FEATURED: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, is among Valley state lawmakers who have been invited to participate in a Send-Off Reception in Weslaco on Thursday, January 5, 2023 cohosted by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Innovation & Commercialization, located at 307 E. Railroad Street, Weslaco.
Photograph By PAUL CHOUY
Valley state lawmakers to meet with the public during free reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 5, 2023 at UTRGV Center for Innovation & Commercialization in Weslaco
Valley state lawmakers are scheduled to meet the public during a free reception to be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 5, 2023 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Innovation & Commercialization in Weslaco, the Rio Grande Guardian reports.
The 88th Texas Legislature will begin its 140-day regular session at noon on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 and will finish on Monday, May 29, 2023.
“The RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce realizes that there are several new faces that will be representing the Rio Grande Valley in Austin. Thus, we wanted to give the membership and public an opportunity to meet and greet the new representatives and hopefully tell them what their concerns are,” Cynthia Sakulenzki, President, Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told the Rio Grande Guardian.
Since 1997, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has been dedicated to creating opportunities for its members and for the public to flourish and succeed through education and civic engagement, including bringing business and professional communities together with state and federal legislators to exchange ideas about issues and solutions affecting deep South Texas.
The Rio Grande Guardian is the first online newspaper to launch on the South Texas border, setting the pace and breaking news often before traditional media outlets.
“In addition the RGVHCC will also introduce our legislative agenda to the legislators so they can keep our agenda in the front of their minds as the session progresses,” Sakulenzki said. “Our concerns include transportation, workforce, education, trade, border security, and immigration. We encourage the public to come out and mingle with the legislators.”
The Rio Grande Valley Partnership, lead by Daniel Silva, its President, is serving as a cohost for the major event.
The Rio Grande Valley Partnership is a business-friendly nonprofit organization that encourages collaboration among Starr County, Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and Cameron County. The organization’s goals include helping its members to improve their return on investment and improve their quality of life in the four-county region.
Centrally located in Weslaco, The Center for Innovation and Commercialization (CID) is transforming the Rio Grande Valley by serving as a regional entrepreneurial hub for both the Lower and Upper Valley. By providing the necessary resources and support systems for the South Texas community, the CIC is committed in helping regional entrepreneurs create successful “scalable enterprises” that have the potential to reach national and/or international markets.
For additional information about the legislative reception on Thursday, January 5, 2023, individuals may contact the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at (956) 928-0060.
The Rio Grande Valley state legislation delegation is made up of three senators and eight state representatives, who are – in alphabetical order by their last name:
• Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg;
• Rep. Erin Gámez, D-Brownsville;
• Rep. Ryan Guillén, R-Rio Grande City;
• Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen;
• Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen;
• Sen.-Elect Morgan LaMantia, D-South Padre Island;
• Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-Mission;
• Rep.-Elect Janie López, R-San Benito;
• Rep. Armando Martínez, D-Weslaco;
• Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission; and
• Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County.
Governor’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force issues second Biennial Report to Legislature
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, announced that the Governor’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force (SASTF) issued its second Biennial Report to the Texas Legislature.
The report includes policy recommendations for the 88th Legislative Session and summarizes task force projects completed since the last biennial report – including the creation of a trauma-informed rubric, a safety planning framework, and a law enforcement sexual assault response protocol.
“As Texans, we will always protect the right of all citizens to live safely and securely,” said Abbott. “With these goals in mind, dedicated professionals and volunteers across Texas continue their invaluable work in crime prevention, law enforcement, prosecution, advocacy, and victim support – helping to create a better, safer future for all Texans.”
Since the last legislative session in 2021, the Governor’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force has continued its work on behalf of Texas’ adult and child sexual assault survivors.
“With our shared mission of transforming Texas’ response to sexual violence, we continue to seek justice for survivors, hold offenders accountable, and ensure that all survivors have access to the resources they need for healing and recovery,” Abbott added.
Established in 2019, the SASTF ensures a survivor-centered, trauma-informed, collaborative, and coordinated response to sexual violence experienced by adults and children across the state.
The SASTF also published the Survivors’ Rights Guide, which will inform, empower, and assist survivors, providers, supporters, and the general public in understanding survivors’ rights.
The guide was created by the SASTF’s Survivor-Centered Working Group and is available for download.
Promote Survivor Healing
• Clarify that sexual assault survivors who undergo a forensic medical exam have cooperated with a law enforcement investigation for purposes of eligibility for Crime Victims Compensation reimbursement;
• Ensure that health care facilities can be reimbursed directly for Emergency Medical Care from the Crime Victims Compensation Program by filing an application on behalf of the survivor; include a list of specific services that are eligible for Emergency Medical Care and a specific time frame of eligibility;
• Extend Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certifications from two years to three years; and
• Expand sexual assault forensic examination training requirements for emergency room medical professionals.
Strengthen Statewide Efforts
• Update SASTF statutory membership to include a representative from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, an adult survivor of child sexual abuse or a parent or guardian of a survivor of child sexual abuse, and a survivor of adult sexual assault;
• Extend the SASTF expiration date; and
• Provide travel reimbursement for SASTF members and survivor speakers attending SASTF quarterly meetings.
Enhance Systems Response
• Promote essential access to forensic medical exams for adult and child survivors of sexual assault by making necessary statutory modifications, including synthesizing the reported and non-reported Subchapters within the Code of Criminal Procedure (Subchapters F and G, respectively) into one combined Subchapter;
• Make other necessary statutory modifications to ensure that survivors of sexual assault have access to forensic medical exams;
• Clarify that system-generated emails or text communications from Track-Kit, or information viewable to the user in Track-Kit, meets Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) notification requirements in cases in which the survivor has not reported his or her sexual assault to law enforcement;
• Add a minimum of eight hours of instruction related to trauma-informed child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault investigations to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement’s Basic Peace Officer Course;
• Mandate training for trauma-informed response to child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault for all law enforcement; and
• Amend the sexual assault statute with respect to consent to provide clear protection for victims of sexual assault in circumstances not explicitly covered by current Texas law.
Pursuant to Texas Government Code §772.0064, the Office of the Governor contracted with the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) to complete a two-part study on service needs and availability for sexual assault and abuse survivors in Texas.
Findings from Part 2 of its research highlighted the needs and experiences of sexual assault and abuse survivors with existing services.
Additionally, data from IDVSA’s Part 1 statewide sexual assault survivors’ resource inventory were utilized to create a comprehensive, statewide survivors’ resource directory now available on the Governor’s website.
This research helps the state better serve survivors of sexual assault crimes and will provide greater understanding of the landscape of resources, service provision gaps, and unmet needs for survivors and their families.
Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, prefiles non-discrimination legislation to protect LGBTQ+ and military veterans in Texas
Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, recently prefiled House Bill 1012, a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill that would ensure equal protection for members of the LGBTQ+ community and military veterans in employment, housing, and public accommodation.
LGBTIQA+ stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other terms (such as non-binary and pansexual)”.
Prefile means the filing of bills and other proposed legislation before the convening of a legislative session.
A bill is a 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.
House Bill 1012 seeks to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and military veteran status to the state’s current nondiscrimination laws covering employment and housing.
The bill would also protect all Texans from discrimination in places of public accommodation based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or status as a military veteran.
“Recently, I attended President Biden’s signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, a monumental accomplishment for same-sex marriage protections,” she said. “This bipartisan law shows when Democrats and Republicans come together, we can make our communities stronger by ensuring everyone is equally protected under the law.”
H.R. 8404, the “Respect for Marriage Act,” establishes statutory authority for same-sex and interracial marriages and repeals provisions of law that once prevented any State or territory from being required to give effect to a same-sex marriage from another State or territory.
It became federal law on Tuesday, December 13, 2022.
González introduced House Bill 1012 into the Texas House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.
“I am proud to file House Bill 1012 to build on Congress’ actions and protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in Texas,” she said. “I hope every Member of the Texas House will join me in supporting this imperative bill to send a message to all LGBTQ+ Texans – especially our youth – that their state values and respects them.”
According to González, a study conducted in 2020 by Texas economist Ray Perryman found that a nondiscrimination law in Texas would create 180,000 new jobs and almost $5 billion in state and local tax receipts. Furthermore, polling data shows that 70 percent of Texans, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and every major religious group, want Texas to have a comprehensive nondiscrimination law that includes LGBTQ+ people.
Steve Taylor 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).