Abbott signs two Zika-related bills

BROWNSVILLE — Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law two bills this month that will vastly improve the state’s response to Zika.

The first, Senate Bill 1680, establishes a border task force that will lead to better communication between state and local border health officials.

The second, House Bill 3576, will provide more resources to the Department of State Health Services in tracking, studying and preventing the spread of the Zika virus.

SB 1680 was authored by state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. He called the legislation a step forward in providing additional health care services to both the Rio Grande Valley and the state.

Zika is a “silent enemy” that could impact the health of many communities if left alone, Lucio said.

“The task force will hopefully make recommendations relating to health problems, conditions and challenges that populations of the border region face, that if (the legislature) addresses, we won’t have in their area of the state,” Lucio said.

HB 3576 was authored by state Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen. Last week, Guerra said it was imperative that the state be proactive against Zika, especially in the coming summer months.

“South Texas is on the front lines of combating this virus, and I am proud to have passed legislation and secured much needed funding to ensure the people of South Texas have the adequate resources needed,” Guerra said in a press release.

Guerra said he secured $500,000 in the state’s two-year budget that would be used specifically for border counties. The funds will go toward prevention, epidemiology, surveillance and education of Zika.

Both pieces of legislation will take effect Sept. 1.