MISSION—After closing out the regular Texas 83rd Legislative Session, Texas House Representative Sergio Muñoz Jr. (District 36) reviewed this session’s top bills making a significant impact on the Mission area.
Senate Bill 1
Senate Bill 1 calls for a $197 billion state budget for the fiscal biennium 2014-2015. The budget, approved by both the state senate and house, has been sent to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Susan Combs, for certification. Then it will be sent to the governor for final approval.
During the 82nd legislative session two years ago, over $4 billion was cut from education. SB 1 restores $3.8 billion in funding to public education. In addition, the bill funds critical health and human services programs and increases the state’s contribution to the teacher retirement system.
Muñoz explained that in this year’s session a big step forward was taken in restoring most of the education cuts.
“The increase in funding now will account for the growth in our public schools. In doing so we are taking care of our priorities,” Muñoz said. “The big issue, for me, was to continue to push for that.”
The new budget also would also help fund the state water plan which falls under a trio of bills working together that include: HB 4, HB 1025 and SJR 1.
The Water Bills
HB 4, SJR 1, HB 1025
Texas saw an economic loss during the 2011 drought of over $11 billion, according to Muñoz. House Bill 4 is a form of the 2012 State Water Plan, which is an attempt to deal with water issues now rather than later.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 calls for a state constitutional amendment to create a state water implementation fund to provide monies for water infrastructure projects. Initially $2 billion would be moved from the state Rainy Day Fund to this new fund.
Once the water fund is established, grants will be made available for water infrastructure projects, Muñoz said. SJR 1 will be on a statewide ballot Nov. 5.
HB 1025 is a supplemental appropriations bill that will, among other things, post $2 billion to the fund if voters in Texas approve SJR 1.
HJR 87/ HB 1372 – City Vacancies
Home rule cities currently do not have the option to fill a city government vacancy by appointment, when the vacancy only has 12 months until re-election. Cities under home rule charter in the area include Alton, Peñitas, Palmview and Sullivan City. La Joya just approved the charter at the city level and is awaiting state approval.
“Some cities have to call a special election and it is a financial expense that takes away from essential services,” Muñoz said. “It (the appointment) is up to a city council …it is their option to use at their discretion.”
HB 1372 has been sent to the governor for approval, while HJR 87 needs to be approved by the voters of Texas.
House Bill 474
Muñoz said one of the most important items for Hidalgo County is HB 474, which addresses the overweight truck corridor. Currently, Texas and Mexico have different truck weight limits for drivers moving produce products.
RGV-based produce companies are forced to unload and split their shipments in Mexico prior to crossing the border, according to Muñoz. If this bill passes, he explained, the overweight truck corridor within Hidalgo County would allow trucks the ability to cross the border, then split their loads.
Creating that corridor will increase commercial traffic, provide more foreign trade and create more jobs, Muñoz said.
This bill would cover the Anzalduas International Bridge and Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, added the representative. HB 474 has been sent to Governor Rick Perry for final approval.
Shortly after the legislative session ended, the governor called a special session on redistricting. As of now more items can be added to the session, Muñoz said Wednesday.
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