Featured: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, left, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, discuss legislation important to the state in this image, taken Wednesday, April 15, 2015, on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
A proposal by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, which would allow a statewide vote in November 2017 to require that half of all future gubernatorial appointments go to qualified women, is scheduled for a public hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Muñoz’ House Joint Resolution 29 is the final measure scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on State Affairs, a 13-member legislative committee that includes Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. That committee, chaired by Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, will be meeting in Room EXT E2.108 in the Texas Capitol complex. The meeting will begin once the House of Representatives finishes up its work for the day on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. It also will be broadcast live, and the entire session can be viewed online at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/ , then click “State Affairs” for that day. Under the Muñoz measure, if approved by the Legislature this spring, Texas voters in a statewide election on November 7, 2017, would have the power to create a law that women receive half of all gubernatorial appointments to powerful state boards, commissions, and agencies, such as the Texas Transportation Commission and The University of Texas System Board of Regents. During a four-year term, a governor will make about 3,000 appointments, according to the governor’s office. There are more than 200 state boards, commissions and agencies whose members are appointed by the governor, with the consent of the Senate. “In making any appointment to a state board, commission, or other governing body of a state agency, the governor shall, to the extent possible, ensure that the gender composition of the board, commission, or governing body reflects the gender composition of this state,” Muñoz said. In Texas, as of 2016, there were slightly more women/girls in Texas (12.6 million) than men/boys (12.4 million), according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau (https://suburbanstats.org/population/how-many-people-live-in-texas).
Featured: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, addressing fellow state lawmakers in the spring of 2015 from the front microphone in the Chamber of the Texas House of Representatives.
Photograph: HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Texans for Lawsuit Reform, known for its strong support for Republican candidates, has provided $140,000 in campaign contributions to Abraham Padrón, who is challenging three-term Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, in the March 1 Democratic Party primary, according to the latest campaign finance reports maintained by the Texas Ethics Commission. For his part, Muñoz has received significant financial support from the two major attorney groups – the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, which often favors Democrats, and the Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers – which together have pumped almost $50,000 into the incumbent legislator’s political war chest. Those finding, and other details about who is investing in the House District 36 race, and how much and where the two candidates are spending, cover a period of January 22, 2016 to February 20, 2016. House District 36 includes all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. Muñoz, an attorney, has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 2011; Padrón, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico, is an insurance agent. According to these most recent campaign finance reports, which are available online at https://www.ethics.state.tx.us/, both men showed the following data: Muñoz had $131,508.64 in contributions, $117,220.41 in expenditures, $202,772.14 cash on hand, and 286,300 in outstanding loans. Padrón reported $218,625 in contributions, $154,812.13 in expenditures, $71,571.74 cash on hand, and $151,135.06 in outstanding loans. Early voting for the March 1 Democratic and Republic party primaries has been ongoing since Tuesday, February 16, 2016, and will continue through Friday, February 26, 2016. There are no candidates who have filed for the Republican Party nomination for State Representative, House District 36, which means the Democratic Party nominee will most likely will be sworn into office for a two-year term that begins in January 2017. Muñoz lists his campaign address as P.O. Box 1257, Mission, Texas 78573, with Marla Muñoz-López serving as his campaign treasurer. She lists her treasurer address as 1110 South Closner, Edinburg, Texas 78539. The campaign treasure telephone number is 956/381-5555. Padrón lists his campaign address as 800 North 10th, McAllen, Texas 78501, with Delfa Padrón serving as his campaign treasurer. She lists her treasurer address as 800 North 10th, McAllen, Texas 78501. The campaign treasure telephone number is 956/821-8965.
Featured, from left, in foreground: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, and in background, from left, Steve Ahlenius, President/CEO, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, and McAllen City Commissioner Trey Pebley. The group was participating in the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s 84th Legislative Wrap-up Luncheon, held at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen on Thursday, July 9, 2015.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
In the race for House District 36, Rep. Sergio Muñoz and Abraham Padrón, both Democrats, spent $45,432,82 and $57,002.93, respectively, for the period of January 1 and January 21, 2016, according to the most recent campaign finance reports submitted to the Texas Ethics Commission. House District 36 includes all or parts of the cities of Hidalgo, Granjeño, McAllen, Mission, Palmview and Pharr. Muñoz, an attorney, has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 2011; Padrón, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico, is an insurance agent. Also according to the campaign finance reports, which were received by the Texas Ethics Commission on Monday, February 1, 2016, Muñoz showed $24,450 in political contributions, not including pledges, loans, or guarantees of loans between January 1 and January 21, 2016, while Padrón reported $30,400 in political contributions during that same period, not including pledges, loans, or guarantees of loans. Both men were carrying outstanding loans. Muñoz reported $290,550 in all outstanding loans, with $188,483.90 available for campaign expenditures. Padrón had $92,300 in all outstanding loans, with $6,795.11 available for campaign expenditures. The next round of campaign finance reports were due on Monday, February 22, 2016. Early voting for the March 1 Democratic and Republic party primaries has been ongoing since Tuesday, February 16, 2016, and will continue through Friday, February 26, 2016. There are no candidates who have filed for the Republican Party nomination for State Representative, House District 36, which means the Democratic Party nominee will most likely will be sworn into office for a two-year term that begins in January 2017. Muñoz lists his campaign address as P.O. Box 1257, Mission, Texas 78573, with Marla Muñoz-López serving as his campaign treasurer. She lists her treasurer address as 1110 South Closure, Edinburg, Texas 78539. The campaign treasure telephone number is 956/381-5555. Padrón lists his campaign address as 800 North 10th, McAllen, Texas 78501, with Delfa Padrón serving as his campaign treasurer. She lists her treasurer address as 800 North 10th, McAllen, Texas 78501. The campaign treasure telephone number is 956/821-8965.
Featured, seated from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, fields questions on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives from Steve Taylor, the publisher and editor of the online publication, The Rio Grande Guardian.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Children who are victims of sexual assault now have 15 years instead of five years to bring civil lawsuits against alleged sex offenders or others who are liable for the injuries sustained as a result of such crimes, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, who supported House Bill 189, which became state law on September 1, 2015. House Bill 189, which was approved by the Legislature late last spring, also removed any statute of limitations on the criminal prosecution of suspected serial rapists, whether their victim is a child or an adult. “I have a proven record in the Texas Legislature of supporting the creation of laws, policies, and new funding that protect crime victims and prosecute criminals,” said Muñoz. “I have no pity for rapists, child molesters, or other sexual predators, and I never place the blame of these victims because it is never their fault.” Prior to the passage of HB 189, there was a 10-year statute of limitations in the criminal prosecution of sex offenders who were considered serial rapists. A statute of limitations is generally defined as a law that sets a time limit for bringing certain kinds of legal action. Sexual assault is generally defined as any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another. In 2014, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 18,756 sexual assaults in the state, an increase of 5.1 percent over 2013. House Bill 189, effective September 1, 2015, was needed because of the seriousness of these crimes and the special circumstances that can limit when these victims are ready to speak out about the crime, according to the bill analysis by the House Research Organization. Despite these circumstances, a measure of justice always should be available to victims of these crimes, the HRO report stated. “The significance of HB 189 removing the statute of limitations for serial rape cases is well-documented in the bill analysis,” Muñoz emphasized. “The House Research Organization noted that his vital new protection is tremendously important for fighting sexual assault and violence against women because it encourages survivors to come forward to report their cases, preventing those convicted from attacking again.” Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, the author of HB 189, provided some of her key perspectives soon after she first filed the legislation on November 10, 2014, which was approved by the Legislature on June 1, 2015, and signed into law by the governor on June 18, 2015. “Rape is a horrible crime that is not only physical but mental,” said Thompson. “According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, sexual assault is a crime in which the assailant uses sexual contact to inflict humiliation or to exert power and control over the victim. Currently, there are 1.8 million survivors of sexual assault in Texas.” As for the civil lawsuit aspects of HB 189, Muñoz, an attorney, said any crime victim may be able to seek monetary damages against people who caused them harm. Muñoz, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which heavily influences the shaping of the $200+ billion state budget, was a coauthor of another new state law, enacted as a result of House Bill 10, that gives law enforcement in Texas more power to fight human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that preys most fiercely on women and children. “Human trafficking is modern day slavery, which also exposes their victims to sexual exploitation,” said Muñoz, who in 2012 was named to the groundbreaking Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking, which also included Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “One of the results of HB 10 is that even if a victim is an undocumented immigrant, the power of Texas shall be brought to bear to protect the powerless who are forced into the illegal sex trade,” said Muñoz. Muñoz, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which heavily influences the shaping of the $200+ billion state budget, was a coauthor of another new state law, enacted as a result of House Bill 10, that gives law enforcement in Texas more power to fight human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that preys most fiercely on women and children. “Human trafficking is defined as a crime against humanity, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them,” said Muñoz. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad, according to the United Nations. Every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.
Featured, from left: Gene Powell of San Antonio, who was raised in Weslaco, the Chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 in Edinburg for the groundbreaking of the $54 million UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. Muñoz is a co-sponsor in 2013 of legislation that created the medical school, which will provide the first two years of medical education in Edinburg. Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
More than 365,000 persons who receive their pension, death and survivor benefits from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) will soon get their monthly payments on the last working day of the month instead of the first working day of the following month under legislation by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, which has been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. “For too long, the state of Texas has generated money off the backs of TRS beneficiaries by unfairly accumulating interest, which did not go to the retirees or their survivors, by delaying for up to three days a month the money owed to them,” said Muñoz. “Beginning this September 1, that process will change for the better, and people will get the money owes them without delay.” Muñoz is the author of House Bill 2168, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, which was signed into law by the governor on Wednesday, June 17. Eligible retirees, which include those who receive a disability pension, and their beneficiaries will first see the effect of this new law with their September 2015 pension, death or survivor benefits, which will be paid on Wednesday, September 30, rather than Thursday, October 1, the House District 36 lawmaker said. “But beginning with the October payment, people will really see the difference,” Muñoz further illustrated. “The TRS will issue pension and benefit payments on Friday, October 30, which is the last working day of the month, instead of Monday, November 2.” The Texas Retired Teachers Association, which had been following the fate of HB 2168, praised the measure in its update to its membership in early June, noting the unfairness of delaying the payments. “This practice allows the state of Texas to hold hundreds of millions of dollars in owed TRS annuity payments several days past the month they are owed,” the TRTA stated. “While this budgeting trick may have helped the state, it does not put the hard-earned annuity dollars in the hands of retirees in the same month they are owed.” With the passage of HB 2168, “retirees are one step closer to being treated like all other state retirees. Their annuity checks will be deposited on the last working day of the month they are owed. This is great news for TRS retirees as their payments will come on time and will not be delayed by weekends or holidays,” the TRTA statement added. The Texas Retired Teacher Association is the largest association in the nation for retired teachers with a history of active involvement in the well-being of their communities, according to its website, http://www.trta.org. In 2016, there will be five months where in the past, TRS would have waited three days before issuing the monthly payments. But the new law will get that money to the retirees and beneficiaries sooner.