Edinburg leaders meet with state legislators for ‘RGV Day’

Keeping our power at the local level just helps to protect our community-based decision making. We have full respect for the way things operate at the capitol, but we do things differently in the Valley and we want to keep that ability in place.

Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr. speaks with Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa during RGV Days in Austin. (Courtesy photo)

As part of a regional effort to advance the Rio Grande Valley’s priorities with state lawmakers, officials with the city of Edinburg met with legislators last week as part of “RGV Day at the Capitol.”

Edinburg leaders joined officials representing cities and organizations from the Valley as a unified front, hoping to communicate the needs of the region.

The “RGV Day” event was organized by the RGV Partnership, a nonprofit that “encourages collaboration between the counties of the Rio Grande Valley,” according to a news release issued by the city of Edinburg.

More than 250 people made up the coalition that traveled to Austin.

“I think our big-picture items are really consistent, even though sometimes our individual cities might have different approaches. There is strength in numbers as we push for issues like better infrastructure and strengthening our local economy,” Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr. stated in the news release. “With Valley leaders blanketing the capitol at the same time, it benefits the region as a whole, and presents a unified voice, even while we advocate for our individual cities.”

During their time at the capitol, the city’s delegation met with state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, state Reps. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-Mission and Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and with the chief of staff of state Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Mission.

The “big-ticket” items that the Edinburg delegation focused on in those meetings included economic development, infrastructure, community safety, education, health care and fortifying local government.

“Keeping our power at the local level just helps to protect our community-based decision making,” Garza said. “We have full respect for the way things operate at the capitol, but we do things differently in the Valley and we want to keep that ability in place.”

Their other priorities include expanding quality of life resources “with a special focus on funding for private parks and recreational facilities and additional hike and bike trail systems.”

Garza added the group also wants the state legislature to prioritize public safety, work on providing “meaningful” property tax relief and work on adding resources to flood mitigation and drainage improvements.”

In January, the Edinburg city council officially adopted their legislative priorities for the city.

In addition to the aforementioned topics, those priorities — compiled from feedback received from staff and the community — also included support for the continuation of local and state incentives that would help cities recruit employers, investments in educational and job placement programs.

The city also supports legislation that would enhance “an effective and sustainable” education system from early childhood.

Under community safety, the city listed increased community and neighborhood policing resources, intervention and victim protection programs, expanded social services and emergency management recovery assistance as its priorities.

They also support the removal of health care barriers for low-income, vulnerable communities and legislation that would encourage responsible pet ownership.

Education-related bills they would support are those that would expand broadband coverage, provide for suitable education facilities and educators, increase access to student meal programs and support education programs that are in line with in-demand jobs.

To assist in pushing for those priorities with lawmakers in Austin, the city hired Pathfinder Public Affairs, a McAllen-based lobbying firm, in November. The council approved a $120,000 contract with the firm.

The Texas legislative session, which takes place every two years, began on Jan. 10 and ends on May 29.

The deadline for state legislatures to file bills is March 10.

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.