El Paso lawmakers attend session wrap-up at Natural Gas Center


Jasmine Aguilera

(Left-right) Communication Professor Richard Pineda, State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Rep. Joe Pickett, Rep. Marisa Marquez, Rep. Joe Moody, Rep. Naomi Gonzalez and Rep. Mary Gonzalez speak at the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center for the 83rd Legislature Wrap-Up.

Jasmine Aguilera, Editor-in-chief

El Paso lawmakers gathered on campus Thursday for the close of the 83rd Texas Legislature. The group discussed El Paso issues including agriculture, health care and student concerns.

El Paso representatives and State Sen. José Rodriguez, all Democrats, attended the wrap-up, moderated by communication professor Richard Pineda.

“I think (sessions like this) help inform students about the critical issues that are affecting them directly,” Rodriguez said in an interview after the wrap-up. “The legislative process results in laws getting passed that affect each and every one of us, and it’s important for students to know what’s happening in the Capitol.”

Rodriguez said increases in tuition, financial assistance programs and university funding for research are issues the Texas Legislature has control of and students should pay attention to those matters.

The El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center, the wrap-up’s location, filled up despite the rainy weather and multiple traffic delays. The event was planned in partnership with UTEP’s Department of Communication and Newspaper Tree, a local non-profit online publication.

The representatives said the 83rd Texas Legislative Session—which adjourned May 27, but continued with three special sessions to focus on abortion law—was a failure for women’s health.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, garnered national attention when she filibustered an anti-abortion bill. Republican Gov. Rick Perry then held the sessions in continuous efforts to pass it.

El Paso State Rep. Mary González said women in this area are at a disadvantage in the situation because those seeking an abortion may need to travel long distances for the procedure, and not all women have the means to afford a trip.

Rep. Joe Pickett said a vast number of elected officials will be replaced in the 84th session, including the Governors’ position, and the state may see a more moderate legislature with more Democrats.

“It’s actually kind of exciting,” Pickett said. “I think that we saw in this last delegation how important taking El Paso’s message forward and then dividing (roles) is going to be.”

Rodriguez said he hopes more events such as this wrap-up will take place on campus.

“This is one way of reporting back to the community as legislators,” he said. “What we were able to accomplish, where we fell short, what needs to be done for the next time around and also…some explanation of how the legislative process works.”

Rodriguez said he and the representatives are going to try to pass tuition revenue bonds in the 84th Legislative Session, which will take place January 2015. The bonds are dedicated to the funding of university research buildings.

Jasmine Aguilera may be reached at [email protected]