Dear friend:

I hope your preparations for the holidays and end-of-year celebrations with family and friends are going well. This time of year is always a hectic time, and like you, my staff and I have been hard at work wrapping up business for this year.

At the beginning of the month, I filed for re-election at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters, and on Dec. 2, I headed to San Antonio for the semi-annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission-North American Bank (BECC-NADB). Subsequently, we hosted the national, non-partisan Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs, which had its annual conference in Austin. I also attended several Senate Committee hearings over the past week in Austin: Border Security on Dec. 3; Education last Monday; and Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairslast Tuesday. I spent the latter part of this week in South Texas where I visited legislative colleagues and learned more about ongoing projects in the region.

Additionally, several important issues emerged over the past two weeks The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases involving Texas: Evenwel v Abbott, in which the standards for drawing state legislative and other districts could be changed to eliminate representation for children and non-citizens, and Fisher v University of Texas, in which university admissions practices are challenged. If that challenge is successful, it will further limit higher education opportunities for minorities. In Austin, I joined with the Texas Coalition to Reduce Gun Violence, a group of concerned citizens, law enforcement, and legislators, to discuss gun violence prevention. In El Paso, the City Council voted to oppose the El Paso Electric Company’s proposal to raise rates on all customers by about 10 percent, and to raise rates on customers with rooftop solar panels by double that, in addition to imposing a new solar fee.

Below, you’ll find a brief recap of each issue as well as links to additional information. As for my re-election campaign, you can donate by clicking here. It is my honor to represent the people of Senate District 29. I truly appreciate your support, which continues to drive me to serve, especially on behalf of those whose lives have been made better through the opportunities we share with each other, from education to health care to the physical and social infrastructure we fund and operate through our representative democracy.

12347953 10153660888286480 4778864578797966591 n

Click on the image to view the news conference


Border Security Subcommittee

The state’s leaders cannot even define sanctuary cities, yet they want to pass laws to ban them. That was one of the clear takeaways from the Border Security Subcommittee meeting on Dec. 3. [click here to watch the hearing]

People in this country are afraid, and becoming more so as politicians fan xenophobic fears. Frankly, it’s irresponsible, and the hate we hear from those like Donald Trump and other Republican Presidential candidates is the same whether it’s aimed at Muslims or Mexican immigrants.

The so-called “sanctuary cities” issue, no matter how it’s framed, comes from the same place. It’s a problem when politicians cannot even define what they mean by an issue they deem serious enough to pass laws about. The experts on public safety — local police and sheriffs — said that these proposals would actually make their jobs more difficult and erode community trust. We discussed this and other elements of the issue in a news conference prior to the hearing. [click here to watch the news conference video]

Education Committee

During the Senate Education Committee hearing we discussed charter school accountability, financial needs, and expansion. We heard testimony from experts like the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) that many charter operators continue to yield poor student performance results when compared to the traditional public schools. When it comes to the additional facility funding for charter schools versus schools districts, Judge Deitz, who presided over the school finance trial, found that schools with more than 80 percent economically disadvantaged students are on average 41 years old and have the lowest proportion of “good” or “excellent” facility ratings from administrators. The trial found that charters, on the other hand, have access to revenue in excess of what is available to school districts, and that revenue is available to meet charter schools’ facilities needs. [click here to watch the hearing]

Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs

We discussed several issues, chief among these increases to fees set to take effect in January for certain licenses, permits and other services administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). By all accounts, the fee increases are significant, but the Agriculture Commissioner made an impassioned argument that TDA has previously had neglected to bite the bullet and incrementally increase fees in the past, instead moving money around from other programs to ensure the agency meets its core functions of consumer protection — through, for example, food safety inspections and ensuring scales and meters used in everything from deli counters to gas pumps are accurate. I expect this issue will be revisited throughout the interim and into the next legislative session. [click here to watch the hearing]

El Paso Electric rate hike

The City Council did the right thing in deciding to contest El Paso Electric’s rate proposal, which would raise rates for all residential customers by about 10 percent, and at least double that for customers with rooftop solar. This is particularly troubling because residential solar installation is rapidly growing in El Paso, providing relief to the grid and creating well-paying building trades jobs. I look forward to the City vigorously advocating for all El Paso Electric customers as the rate case progresses.

Evenwel and Fisher

Two cases suing Texas were brought by a conservative anti-minority rights group called the Project on Fair Representation.

Evenwel v. Abbott is a case challenging the essence of what it means to be a constituent. The plaintiffs want to exclude children and non-citizen immigrants from being counted when redistricting lines are drawn. This would be devastating for minority representation and completely turns 50 years of jurisprudence on the 14th Amendment on its head.

Should the plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott prevail, millions of people – children, legal permanent residents, and other taxpaying members of our community – would cease to exist for purposes of representation in government. Not only is this inequitable, it goes against the fundamental American principle of one person, one vote, which means everyone counts. Our job is to represent all of the people in our communities, and it’s sad to see some trying to create a second class of people who are deemed unworthy of representation. The Evenwel case is another attempt to roll back decades of progress under the Voting Rights Act and diminish the rights of Latino and minority communities. You can read more about the case [here]

Fisher v. University of Texas challenges diversity considerations in the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin. By all accounts, UT’s admissions process, which blends automatic admission from the Top Ten Percent Plan with a holistic review of non-top 10 percent students’ applications, has resulted in greater diversity and stronger academic classes at our state’s flagship university. It’s disappointing that the plaintiff in the case, who had a weak application, seeks to undermine the progress made in minority access to institutions of higher education. You can read about the case [[here] (].

Gun Violence Prevention

Without question, gun violence is an epidemic in the country. Although statistics show that your chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime is at the lowest point in decades, mass shootings are taking place more frequently. In terms of our state, Texas has received an “F” from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence for its gun laws.

We all know that Texas expanded gun rights for gun owners last session. Now it’s time to focus on how we can also help ensure that we reduce the gun violence that is plaguing our communities, and help to make Texans more safe. As a member of the American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, I have been involved in a dialogue with other state legislators about this problem, and what we can do to improve public safety in Texas. And as we discussed during the Texas Coalition to Reduce Gun Violence meeting in Austin, there are many solutions to explore, but sensible, proven laws that other states have enacted is a good place to start.

Next session, I hope to have bipartisan support for common-sense measures. Texas should have universal background checks, to ensure that everyone who purchases a gun, regardless of place, is screened. We need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and those at high risk of hurting themselves or others. We can improve our laws to ensure that those that have a history of domestic violence do not have access to a gun. Finally, we should strengthen our child access laws to better protect children. 500 children are injured or killed by firearms every year; this is unacceptable.

I know that if our leaders can find the courage and will to look at the facts, we can find a way to both protect Second Amendment rights, and better protect our citizens as a whole.

12314744 10153835821097952 4085760834757309418 o


The BECC-NADB is an important institution you may not know about. The institutions, which at our meeting Dec. 2 finalized amendments to the BECC-NADB charter for their integration into a single entity, were created in 1994 to identify, fund, and develop projects that would address the environmental and infrastructure needs in the U.S.-Mexico border region. To date, NADB has contracted $2.6 billion in loans and grants for 215 BECC-certified infrastructure projects, which have been aimed at supplying safe drinking water, adequately treating wastewater, properly disposing of solid waste, and improving air quality through street paving and clean energy generation. We need less hysteria about the border, and more of this type of model of border cooperation.


As you can see, my office has been extremely busy, ending the year as we started, working hard on behalf of the people of Texas Senate District 29. I hope that your year is ending well, and wish you a very safe and happy holiday season!


« »