85th Legislative Session Wrap Up

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End of Session Report June 2017

Entering this legislative session in my third term in office, I am grateful for once again being able to serve our great State of Texas on behalf of you, the constituents of House District 35. During session, I was honored to have been named the Vice-Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, being reappointed to the Investments and Financial Services Committee, and newly appointed to the Local & Consent Calendar Committee. Most notably, I was also given the opportunity to lead as the Chairman for the Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles I, IV, and V and as an appointed House Conferee for the state budget (S.B. 1). This session was no doubt one for the record as we tackled a variety of imperative issues with the constraints of a tight budget. However, I am happy with the many funding and legislative victories we enacted that will continue to positively impact Texan families.

One of my main priorities throughout the session was to ensure that the state budget for the 2018-2019 biennium would positively benefit the people of Texas. Although there were discrepancies within the House and Senate versions of the budget and we were not able to get funding for everything that we originally wanted, we were able to negotiate and come to an agreement on top priorities.

On June 6th, 2017, Governor Abbott announced what everyone had already anticipated would happen, a special session. On July 18th I will be returning to Austin, along with my legislative colleagues, to address the 20 special items the Governor has instructed we address. I understand that it is my duty to represent the great people of District 35 and that is exactly what I will continue to do!

I hope you will find this legislative update helpful in understanding the many investments we made and the priorities we addressed during the session. As always, I feel there is more that could have been done, but for now, each of these items was crucial to the progress of our state’s economy, programs, agencies, and most importantly, our constituency.

Your State Representative,

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THE STATE BUDGET

The Texas Constitution requires the Legislature to balance its budget every year without borrowing against future receipts. That bars the government from deficit spending and forces lawmakers, who meet for 20 weeks every two years, to constantly balance demands for programs and services against voters’ desire to limit taxes, fees and other costs of government.

The budget appropriates over $106.7 billion in General Revenue and $216.7 billion in All Funds (AF). While this is a lean budget, it continues to put Texans first and prioritizes education, transportation, border security, and mental health.
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We have worked diligently to address the state’s most pressing issues and I am confident that while we may not have funded all programs and agencies to the extent we would have liked to, we did fund them to the best amount allowable, given our budget constraints. As the Vice-Chairman of Appropriations, I worked conscientiously to ensure that any reductions made were done so responsibly, keeping in mind the millions of Texas families that are affected by the decisions we make. Therefore, I can present this budget proudly to you, knowing that it has been crafted with the best intentions and addresses the needs of our state.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS DIRECTLY IMPACTING
MY DISTRICT AND THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY

Healthcare: $24.5 million in general revenue (GR) ($56.8 million AF) to restore approximately 25% of the Medicaid therapy rate reductions implemented in December 2016; $300 million to replace or significantly repair state hospitals and other inpatient mental health facilities throughout the state; $62.6 million to eliminate the current and projected waiting lists for community mental health services for adults and children; and $37.5 million to establish a mental health community grant program targeted towards jail diversion (HB 12). I worked alongside Chairwoman Sarah Davis (R – Houston) to secure $600,000 in the biennium to implement a sentinel surveillance program to monitor emerging and neglected tropical diseases (which includes Zika) through the Department of State Health Services.

UTRGV: The appropriation for the UTRGV medical school is $53.5 million ($11.5 million in formula and $42 million in special item funding). I am most proud to have secured funding for Graduate Medical EducationAdditional $44.1 million in expansion money to increase the number of residencies, which will greatly help our new UTRGV School of Medical and future cohorts. Also, I was able to secure $5 million for Space X.

Education: Financial Aidadditional $71.4 million for TEXAS grants covering 92% of eligible students and $2 million for Texas Education Opportunity Grants (TEOG) to community college students. Community Colleges received an additional $18 million into Core Funding and $11.4 million into Success Points. TRS – additional $350 million to continue the program and lessen the burden on retirees. Chairman Longoria also assisted in appropriating $1 million for the Library & Archives Commission to assist public libraries in applying for E-Rate funding and one-year of support for increased broadband costs at discounted rates, especially vital for our rural communities and schools.

Border Security: As Chairman of Articles I, IV, & V, I secured $3.2 million in GR funding for a Law Enforcement Operations Center in Penitas. The Law Enforcement Operations Center facility will accommodate 30 Texas Highway Patrol officers and have sufficient space for offices and meeting space. Additionally, SB1 provides $25 million in grants to local law enforcement for bulletproof vests under the Trusteed Programs within the Office of the Governor.

First Responders: I was also able to direct $1 million GR in grants to reimburse first responder agencies (including professional and volunteer fire departments) in the border region for costs incurred while providing emergency response services associated with the execution of law enforcement activities relating to border security.

Border Prosecution Unit: Continuing to fund their mission -This session I was able to secure $12 million in GR funding to continue to fund the BPU. In the 84th Legislative session, I passed HB 12 which put into statute the structure and duties of the state’s BPU, which was formed in 2010 after the Legislature appropriated $2 million per year to help border district attorneys handle swelling caseloads. It is made up of 17 jurisdictions including all of the counties on the border and their surrounding areas. An assistant district attorney from each DAs office is assigned to handle the additional prosecutions of border crimes — smuggling, violent crimes, money laundering and gang activity associated with cartels. They work with Federal officials, Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cases.

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Vice-Chair Longoria pictured with Chairman Zerwas Vice-Chair Longoria pictured with full
House Appropriations Committee

CONSTITUENTS VISIT THE STATE CAPITOL

During session, I was happy to meet with my constituents and residents from all across the Rio Grande Valley.

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During the 85th Legislative Session I worked alongside my colleagues in the House and in the Senate to craft meaningful laws that benefit not only my district, but the entire state of Texas. Governor Abbott recently signed a few of these bills into law and I am proud to share the following with you

CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICE REFORM BILLS

Four child welfare bills were into law that aim to recalibrate how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services works with endangered children across the state.

HB 4: Aims to lower financial barriers to kinship care, which places children with relatives or close family friends

HB 5: Makes CPS a standalone agency that reports directly to the governo

HB 7: Directs the Department of Family and Protective Services only to remove children from their homes over allegations of violence or abuse

SB 11 *: Gives contracted organizations ability to monitor children in foster or adoptive homes

 

MY OTHER BILLS

HB 2306
This bill gives law enforcement agencies additional reimbursement of funds from auction proceeds, which in turn allows for greater compensation to private property owners whose property was damaged because of a pursuit involving an abandoned motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft motor vehicle.

HB 1697
Access to pediatric subspecialists is severely limited in some areas of the state and is possible only by medical transport over long distances, which is disruptive to families and potentially expensive. This bill improves access to pediatric subspecialist care, connects rural hospitals to the state’s advanced pediatric specialists, and reduces the number of fragile infants who must be transferred to large urban centers for specialty care through the establishment of a grant program.

HB 2580
This bill changes the law to allow the Savings and Mortgage Lending Commissioner authority to inquire with DPS regarding criminal background checks of individuals over whom the commissioner has such authority (applicant for or holder of a license, charter, contractor, subcontractor, employee, intern).

HB 1099
Current state law prohibits landlords from prohibiting residential tenants the right to summon police or emergency assistance or impose monetary penalties on residential tenants who summon police or emergency assistance in response to family violence. This bill will ensure that all Texans have access to emergency assistance by prohibiting a landlord’s ability to prevent or dissuade tenants from calling for emergency help if they reasonably believe that an individual needs intervention or emergency assistance.

HB 3921
This bill protects the financial well-being of certain vulnerable adults by authorizing financial institutions, securities dealers, and investment advisers to place a hold on suspicious transactions involving these vulnerable adults and by requiring the reporting of suspected financial exploitation.

HB 3276
This bill takes important steps to require greater transparency at freestanding ERs to ensure consumers receive adequate information to make informed healthcare decisions for them and their families. This bill amends current law relating to notice of health benefit plan provider network status provided by certain freestanding emergency medical care facilities.

HB 1983
This bill seeks to remedy issues within the current system to make PTSD, as diagnosed by the American Psychiatric Association, a compensable injury under workers’ compensation. This bill gives a fire fighter or police officer the option to apply for benefits under workers’ compensation for PTSD without declaring a mental impairment, providing they meet the diagnostic criteria and the condition was caused by an event occurring within the scope of their employment as a fire fighter or police officer.

HB 377
This bill allows all surviving spouses of deceased veterans the ability to order the same specialty plates that the veteran would have been able to order if they were still alive. This benefit remains in place so long as the surviving spouse does not remarry; it also closes the loophole in current statute that prevents a spouse of a deceased veteran from being able to honor the memory of their loved one’s service to our nation.

HB 355
This bill prohibits registered sex offenders from living in on-campus dormitories or other housing facilities. The bill also enables institutions of higher education to decide if a registered sex offender who is rated at the lowest likelihood of reoffending can live in on-campus housing.

HB 62
This bill establishes a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of not more than $99 for a first-time offense or $200 if the offender has been previously convicted for the same offense, for using a hand held device to read, write, or send a text based communication while operating a moving vehicle that is not stopped.

HB 2937
This bill amends current law relating to the establishment of a pilot program under which a licensed hospital may offer dual credit courses to public high school students. While many dual-credit offerings are useful for students who intend to enter the medical field, there is not currently an opportunity for hospitals to work directly with students who wish to obtain industry certifications to become sonography, radiology, or patient care technicians. These courses will help students work towards receiving Texas Workforce Commission-approved industry certifications in these high-need medical fields, contributing to the effort to fulfill our state’s growing healthcare workforce needs.

OTHER STATE WIDE BILLS PASSED

SB 7 : Requires principals and superintendents to report cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students or face a state jail felony or a fine of up to $10,000. It goes into effect Sept. 1

SB 16 : This bill reduces the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the renewal fee from $70 to $40. A license to carry permit is valid in Texas for five years. The new fee will go into effect on Sept. 1.

 


Team longoria


I want to thank my staff for all the hard work this past session!
Pictured left to right:

Arturo Limones, Tony Flores, Michelle Villarreal, Oscar Longoria, Alejandra Robledo, Steven Lopez, Lee Loya


mcn video interview

Earlier this session, I sat down with McAllen Cable News to discuss the ongoing legislative session, the budget process, and my legislative priorities. Since our interview, I was appointed to the Conference Committee— a key role in which I have the opportunity, alongside my House & Senate colleagues, to decide the final Biennium budget.