, and development benefits to the city.
• Expanded funding for parks & recreational facilities;
• Additional hike and bike trail systems;
• Expansion of museums and cultural arts amenities; and
• Preservation and expansion of green space.
Legislation for Texas first responders – firefighters, police, emergency medical services personnel –pre-filed by Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco
Since entering the Texas Legislature, Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, says he has made protecting first responders and their families a top priority.
In preparation for the upcoming 88th Texas Legislature’s regular session, which begins on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, Patterson has previously met with stakeholders, including the Frisco Fire Fighters Association, the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, and the Texas Municipal Police Association, “to draft meaningful reforms to better protect those who protect us.”
Prefiling means filing of bills and other proposed legislation before the convening of a legislative session.
File is used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.
“For two sessions I have listened intently to first responder testimonies of the pressing issues with accessing workers’ compensation benefits and getting the timely care they need to get back to work,” Patterson stated. “This past Thanksgiving, as we broke bread with first responders who couldn’t be with their own families, I renewed my commitment to fighting for them through legislative action. I hope to better serve and protect our first responders by having their backs in Austin, just as they have our backs when we are at home.”
Under workers’ compensation law in Texas, an injury or illness is covered, without regard to fault, if it was sustained in the course and scope of employment, i.e., while furthering or carrying on the employer’s business; this includes injuries sustained during work-related travel.
House Bill 471by Patterson contains elements of bills which passed the Texas House of Representative in 2021, but failed to gain traction in the Senate.
This legislation seeks to improve workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters, police, and emergency services personnel by providing line of duty illness and injury leave policies at the local level, clarifying tobacco use as it relates to cancer diagnosis, and allowing coverage for recent post-duty heart attacks or strokes.
“Firefighter” means a firefighter who is a permanent, paid employee of the fire department of a political subdivision. The term includes the chief of the department. The term does not include a volunteer firefighter.
“Police officer” means a paid employee who is full-time, holds an officer license issued under Chapter 1701, Occupations Code, holds an officer license issued under Chapter 1701, and regularly serves ins a professional law enforcement capacity in the police department of a county or municipality. The term includes the chief of the department.
“Emergency medical services personnel” means a person described by Section 773.003, Health and Safety Code, who is a paid employee of a county or municipality. That term includes emergency care attendants, advanced medical technicians, emergency medical technicians-paramedic, or licensed paramedic.
Also, Patterson prefiled House Bill 790, which seeks to improve the processes surrounding the Designated Doctor Examination, enhance procedures and timelines with insurance carriers, and increase access for case disputes using videoconference technology.
“Texas firefighters remain grateful for the commitment of Rep. Patterson to help ensure we can get the health care we need for cancer and other line-of-duty illnesses,” said John Riddle, President of the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters. “House Bill 471 and House Bill 790 are important steps forward as we work to further strengthen the workers compensation system for Texas firefighters.”
“The Texas Municipal Police Association, the largest Police Association in the State of Texas, not only commends, but is grateful for the commitment Rep. Patterson has for public safety,” said Kevin Lawrence, Executive Director, Texas Municipal Police Association.
Patterson and his legislative staff at the Texas Capitol may be reached by phone at (512) 463-0694.
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).