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Home | Tag Archives: jose rodriguez

Tag Archives: jose rodriguez

State Senator Jose Rodriguez’s Tuition Bill seeks to Return Control to Legislature

Senator José Rodríguez’s S.B. 442, which returns control of college tuition to the Texas Legislature, was heard in the Senate Higher Education Committee Wednesday.

Prior to 2003, the Legislature had regulatory authority to set tuition rates, generally mandating that the same tuition rate be charged across the state.  Then the Legislature passed House Bill 3015 (78R), which allowed unelected governing boards of public universities to set higher tuition rates.

Since tuition deregulation, the average cost of higher education has risen sharply. Increasing costs are pushing families to incur larger debt loads to attend state schools and pricing others out of higher education altogether.

“If the legislature is truly concerned about managing tuition, we should make those decisions ourselves,” Senator Rodríguez said. “Universities would make their case for tuition increases – just like state agencies make funding requests – and the buck should stop with us elected lawmakers.”

Senator Rodríguez’s bill is one of several approaches being considered by legislators in response to the tuition issue. Tuition and fees at Texas’ 38 academic institutions climbed 78 percent between 2003 and 2016, according to an analysis of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board data by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. At the same time, state funding for higher education has declined.  Adjusting for inflation, the state’s per-student funding has declined 27 percent since 2003, according to the Coordinating Board.

SB 442 would cap tuition at the amount charged during the 2017-18 academic year beginning in the fall 2018 semester.  The bill would force the Legislature to authorize any increases in tuition after that academic year and once again be directly accountable to students and families for their funding of higher education.

NOTE: Senator Rodríguez authored an op-ed in the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk on the subject in May, 2016. It can be found here.

Opinion: State Rep Rodriguez Issues Statement on Senate Bill 6

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement regarding Senate Bill 6, which targets vulnerable Texans for discrimination:

S.B. 6 is problematic in a number of ways, from creating legal issues to nullifying local control to targeting, instead of protecting, vulnerable Texans. While it is disturbing that we are being forced to fight what amounts to state-ordered discrimination, we must take this opportunity to educate Texans on the law and on the trans community, which needs our support, not to be vilified or discriminated against.

First, S.B. 6 conflicts with federal civil rights laws because it discriminates on the basis of sex. Both Title VII and Title IX of our federal civil rights laws expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Further, S.B. 6’s attempt to define sex as a matter of law on the basis of biology is contrary to Supreme Court precedent, from Price Waterhouse to Bauer v. Lynch to Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. of Education.

S.B. 6 conflicts with EEOC and OSHA regulations regarding how employers, including state and local government employers, must treat transgender employees. The Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of guidance regarding DOE’s interpretation of Title IX cannot change the meaning of sex discrimination and does not reverse existing case law. The sex discrimination authorized by S.B. 6 cannot be justified by the possibility that someone may be discomfited by the mere presence of a transgender individual in a public restroom.

More broadly, S.B. 6 conflicts with the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. And finally, because S.B. 6 cannot be reconciled with federal civil rights laws or the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, it would put school districts, municipalities, and other governmental entities in Texas in an untenable position. Simply put, S.B. 6 exposes school districts and other government entities to litigation and liability.

I understand the gut level reaction some have when they think of a man in a woman’s bathroom. This is not what is happening. Transgender individuals are few in number, and simply want to be able to live in peace. They more often are targeted for violence, ridicule and discrimination, and legislation like this encourages the continued misunderstanding of these vulnerable Texans.

If there are any cases of men pretending to be women to gain access to a woman’s bathroom to commit a crime, they are exceedingly few. In all this sound and fury over the issue, I have yet to see any examples of this type of crime. I have heard of criminal actions that were criminal before, regardless of whether S.B. 6 passed or not.

The more I’ve learned about transgender and gender nonconforming Texans, the more I’ve come to understand that the problem is ignorance. Well-intentioned people might, as I stated initially, have a gut level reaction in which they imagine a burly man, or even a teen male, flippantly claiming to be female to take advantage of the policy of allowing transgender people to use the bathroom appropriate for their gender identity. However, the facts don’t bear this out. To cause this amount of division over something that’s not a real problem points to something deeper.

Once we’ve examined all the facts at hand – the substantial legal issues, the question of criminal activity against transgender people and the absence of criminal activity by them, the economic arguments about why social discrimination is bad for business – the only thing left is the fear, lack of knowledge, and in some cases, hate, that some people have for LGBTQ Texans.

Sadly, this is what we are left with – fear, hate, misunderstanding. I will continue working to educate my colleagues on this vulnerable population and the need to support them, not codify discrimination against them.

I sympathize with those who have not yet discovered compassion for all their fellow Texans, but I will not yield to their fears. I stand with equality, and against S.B. 6.

José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; Veteran Affairs and Border Security; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs (Vice Chair).

Senator Rodríguez to receive Equality Texas ‘Spirit of Texas’ Advocate Award

San Antonio – Texas State Sen. José Rodríguez is to receive the Spirit of Texas Advocate Award at the Spirit of Texas Brunch befitting Equality Texas, a statewide organization that works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans, in San Antonio this Sunday.

The Equality Texas Advocate Award is given to an outstanding public servant whose high ideals include a dedication to equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans. This award is given on an annual basis to a public figure with a steadfast reputation for supporting issues of equality for all Texans.

Sen. Rodríguez understands that equal opportunity is the key to individual and community success. “It is a privilege representing the people of District 29 in the Texas State Senate, and it is a privilege to receive this award, which I share with my LGBTQ neighbors, friends and family,” Rodríguez said. “I strongly believe that discrimination runs counter to the values of opportunity, personal faith and freedom from discrimination that all Texans hold dear. I’m proud to stand with LGBTQ Texans as we make good on those values and make Texas a more welcoming place.”

Founded in 1989, Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.

“Equality Texas is excited to present Senator José Rodríguez with the Advocate Award, which is given annually to an outstanding public servant whose high ideals include a dedication to equal rights for LGBTQ Texans,’ said Chuck Smith, Executive Director of Equality Texas. “In 2015, Senator Rodríguez was the author of SB 148 which sought to remove ‘homosexual conduct’ from the Texas Penal Code; SJR 13 which sought to remove the Texas constitutional amendment restricting marriage; and SB 256, a comprehensive nondiscrimination bill providing protections in employment, housing, and public accommodation.”

Sen. Rodríguez will enter his fourth legislative session representing Texas Senate District 29 in the Texas Senate in January 2017. In his first three sessions, Rodríguez has championed the needs of everyday Texans, working across party platforms to develop, pass, and amend legislation. He has served as an effective leader who relentlessly advocates for the equal rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender Texans.

State Senator Jose Rodríguez to Receive MALDEF’s Highest Honor

Texas State Sen. José Rodríguez will receive the Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)’s annual gala in San Antonio this Friday.

Sen. Rodríguez will enter his fourth legislative session representing Texas Senate District 29 in the Texas Senate in January 2017. In his first three sessions, Rodríguez has championed the needs of everyday Texans, working across party platforms to develop, pass, and amend legislation.

He has secured funding for local priorities; passed more than 150 bills that support education, health care, sustainable energy, equality, economic development, veterans, and criminal justice reform; and served as an effective leader who relentlessly advocates for the people of Senate District 29 and Texas.

The Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement, the highest honor given by MALDEF, is named for the former MALDEF board member, who served from 1974 until her death in a plane crash in 1978. It is given to former MALDEF board members who have distinguished themselves for their contributions to the group and the Latino community.

“It is a privilege representing the people of District 29 in the Texas State Senate, and it is a privilege to have served the public virtually my entire career, from working for Housing and Urban Development in D.C., making sure farmworkers had access to legal services through Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, to serving as El Paso County Attorney, the elected position I held for 17 years before being elected to the Texas Senate in 2010,” Rodríguez said. “I have always endeavored to be a strong, effective voice for my community, and now more than ever, we need leaders and a government that works to ensure that the opportunities our great state and nation offer are accessible to all. This recognition by MALDEF is a humbling reminder that we have made progress, but our work must continue.”

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.

“Sen. Rodríguez has made truly exemplary contributions to El Paso and the entire state of Texas, but his influence and leadership have been national in scope,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “MALDEF has been privileged to work with such a paragon of political service as a member of our board of directors for many years, and we are proud to honor him with the Valerie Kantor Award, the highest honor that MALDEF bestows.”

Rodríguez was elected to the Texas Senate in November 2010, after serving as the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years. As a freshman legislator in 2011, he passed 41 bills related to education, health care, economic development, renewable energy, public safety and the courts, ethics and government transparency, and the military.

During the 2013 legislative session, the Senator continued this remarkable record of achievement. He passed 50 bills and two concurrent resolutions into law.

The bills included local priorities with statewide impact — including the transformation of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso from a branch of the Lubbock-based health sciences center to an independent, standalone university component of the Texas Tech University System — as well as a series of reform bills to address cheating and accountability in standardized testing.

Rodríguez built on this record during the 2015 legislative session when he passed 71 bills and concurrent resolutions dealing with education, health care, economic development, veterans, and criminal justice reform; 66 of which became law.

Notably, he helped secure funding for Senate District 29 priority items, including $3.5 million for the long-awaited Franklin Mountain State Park Visitors Center; $70 million in tuition revenue bonds for an interdisciplinary research facility and $7 million for the pharmacy program at the University of Texas at El Paso; $75.52 million in tuition revenue bonds for the Medical Science Building 2 at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso; and $30 million for Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grants for military cities.

A former migrant farm worker, Rodríguez understands that education and equal opportunity are the keys to individual and community success. He has fought for better funding for our schools, to improve access to health care for millions of uninsured Texans, and for workers’ basic rights, including rest breaks and recovery of unpaid wages.

Rodríguez has worked with colleagues over several sessions to stop anti-immigrant proposals, such as forcing local police into federal immigration enforcement roles; eliminating the ability of Texas DREAMERs, college-age state residents brought here as unauthorized immigrant children, to attend university and pay the same tuition as other Texas residents; and flooding border communities with expensive and unnecessary expansion of DPS troopers on the basis of ill-defined “border security.”

In addition, he fought against efforts to draw electoral lines that diluted minority voting strength, and he has defended equal rights for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.

His remarkable ability to work across party lines and his tenacity on the Senate floor have gained him numerous accolades, including being named “Freshman MVP” by Capitol Inside, “Legislative Hero” by Texas Access to Justice Foundation, “Best of Senate” by the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, “Advocate of the Year, Elected Official” by the Texas Association for Education of Young Children, “Texas Women’s Health Champion” by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Champion of Equality” by Equality Texas, “Legislator of the Year” by the Family Law Foundation, “Senate Legislator of the Year” by Texas Nurse Practitioners, and the “2015 TABE Joe J. Bernal Community Service Honoree” by the Texas Association for Bilingual Education.

Most recently, he was elected Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus. Prior to assuming this position, he served as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus for nearly two years. In addition, Rodríguez is a Presidential Appointee to the 10-person Board of Directors of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission-North American Development Bank (BECC-NADB); a long-serving member of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) Board of Directors; and the current Chairman of the Border Legislative Conference (BLC), which is a joint program of the Council of State Governments (CSG) West and its regional partner in the South, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), and comprised of legislators from the 10 American and Mexican states bordering the U.S.-Mexico border.

Texas State Senator Rodriguez: Let the Syrian refugees in

Earlier this week, I was honored to welcome 351 new U.S. citizens, representing 32 countries, at a naturalization ceremony at the El Paso Civic Center.

They came from all over the world, including from countries that are experiencing devastating conflict, such as Iraq and Ukraine. I cannot imagine not welcoming them.

Yet today, our governor said that Texas will no longer accept refugees from Syria. Not accepting Syrian refugees will not make Texans any safer, and betrays the values of liberty we offer the world as an example.

Today, as I stood before hundreds of newcomers and their families eager to embrace our country, I had the thought: What if America does not embrace them back?

We all now have a greater stake than ever in helping this country on its path to becoming a more perfect union, with liberty and justice for all.

Author: Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez

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