Survivors of sexual assault must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. If SB 409 is passed, Texas will reaffirm its commitment to support every sexual assault survivor and hold their perpetrators accountable.
Three Hidalgo County legislators announced bills this week that focus on strengthening the rights of sexual assault victims, adding protections for law enforcement and first responders, and bolstering health care in the Rio Grande Valley.
On Thursday, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, announced he filed a bill that he says would further empower victims of sexual assault while ensuring they receive fair and sensitive treatment in the criminal justice system.
The bill, if passed, would create minimal rules of engagement for prosecutors to better the experience for a victim. The legislation would also clarify and strengthen constitutional rights for crime victims while not hindering prosecutorial discretion or creating unworkable penalties.
“Survivors of sexual assault must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. If SB 409 is passed, Texas will reaffirm its commitment to support every sexual assault survivor and hold their perpetrators accountable,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “I look forward to working with State Representative Jeff Leach and getting this bill to Governor Abbott’s desk.”
Hinojosa encouraged anyone who is the victim of sexual violence to call the 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673) to be routed to a nearby service provider.
“If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, you are not alone and there are many resources available that can help and offer support for survivors,” Hinojosa said.
On Wednesday, state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, announced a bill package aimed at strengthening benefits for first responders and Texas law enforcement officials who are hurt on the job.
Canales filed four bills in this package.
One ensures death benefits filed with an insurance carrier are forwarded to the Texas Department of Insurance for proper filing, which he said would make it easier for families to file for death benefits.
Another bill would narrow exclusions that keep firefighters and EMTs from obtaining proper cancer coverage.
A third bill would make sure that first responders aren’t fired based on not being able to perform their normal duties if an insurer is fighting against providing them the care needed to get well and back to work.
I am filing this package of bills because I believe our state should have a system that is fair to Texas workers and does not give all the power to the insurance carrier.
Lastly, Canales filed a bill that would narrow exclusions restricting coverage of cancer, heart attacks and strokes for police and detention officers.
In a statement, Canales said first responders injured on the job have the odds stacked against them because of an unfair workers’ compensation system.
“I am filing this package of bills because I believe our state should have a system that is fair to Texas workers and does not give all the power to the insurance carrier,” Canales said, adding that he is working with the Combined Law Enforcement of Texas, or CLEAT, which is a police union, on the bill package. “Our first responders sacrifice their health and safety for the people of Texas. If they are injured on the job, the least we can do is ensure that they are given proper care.”
Charley Wilkison, CLEAT’s executive director, said Texas’ worker compensation system sets the worker up for failure and claim denials.
“For decades, CLEAT has fought for police officers who have been wronged by the system,” Wilkison said in a statement.
These new bills are part of my robust legislative package intended to advance the priorities and improve the lives of my constituents in the Rio Grande Valley and the residents of our great state of Texas.
He thanked Canales for the bill package.
“He understands that law enforcement officers are working folks who risk a lot every day,” Wilkison said.
On Monday, state Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, announced his third bill package, which targets health care while working to improve bilingual education and to target hidden and junk fees and difficult cancellation policies.
“Today I filed eight more bills for the 88th Legislative Session, bringing the total number of bills I have filed to 19,” Guerra said in a statement. “These new bills are part of my robust legislative package intended to advance the priorities and improve the lives of my constituents in the Rio Grande Valley and the residents of our great state of Texas.”
The bills aim to bring more health care professionals to the Valley, to establish a Rural Health Education Center at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, to improve bilingual education across the state and to “reduce the nickel and diming of everyday Texans through hidden and junk fees and difficult cancellation policies.”
“I am especially proud of HB 2166, which designates March 4th as COVID Heroes and Memorial Day,” Guerra said. “March 4th, 2020, was the first confirmed case of COVID in Texas, and I filed this bill to pay tribute to the victims and heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To find a comprehensive list of bills filed — and the status of those bills — visit MyRGV.com and click the 88th Texas Legislative Session tab, which has an interactive spreadsheet and a comprehensive list of AIM Media Texas’ legislative coverage.