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Wednesday , October 17 2018
Home | Tag Archives: Senator José Rodríguez

Tag Archives: Senator José Rodríguez

Senator Rodríguez’s Statement on Trump’s Tent Camp in Tornillo

State Sen. José Rodríguez’s issued the following statement on the Trump administration’s decision to set up a “tent city” in Tornillo to house children forcibly separated from their asylum-seeking parents:

We should have “zero tolerance” for this inhumane, immoral treatment of these children who have been forcibly separated from their asylum-seeking parents. Putting children in tent cities, especially in El Paso where it’s more than 100 degrees, is reminiscent of the disgraced and convicted Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who showed complete disregard for the rule of law and due process. This is what totalitarians in the Middle East and elsewhere do.

For this President, due process and the rule of law, which are cornerstones of individual freedom, are nothing but an impediment to using state powers to target vulnerable people. Immigrants are being targeted now. Who will be next?

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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 José Rodríguez files Special Session Education Bills

Austin – Sen. José Rodríguez has filed a number of bills for the upcoming Special Session, which begins on Tuesday.

The bills filed address the most important issue that should be central to the Special Session, school finance, as well as ensuring that the state does not sanction discrimination against LGBTQ Texans, and providing greater opportunity for mail-in ballot voting while ensuring ballot integrity.

Details and comments by the Senator are as follow:

Education

  • S.B. 40 by Rodríguez, Garcia, Menendez, Watson, West, Whitmire & Zaffirini (comprehensive school finance reform): This bill provides a long-term solution for school finance reform by removing inequitable provisions not based on actual costs, increasing funding for vulnerable student populations, and updating the system as a whole to ensure all our children will get a quality education.

“It is long past time for comprehensive school finance reform, something that not only is necessary but is supported by an overwhelming majority of the public and legislators,” Rodríguez said.

  • S.J.R. 6 by Rodríguez, Garcia, Menendez, Watson, West, Whitmire & Zaffirini (requires state to provide 50 percent of school funding): This joint resolution provides for a constitutional amendment that will require the state to pay its equal share of the operating costs of public schools.

“The State is increasingly funding schools on the backs of local property taxpayers, while at the same time, complaining about high local taxes. True tax reform must take into account the main driver of property taxes – schools, which are the State’s constitutional obligation. In fact, the State’s share of the base funding for schools has decreased from 43.5 percent in 2015 to 37.7 percent in 2019. To address this, I have filed legislation that would require the State to fund at least half of our schools’ operating costs. This would dramatically reduce local property taxes and help ensure quality education for all Texas students.

  • S.B. 41 by Rodríguez, Garcia, Menendez, Watson, West, Whitmire & Zaffirini (increases bilingual education weight): This bill increases the ELL education funding weight from the current weight of 0.1 to 0.25. This funding weight has not been updated since 1984. Updating it would alleviate achievement gaps, expand dual language programs, reduce recapture payments, and help the almost one million students that need additional services.

“The investment in our students is an investment in our future,” Rodríguez said, regarding funding weights. “This is long overdue.”

  • S.B. 37 by Rodríguez (teacher stipends): This bill creates a $500 stipend for those with at least three years of experience, and $500 for those in TEA-determined shortage areas. These stipends would take effect in 2019, since this was not budgeted for in the current biennium. To attempt to implement the stipends now would constitute an unfunded mandate on schools, forcing either local tax increases or cuts elsewhere.

Quality teachers are the backbone of our education system and we need to recruit and retain the best, especially in the areas of math, science, bilingual education, special education and career and tech that are currently in short supply,” Rodríguez said. 

Equal rights for LGBTQ Texans

  • S.B. 38 by Rodríguez, Garcia, Hinojosa & Whitmire (comprehensive LGBTQ non-discrimination): This bill prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the areas of housing, public accommodation, employment, and state contracting.

“Discrimination of any kind runs counter to the values of opportunity, personal faith, and freedom that all Texans hold dear. However, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community still have experiences of discrimination in Texas, without any recourse at law,” Rodríguez said. “There are examples across the state of LGBT people being denied housing for themselves and their family, losing a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identify, or being denied service at business held open to the public. 

“Discrimination is also bad for business. An inclusive Texas is crucial to recruiting and retaining talent, attracting entrepreneurs and company relocations, and maintaining a strong travel and tourism industry.

“S.B. 38 will ensure that all Texans can live in our great state without fear that they will be denied the same protection afforded their friends and neighbors, simply because of who they are or whom they love.”

Voting

  • S.B. 36 by Rodríguez (absentee voting by mail): Current law limits mail in ballots to voters who have a disability, are 65 years old or older, in jail but otherwise eligible, or will be out of town Election Day. Mail in ballots reduce long lines at the polls, ensure greater access to the ballot, and have been proven to be reliable. Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia offer “no excuse” absentee voting, which does not require an applicant to provide an excuse to request a mail in ballot. California, Oregon, and Washington were the first to pass this law in the 1980s, and studies from early 1990s showed an increase in voter turnout.

“I hope any discussion about reforming mail in ballot fraud will include proposals to expand access for the vast majority of eligible voters,” Rodríguez said. “Texas consistently ranks on the bottom in terms of voter turnout – eighth to last in 2016 – and that is the real problem when it comes to our election reform.”

State Sen. Rodríguez Hosts Town Hall at EPCC Thursday

Texas State Senator José Rodríguez will have his first post-session town hall this Thursday, at EPCC’s Valle Verde campus.

Rodriguez is set to discuss key legislation from the 85thlegislative session – results, changes to expect, and what this means for constituents of SD 29 – and to provide an opportunity to answer questions from the community.

Additionally, the Senator will talk about what to anticipate from the special session starting July 18.

The town hall will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 29, at the EPCC Valle Verde Campus Cafeteria Annex.

What: El Paso Town Hall

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. (MST) Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where: EPCC Valle Verde Campus Cafeteria Annex, 919 Hunter Drive

Information: Sito Negron, 915-351-3500

State Senator Rodriguez, Rep. Gonzalez Vote For New Texas Budget

Austin – The Texas Legislature today voted on the state budget in both the House and Senate. Sen. Rodríguez joined the House members of the El Paso delegation in voting for the budget.

“This was a tough vote,” Sen. Rodríguez said. “There are missed opportunities in the budget that will hurt the state’s ability to continue competing in the future.”

In a news release, Senator Rodriguez pointed out a particular gap, saying “while the state added enough money to account for overall growth in the number of students, maintaining a per-student funding level of $5,140, it did not account for inflation, which means the dollar per student doesn’t go as far. It also undercounted our Medicaid obligations over the next two years; this means that it projects a lower number than we’ll actually have, something that has become routine and that ensures each session begins with an “iou” of between $1 billion and $2 billion.”

“Instead of prioritizing these needs, the state instead put nearly $1 billion into ‘border security,’ a phrase that inaccurately frames our communities as threats, instead of as the opportunities that we are. El Paso and other border communities are important to the state and nation for trade, cultural exchange, and great places to live and work,” Sen. Rodríguez added.

On her vote, Representative Mary E. González said, “I’m proud to have helped secure funding for Texas Tech Health Science Center- El Paso’s future dental school, to continue funding crucial special items for UTEP like their pharmacy school, to maintain funding the state’s Rio Grande Compact lawsuit so that our farmers receive their fair share of water, and to support an additional $32 million for an intelligent transportation system at two El Paso ports of entry in order to increase security measures and expedite trade.”

“Even in a tough budget session, we were able to protect key El Paso interests,” added González.

The Health and Human Services budget includes $500 million in increased funding to Child Protective Services, which will pay for nearly 600 new caseworkers. It provides additional funding for mental health services, including a total of $160.5 million to address community mental health services added capacity, waitlists, collaborative grants for jail diversion, and psychiatric hospital beds.

Other budget highlights include an additional $350 million for the Teacher Retirement System, $71 million to the TEXAS Grant Program, and $44 million for Graduate Medical Education (GME).

“It is said that a budget is an expression of priorities. If so, much in this budget, like border security funding, represents misplaced priorities,” Rodríguez said. “But it also attempts a careful balance of interests, based on hard numbers and factual data. We’ve made the mistake of constraining ourselves to the point where we struggle to meet our needs, even though we have the means to do so. Without doing something extraordinary, this budget reflects the best effort this body is able to make.

“It is in that spirit that I vote for this budget, ” Senator Rodriguez said.

Some El Paso area highlights:

  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso received $142 million for the biennium, including a rider to establish the dental school.
  • UTEP received $229.2 million for the biennium, including continued support for the pharmacy school.
  • EPCC received $63.6 million for the biennium.
  • Intelligent Transportation System: Authorization for $32 million for a system to streamline commercial traffic at the Zaragoza Bridge and Bridge of the Americas.
  • McDonald Observatory: $5.2 million for the biennium.
  • Rio Grande Compact / Texas-New Mexico Water Lawsuit: $500,000, and allowance for increments of $1 million.
  • 8th Court of Appeals District, El Paso: $3.374 million for the biennium.

 

State Senator Rodriguez: Transparency Bills Serve the Public Interest

I strongly support efforts to reform our ethics laws, and I am pleased to joint author Senate Bill 14. I believe this legislation will go a long way to bolster the public’s confidence in elected government by strengthening our ethics laws.

The bill includes some specific, common-sense provisions to keep the public apprised of potential conflicts of interest, including:

  • reducing lobbyists’ reporting threshold for elected officials and their family, and closing a loophole allowing lobbyists to avoid disclosures by splitting costs between several lobbyists, and
  • requiring state and local elected officials to disclose certain written contracts between themselves, their businesses, and families with governmental entities.

There will surely be those who continue to take issue with bill. Some would suggest the conflict of interest provisions might disincentivize individuals who are not themselves already independently wealthy from running for public office, simply because their work may run adjacent to work in the legislature.

Ours is a part-time legislature and one cannot support a family on the salary of a lawmaker alone. I’m not insensitive to this concern. Nevertheless, I think the countervailing public interest in citizens’ right to know who is governing them outweighs these concerns.

Although I am supportive of the provisions included in the bill, I am disappointed that several provisions that were in last session’s ethics bill (S.B. 19) are not included. For example, two amendments that I added to last session’s bill:

  • First, a provision that requires filers disclosure of all sources of income, including federal or state governmental benefits; and
  • Second, a provision requiring that every financial statement be submitted electronically through a secure website maintained by the Ethics Commission. Importantly, under my amendment, these submissions would then be accessible electronically. In the 21st Century, I’m not sure why this isn’t already the law, especially since the Ethics Commission indicated to lawmakers that they wanted this authority.

It’s a shame these provisions aren’t included in this session’s S.B. 14.

I’m also disappointed the bill doesn’t include any dark money provisions — that is, any provisions requiring disclosure of donations to political nonprofits that work to influence campaigns. These nonprofits are not required to disclose who is padding their coffers while they work for or against candidates across Texas. It’s worth noting that these dark money disclosure provisions are supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.

In the same way that the public should know who is supporting a lawmaker’s campaign, and what people with business before the legislature may also be cutting lawmakers a paycheck, I believe the public should know who exactly is writing checks that support political nonprofits who endorse — or attack — lawmakers as they run for public office.

Further, while I’m no fan of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, it does make clear that states can require disclosure of campaign donations, including to nonprofits. In fact, some states like California and Rhode Island already have similar disclosure laws.

Transparency bills serve the public interest. Voters deserve as much information as possible about the elected officials they send to Austin to represent their interests. Disclosure laws strengthen the public bond by shedding light on any appearance of impropriety, and give voters greater confidence that elected officials keep sight of who they really work for — the public.

In sum, while I wish the bill included at least some of the aforementioned provisions, the legislation will allow us to take several important steps in the right direction, and has my full support.

State Senator José Rodríguez receives Senate Committee Appointments

On Wednesday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Senate Committee appointments for the 85th Legislature, and a local lawmaker now has a new position.

Senator José Rodríguez was appointed as Vice Chairman of Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs, and will continue to represent Fort Bliss and El Paso’s veteran population as a member of the Veteran Affairs and Border Security Committee.

Additionally for this session, he also will serve on the Senate Committees on Transportation and Natural Resources and Economic Development.

“I am committed to working for my constituents and for the state of Texas, and look forward to digging into vital economic development, transportation, veterans, and environmental issues,” said Sen. Rodríguez.

He added “I will also continue fighting for school children and access to health care, two areas where the state has fallen short. Every Texan deserves a fair shot at a successful, healthy life.”

Texas Senate committees are the first place legislation is debated and considered after filing. A bill must be voted out of committee before it can be brought to the Senate floor for further debate and voted on by the 31-member body.

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