Dewhurst Appoints Zaffirini Co-Chair of Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency

(AUSTIN) — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this week promoted Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency (HEGET). She served as Co-Chair from June, 2011, to January, 2013, and had served as Co-Vice Chair since then. Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, will continue to serve as Co-Chair.

The committee was created in 2011 by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, to ensure that higher education governing boards follow best practices when developing and implementing policy; provide a venue for major policy decisions to be vetted adequately and discussed transparently; and protect the excellence and high quality of our state’s institutions of higher education.

“I am grateful to Lt. Governor Dewhurst for the opportunity to serve again as Co-Chair of this important committee,” said Senator Zaffirini. “It is critical that we continue to prioritize not only accountability, excellence and transparency, but also best practices for the governing boards of Texas colleges and universities.”

During Senator Zaffirini’s previous tenure as Co-Chair, the committee held five hearings featuring testimony from Texas higher education leaders and national experts regarding institutional governance and excellence, best practices for governing boards and accountability and transparency.

Other committee members are Senators Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Kirk Watson, D-Austin; and Royce West, D-Dallas; and State Representatives Myra Crowner, R-Lake Dallas; Donna Howard, D-Austin; Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie; and Mike Villarreal, R-San Antonio.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the lieutenant governor, the speaker, my legislative colleagues, higher education leaders, students and everyone interesed in championing excellence for all Texas institutions of higher education,” said Senator Zaffirini, who also is a member and former Chair of the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee. “Texas has some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and their continued success is critical to the future of our great state.”

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, is Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency and a member of the Senate Higher Education and Finance Committees. She champions excellence, affordability and access at all Texas institutions of higher education.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, is Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency and a member of the Senate Higher Education and Finance Committees. She champions excellence, affordability and access at all Texas institutions of higher education.

Statement of Senator Judith Zaffirini Regarding the School Finance Ruling

“Judge Dietz’s ruling once again is telling us what we already know: Texas’ school finance system is unconstitutional and a disservice to Texas students. The legislature should meet its responsibility and fix the system during the legislative session that convenes on January 13. Doing so requires that we address not only inadequate education funding levels that have left our school districts without meaningful discretion in setting property tax rates, but also equity issues and outdated weights that impact negatively our ability to educate students with different needs.”

Senator Zaffirini is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI represents District 21 in the Texas Senate. The second-highest ranking senator, she is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI represents District 21 in the Texas Senate. The second-highest ranking senator, she is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr. South Texas Scholarship Awarded to 11 High-Achieving Students

(LAREDO)— Eleven outstanding students from Laredo high schools, Laredo Community College and Texas A&M International University today received $1,000 scholarships from the Mr. South Texas Foundation (MSTF).

“The Mr. South Texas Foundation’s mission is to help students transition From Scholarship to Leadership,” said Senator Judith Zaffirini, MSTF president. “Our honorees pledge to return to South Texas after meeting their impressive higher education goals, and I am delighted to recognize them as future leaders for our region.”

When the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association named her Mr. South Texas in 1999, Senator Zaffirini made a commitment to help future generations of leaders in the region. Accordingly, she established the MSTF and raised the money for the annual scholarships.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2014, the foundation has provided $139,000 in scholarships to 139 Laredo students. Each scholarship recipient is selected as his or her class’s most likely future Mr. South Texas honoree.

“Higher education can open doors of opportunity and changes lives for the better,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Accordingly, helping promising students achieve their higher education goals is one of the best investments we can make in the future of our state and region.”

The scholarship presentation ceremony was hosted by Dr. Ray Keck, president, and Dr. Minita Ramirez, dean of student success, at A&M International.

The 2014 Mr. South Texas Foundation scholarship recipients are:

  • Aurora Alaniz, Laredo Early College High School
  • Vidal Cantú, St. Augustine High School
  • Alejandro Díaz, Nixon High School
  • Esteban Elizondo, United High School
  • James Gutiérrez, Laredo Community College
  • Fernando Maciel, Lyndon B. Johnson High School
  • Rebecca Palacios, Texas A&M International University
  • David Reyes, Martin High School
  • Eduardo Salinas, Alexander High School
  • Sarai Tafolla, Cigarroa High School
  • Noe Treviño, United South High School

“These students are among the best and the brightest in South Texas,” Senator Zaffirini said. “They not only excel in academics and extracurricular activities, but also demonstrate superior commitment to their families and to our community.”

For additional information regarding the scholarship, please contact the Mr. South Texas Foundation at 956/722-2293.

"FROM SCHOLARSHIP TO LEADERSHIP" is the motto of the Mr. South Texas Foundation, which Senator Judith Zaffirini founded to provide scholarships for high-achieving students who pledge to return to South Texas after meeting their impressive higher education goals. At a ceremony on Tuesday (Aug. 19) the senator and Texas A&M International President Ray Keck congratulated the students, including standing (L-R) David Reyes, Noe Treviño III, Fernando Maciel and James A. Gutiérrez; and seated (L-R) Alejandro Gabriel Díaz, Sarai Tafolla and Aurora Alaniz.

“FROM SCHOLARSHIP TO LEADERSHIP” is the motto of the Mr. South Texas Foundation, which Senator Judith Zaffirini founded to provide scholarships for high-achieving students who pledge to return to South Texas after meeting their impressive higher education goals. At a ceremony on Tuesday (Aug. 19) the senator and Texas A&M International President Ray Keck congratulated the students, including standing (L-R) David Reyes, Noe Treviño III, Fernando Maciel and James A. Gutiérrez; and seated (L-R) Alejandro Gabriel Díaz, Sarai Tafolla and Aurora Alaniz.

Senator Zaffirini Announces Renovated Homes Available For Eligible Texas Veterans

(LAREDO)—Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today (Aug. 18) announced that renovated homes, including one in Senate District (SD) 21, are available to eligible Texas veterans through the Affordable Communities of Texas-Veterans Housing Initiative (ACT-VET).

ACT-VET, an initiative of the nonprofit Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC), rehabilitates foreclosed homes that are sold at a discount price or donated to eligible veterans with disabilities or low incomes. The SD 21 home up for donation is located in Laredo, and other homes are available in other parts of the state.

“Our veterans sacrificed so much for our country, and it is critical that we provide the support they need,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I’m delighted to champion a program that honors their service by helping them become homeowners.”

Information regarding the program’s eligibility requirements and the available homes is on TSAHC’s website (http://www.tsahc.org/developers/act-vet).

“Through our Affordable Communities of Texas-Veterans Housing Initiative we are helping deserving veterans achieve their dreams while also stabilizing communities affected by foreclosures,” said David Long, TSAHC President. “Senator Zaffirini has been a long-time advocate for veterans, and we appreciate her support in getting the word out to veterans who might be eligible for this program.”

TSAHC was established by the legislature in 1994 as a non-profit statewide affordable housing provider.

“TSAHC has been so successful not only because it has been self-sustaining, but also because it provides innovative programs that make a difference to Texas families,” Senator Zaffirini said. “These programs add to our state’s affordable housing stock and help moderate and low income Texans keep their homes or achieve homeownership for the first time.”

TSAHC is partnering with Brooke Community Development to renovate the home in Laredo and help identify deserving veterans for the program.

“We are proud to partner with TSAHC to transform foreclosed houses into quality, affordable homes for veterans and their families,” said Mike Meyer, President of Brooke Community Development. “We encourage veterans and friends of veterans to help us identify a veteran who is fully disabled and who meets the program’s eligibility requirements for a property donation.”

Veterans interested in the home available in Laredo should contact Mike Meyer at Brooke Community Development via 972/342-7747.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI presents a memorial proclamation to Korean War veteran Ernesto Sanchez in Laredo

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI presents a memorial proclamation to Korean War veteran Ernesto Sanchez in Laredo

Senate Government Organization Committee Examines State Contracting Practices and Oversight

(AUSTIN)—The Texas Senate Government Organization Committee, chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today (Aug. 14) heard extensive testimony about improving procedures and oversight for Texas’ thousands of state contracts, valued cumulatively at more than $100 billion of the state’s $200 billion budget.

“State agencies’ monitoring and reporting processes for contracting are vitally important,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Good management of programs and resources is in the public interest and allows limited state dollars to go further.”

Charged by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst with reviewing and recommending improvements to contract oversight and related state agency training, policies and procedures, the committee heard invited and public testimony from state agency officials and stakeholders.

“Prudent management of state revenue requires that agencies monitor contracts for fiscal as well as program compliance,” said Senator Zaffirini, who has championed improving state contracting and oversight since 2001, filing legislation during seven legislative sessions.

In 2013 she authored and passed Senate Bill (SB) 1681, which enhanced contract oversight by requiring the comptroller to develop training programs for contract managers; consult with state agencies in developing forms, contract terms and criteria; establish a uniform evaluation process; and track vendor performance.

Several witnesses at today’s hearing asserted the importance of proper training for state employees who manage contracts.

“The large number of contracts and the variety of statutory contracting methods demands an active and wide-ranging training program for The Texas Department of Transportation’s contract managers,” said Jim Bass, Chief Financial Officer for TxDOT.

Other witnesses stressed effective communication with state contractors.

“We need to make sure we set the expectations for all of our business customers,” said Amanda Arriaga, assistant director of administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, who also emphasized the importance of communicating information regarding contracting requirements in English and Spanish.

State Auditor John Keel, who audits state contracts regularly, identified areas of improvement in all phases of contract management, including planning, procurement, price establishment and oversight.

Julie Ivie, assistant director of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), which maintains the state contract database, recommended clarifying and streamlining contract reporting requirements.

THE SENATE GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION COMMITTEE, Chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, hears testimony from state agency officials regarding state contracting. Texas state agencies and higher education institutions manage thousands of state contracts valued at more than $100 billion cumulatively. Shown (L-R) are Senators Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Ken Paxton, R-McKinney; Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, Vice Chair; Senator Zaffirini; Rachel McClure, committee director; José Rodríguez, D-El Paso; and Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston.

THE SENATE GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION COMMITTEE, Chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, hears testimony from state agency officials regarding state contracting. Texas state agencies and higher education institutions manage thousands of state contracts valued at more than $100 billion cumulatively. Shown (L-R) are Senators Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Ken Paxton, R-McKinney; Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, Vice Chair; Senator Zaffirini; Rachel McClure, committee director; José Rodríguez, D-El Paso; and Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston.

Senator Judith Zaffirini Named to Senate Natural Resources Committee

Committee Responsible for Issues Related to Oil and Gas, Air and Water

(LAREDO) – Lt. Governor David Dewhurst on Monday (Aug. 4) named Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources.

“Serving on the Senate Natural Resources Committee will provide countless opportunities to champion the priorities of Senate District 21 families,” Senator Zaffirini said. “These priorities include promoting responsible, sustainable development of Texas’ energy resources, maintaining healthy air quality and protecting precious water sources such as the Edwards Aquifer.”

The Committee addresses issues related to energy, air quality and water, including those related to the Eagle Ford Shale and the implementation of 2013 legislation funding projects in Texas’ State Water Plan. It also has jurisdiction over matters related to the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“Thoughtful and prudent environmental stewardship is critical to the long-term viability of our state’s economy,” Senator Zaffirini said. “We believe that we can succeed only through statewide collaboration with state and local leaders, industry representatives, stakeholders, advocates and everyone interested in addressing the timely issues at hand and their impact on our great state.”

Senate District 21 is in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale and includes the majority of rigs, the majority of production and the shale’s highest-producing counties. An organizer of the 29-member Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus, Senator Zaffirini has championed short- and long-term solutions to the impacts of the shale on transportation, education, public safety, housing, the environment and other areas.

“As development continues in Texas’ energy-producing regions, we must work collaboratively to manage our natural resources responsibly, including not only our tremendous oil and gas reserves, but also our air and water,” Senator Zaffirini said.

Second in seniority in the 31-member Texas Senate, Senator Zaffirini also is Chair of the Government Organization Committee; Co-Vice Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency; and a member of the Senate Finance, Higher Education, Health and Human Services and Administration committees.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, and Railroad Commissioner David Porter, address the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus (EFSLC) at the State Capitol. She is a member of the Natural Resources Committee and an organizer of the EFSLC. The Texas Railroad Commission is the chief agency responsible for regulating the state's oil and gas industry..

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, and Railroad Commissioner David Porter, address the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus (EFSLC) at the State Capitol. She is a member of the Natural Resources Committee and an organizer of the EFSLC. The Texas Railroad Commission is the chief agency responsible for regulating the state’s oil and gas industry..