Senator Zaffirini Announces Counties Eligible for TxDOT Program

(AUSTIN) – Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Friday) that 10 Senate District 21 counties are eligible for the Economically Disadvantaged Counties Program (EDCP). Bee, Dimmit, Duval, Frio, Karnes, La Salle, San Patricio, Starr, Webb and Zavala counties are eligible to apply for this Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) program, which provides assistance for transportation projects such as right of way, project development and construction costs.

Eligibility for the EDCP program is based upon a county having above average unemployment rates, below average per capita incomes and below average per capita taxable property values as compared to other counties. To qualify, a county must meet all three of these criteria.

“The EDCP program is important because eligible counties may apply for the program and receive assistance in improving local transportation issues,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I am delighted that there is an opportunity for counties in my district to access needed funds.

“These grants will allow eligible counties to enhance the safety, health and well-being of our mutual constituents and will improve greatly the quality of life for residents.

Zaffirini Opposes Risking State Pension Funds to Finance Toll Roads

(AUSTIN) — State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) today (Wednesday) expressed anew her opposition to risking state pension funds to finance toll roads.

“It’s bad enough that some Texans’ land is being taken to build roads that those same Texans later would be charged to utilize. It would be even worse for the state to risk the retirement funds of retired state employees and teachers to pay for them,” she said.

The Texas Transportation Commission reportedly is looking into the possibility of using the state’s pension funds to finance road projects.

“The focus of those who invest our pension funds should be solely on maximizing our return on the investments, not in funding risky and unproven toll road schemes which most Texans do not support,” Senator Zaffirini said.

She added that recent weakness in the U.S. economy and tremendous volatility in investment markets affected the state’s pension funds negatively and that requiring those funds to finance toll road projects would make a challenging situation more difficult for fund managers.

“Retired teachers and state employees need to know that the state’s pension funds are solvent. Placing those funds in jeopardy by funding toll road projects sends a signal to our teachers and state employees that their retirement funds are at risk, at the whim of political pressures,” Senator Zaffirini said.

During the most recent legislative session, Senator Zaffirini voted in favor of legislation that would have placed a two-year moratorium on Trans-Texas Corridor projects. Following a veto by Governor Rick Perry, the legislature then passed compromise legislation that sharply curtailed plans to build these toll roads.

SYMPOSIUM TO FOCUS ON ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF LONG-TERM CARE

(AUSTIN) — A coalition of statewide disability and human service organizations will hold a one-day symposium on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Texas Capitol, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Monday). The Long Term Services and Supports for Texans: Economic and Policy Implications symposium will be held at the Legislative Conference Center, Capitol Extension E2.002, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Nationally renowned researchers will review trends in service delivery and new approaches to solving the long-term healthcare crisis. A panel of legislators will discuss critical issues regarding services for seniors and persons with disabilities in Texas.

“This symposium is an opportunity for legislators, staff and industry leaders to share information about gaps in healthcare services,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Providing long term services and support for all Texans, especially for persons with limited resources, always has been my top priority. I will continue to champion legislation for persons with complex needs.”

Speakers at the symposium include opening remarks by Senator Zaffirini, chair; keynote speaker, Charles Reed, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP); Jon Hockenyos, Texas Perspectives (TXP); Dr. John Agosta and Bob Gettings, Human Services Research Institute; Carla Penny, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP); Pamela McNab, Michigan Department of Social and Health Services; Donna Fulkemer, National Conference of State Legislatures; and Dr. David Braddock, Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.

Additional information is available from Senator Zaffirini’s staff via 512/463-0121.

Senator Judith Zaffirini Highlights Impact of Hunting Season on South Texas

Named “Alpha Doe” by Texas Deer Association

State Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today highlighted the start of deer hunting season, citing both the recreational value and positive economic impact to South Texans.

“Opening day of deer season is exciting for our communities, and it also infuses dollars into our local economies. It is a win-win for South Texas communities. I will continue to strongly support efforts to expand hunting opportunities in South Texas,” Senator Zaffirini said.

A recent study commissioned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission concluded that hunting activities in Texas in 2006 generated more than $2.6 billion in retail sales, supporting more than 44,000 jobs, and created almost $1.5 billion in salaries and earnings.

“Hunting is not only great fun for many families, it’s also great business,” Senator Zaffirini said.

The senator’s support for hunting earned her an Outstanding Legislator award from the Texas Deer Association and the title of “Alpha Doe,” in recognition of her pioneering leadership for the deer industry of Texas.

Senator Zaffirini’s efforts to promote deer hunting are highlighted by her legislative work to support deer harvesting, including her bill that authorizes the sale and transportation of white tail deer by scientific breeders, and legislation that created a select committee to study the deer breeding industry and its economic contributions to Texas.

“People from all over the world are attracted to South Texas because of our excellent deer hunting. While here, these tourists have a great time, and they infuse money into our local economies. I support investing in improvements to the South Texas deer herd because it’s good business,” Zaffirini said.

Deer season begins in earnest on Nov. 1 this year. Archery season has already begun.

The full text of the Texas Deer Association “Alpha Doe” award to Senator Zaffirini is worth noting:

For a few weeks each year, bucks gather to bicker and fight, putting the deer woods in a terrible stir. Hunters and landowners seem to focus only on bucks and, more specifically, antlers. Yet, once the rut is over, bucks drop those all important head gear and retire to lick their wounds and wait for the time to pass until the next year’s rut. During the majority of the year, however, order in the deer society is maintained by the does. Chief among these is the “alpha doe.” She is the one responsible for maintaining order. She is the one that is constantly vigilant for any signs of danger. She quietly keeps the younger does in line, teaching them by example; and, when necessary, through a not-so-gentle reminder that order and survival are the most important things in the deer woods. The alpha doe is the “glue” that binds deer society. Without her, deer society would collapse. So, appropriately, we have created an award, in high tribute and fond esteem, the “Alpha Doe Award” to Senator Judith Zaffirini who, through her guidance, gentle grace and calm strength, embodies these same leadership qualities, ever vigilant to protect our state, its citizens and resources.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI receives “Alpha Doe” award by the Texas Deer Association in recognition of her pioneering leadership for the deer industry of Texas. She is vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and presides over two higher education subcommittees at the Texas Capitol.

Senator Zaffirini Announces More Than 1,000 Classrooms Awarded Texas School Ready Certification

(AUSTIN) — The State Center for Early Childhood Education at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (State Center) recognized 1,123 early education classrooms across the state as Texas School Ready, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Tuesday).

Public pre-kindergarten, Head Start and private childcare classrooms that apply and meet the criteria are considered for certification. Almost 75 percent of applying classrooms were awarded certification for the 2008-09 school year, an increase of almost 10 percent from 2007-08. What’s more, the State Center increased the total number of certified classrooms this year by 42 percent.

This certification program was created by Senator Zaffirini’s Senate Bill 76 (2003), which also created the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM), and Senate Bill 23 (2005), which expanded TEEM and directed the State Center to develop a school readiness system that would ensure children who leave early childhood programs are ready for kindergarten.

Pre-schools and child-care centers apply yearly to the State Center and provide information about classrooms and educational programs, including the learning environment and curriculum. Children attending applicant classrooms are followed from pre-k into kindergarten and evaluated by the State Center for early reading and social development to determine if the pre-k classroom effectively prepared the student for success in elementary school.

“I am delighted that so many classrooms across the state received this important accreditation that will improve the quality of pre-kindergarten education in our community,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Quality child care programs provide a positive, long-term economic development impact by allowing parents to re-enter the workforce with the knowledge that their children are prepared for school.”

SENATOR ZAFFIRINI PROMOTES BREAST CANCER AWARENESS

(AUSTIN) — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Monday). Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women who are 50 and older, and breast cancer deaths have declined.

“This is exciting progress,” Senator Zaffirini said, “but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.”

Women older than 65 are less likely to get mammograms than younger women, even though breast cancer risk increases with age. Hispanic women have fewer mammograms than Caucasian and African American women. Women below the poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the last two years.

“If all women older than 40 took advantage of early detection methods, such as mammography plus a clinical breast exam, breast cancer death rates would drop dramatically, perhaps up to 30 percent,” Senator Zaffirini said. “The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely. Once is not enough.”

More women than men are diagnosed with breast cancer, but approximately 1,500 men also are afflicted each year. Breast cancer is a disease that affects many persons directly or through someone they know and love.

“In 1997 I was proud to author and pass Senate Bill 217, which requires health benefit plans that provide coverage for a mastectomy to include coverage for reconstructing affected and unaffected breasts,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Coverage is subject to the same deductible or co-payment applicable to a mastectomy. I will continue to champion legislation for persons struggling with cancer and other medical conditions.”

Health issues for both men and women are top priorities for Senator Zaffirini. She and Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, co-authored Senate Bill 258 (1997), which requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for early detection tests of prostate cancer.

Additional information about NBCAM is available via www.nbcam.org or from the American Cancer Society, 800/227-2345; National Cancer Institute (NCI), 800/4-CANCER; or Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, 800/221-2141.

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Fifteen national public service organizations, professional associations, and government agencies comprise the Board of Sponsors. They collaborate to ensure that the NBCAM message is heard by thousands of women and their families.

Senator Zaffirini Announces 2009 Legislative Scholars and Fellows Program

(AUSTIN) — Friday, Oct. 17, is the deadline for submitting applications for the 2009 Senator Gregory Luna Legislative Scholars and Fellows Program, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Wednesday). Sponsored by the Senate Hispanic Research Council, the program selects and assigns undergraduate and graduate students to a state senator or to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.

Program participants will receive a $2,000 monthly stipend to assist with living expenses.

“Working side-by-side with experienced professionals, Luna scholars and fellows will learn how the Texas Legislature operates and policies are created,” Senator Zaffirini said. “They will perform a variety of legislative tasks, including writing legislative research summaries; tracking bills; and drafting constituent correspondence, legislative statements, articles and press releases.”

The program will begin on Jan. 7 and end on the last day of the legislative session, June 1. Weekly leadership development sessions and presentations, professional training workshops, and meetings will enhance the intensive work experience of participants.

“Senator Luna was a fierce advocate of education, particularly public education,” Senator Zaffirini said. “His legacy was built on hard work and staunch advocacy. Students who share his motivation are encouraged to apply for the fellowships.

“The Luna program provides a unique and remarkable insight into government and policy for its scholars and fellows. Since 2001 51 Texas students have served as Luna Scholars, including three who were assigned to my Capitol office.”

Applications can be downloaded from the Senate Hispanic Research Council website at www.tshrc.org. Additional information is available from Senator Zaffirini’s office via Michael Dole, legislative aide – 956/722-2293 or [email protected]