Senator Judith Zaffirini Named Texas Oil & Gas Legislative Champion

Senator Judith Zaffirini was named a Legislative Champion by Texas oil and gas leaders at the 12th biennial Future of the Region South Texas (FORSTX) conference in Corpus Christi on Tuesday (Oct. 28).

“Senator Zaffirini is a tireless energy advocate, and this award is a symbol of our appreciation for recognizing that a robust oil and gas sector helps to keep our state economically strong,” said Luke Legate, who presented the award on behalf of the Statewide Joint Association Education Initiative, a group of nine leading organizations of the state’s oil and natural gas industry.

Initiative members are the Texas Oil & Gas Association, Texas Pipeline Association, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Foundation for Energy Education, Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, Texas Royalty Council, Permian Basin Petroleum Association, South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable and Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association.

A member of the Senate Finance and Natural Resources Committees and the organizer of the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus, Senator Zaffirini prioritizes collaborating with state and local leaders and industry to address the opportunities and challenges associated with oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford Shale.

“The oil and gas industry has created more than 300,000 jobs in our state and contributes billions of dollars annually to state government, thereby reducing the state’s fiscal woes and funding critical infrastructure, health and education programs,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Our challenge now is to leverage this economic success by making key investments that will prepare our region and state for the future.”

Texas Workforce Commissioner Hope Andrade, Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Senator Zaffirini were the keynote speakers at the conference where South Texas leaders focused on key issues including economic and workforce development, healthcare, border security, transportation and energy.

“The Future of the Region conference is a wonderful opportunity for stakeholders from throughout South Texas to work together in developing solutions to some of our most pressing challenges,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I continue to be inspired by South Texans’ dedication to our communities. This optimistic vision for the future of our region and is the foundation for ensuring prosperous, sustainable communities. Every two years, the impressive position paper generated at the conference provides realistic ideas for state legislators and other policymakers.”

FORSTX is a community and regional planning organization that brings together leaders from 47 South Texas counties, including 14 in Senate District 21, namely, Atascosa, Bee, Bexar, Duval, Jim Hogg, Karnes, La Salle, Live Oak, McMullen, San Patricio, Starr, Webb, Wilson and Zapata. Senator Zaffirini has been at the forefront of the organization since its inception in 1986 and has addressed all of its conferences.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI accepts the Legislative Champion Award from the oil and gas industry’s Statewide Joint Association Education Initiative. She is shown with (L-R) Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff, Gloria Leal of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Luke Legate of the Joint Association Education Initiative and San Patricio County Judge Terry Simpson.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI accepts the Legislative Champion Award from the oil and gas industry’s Statewide Joint Association Education Initiative. She is shown with (L-R) Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff, Gloria Leal of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Luke Legate of the Joint Association Education Initiative and San Patricio County Judge Terry Simpson.

 

Senator Judith Zaffirini Attends Bee County Retired School Personnel Bruncheon

Senator Judith Zaffirini on Tuesday (Oct. 7) spoke to members of the Bee County Retired School Personnel about important issues affecting Texas’ retired teachers and school employees.

“As the state senator for Bee County, I am delighted to champion the needs and priorities of our retired teachers and school employees,” said Senator Zaffirini, who has 13 years of teaching experience. “What’s more, I am grateful for their many dedicated years of service in education, during which they have impacted positively the lives of countless Texas students.”

A member of the Senate Finance Committee, she champions funding that enhances the financial stability of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), which is the country’s sixth largest public pension fund.

During the 2013 legislative session the state budget (Senate Bill 1) increased the state’s contribution rate from 6.4 percent to 6.8 percent, an increase of more than $200 million.

Senator Zaffirini also praised the efforts of retirees who helped secure the passage of Senate Bill 1458, which made the TRS system actuarially sound, thereby allowing a cost-of-living increase for thousands of retirees for the first time in more than 11 years.

The increase was originally set to cover only those who had retired in 1994 or earlier, but Senator Zaffirini worked to expand the raise to all retirees who retired in 2004 or earlier.

“I only wish we could have expanded it to include all retired teachers and school employees,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Because we made TRS actuarially sound, however, we enhanced the likelihood of future cost-of-living increases for additional retirees.”

Because 95 percent of the system’s members do not participate in Social Security, TRS is the only lifetime annuity for thousands of retired teachers and school employees.

The senator also discussed issues that remain to be addressed, including a looming budget shortfall for TRS-Care, the retiree health insurance program.

“If we don’t act expeditiously to resolve this shortfall, TRS-Care participants could see premium increases as high as 135 percent, and benefits could be slashed to draconian levels,” she said. “We cannot let that happen to our retired teachers and school employees, many of whom are living on fixed incomes.”

Senator Zaffirini donated two books, Chato’s Kitchen by Gary Soto and The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary in Spanish, for the Bee County Retired School Personnel’s Children’s Book Project.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI visits with members of the Bee County Retired School Personnel. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, she champions funding to improve the financial stability of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI visits with members of the Bee County Retired School Personnel. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, she champions funding to improve the financial stability of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Senator Judith Zaffirini Speaks to Seguin-Guadalupe County Retired Teachers

Senator Judith Zaffirini recently (Sept. 9) spoke to members of the Seguin-Guadalupe County Retired Teachers about important issues affecting Texas’ retired teachers and school employees.

“As the state senator for Guadalupe County, I am delighted to champion the needs and priorities of our retired teachers,” said Senator Zaffirini, who has 13 years of teaching experience. “What’s more, I am grateful for their many dedicated years of service in education, during which they have impacted positively the lives of countless Texas students.”

Also participating in the event were Rep. John Kumepel, R-Seguin; Fran Plemmons, President, Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA); and Tim Lee, Executive Director, TRTA.

A member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Zaffirini champions funding that enhances the financial stability of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), which is the country’s sixth largest public pension fund.

During the 2013 legislative session the state budget (Senate Bill 1) increased the state’s contribution rate from 6.4 percent to 6.8 percent, an increase of more than $200 million.

Senator Zaffirini also praised the efforts of retired teachers who helped secure the passage of Senate Bill 1458, which made the TRS system actuarially sound, thereby allowing a cost-of-living increase for thousands of retirees for the first time in more than 11 years.

The increase was originally set to cover only those who had retired in 1994 or earlier, but Senator Zaffirini worked to expand the raise to all retirees who retired in 2004 or earlier.

“I only wish we could have expanded it to include all retired teachers,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Because we made TRS actuarially sound, however, we enhanced the likelihood of future cost-of-living increases for additional retirees.”

Because 95 percent of the system’s members do not participate in Social Security, TRS is the only lifetime annuity for thousands of retired teachers and school employees.

The senator also discussed issues that remain to be addressed, including a looming budget shortfall for TRS-Care, the retiree health insurance program.

“If we don’t act expeditiously to resolve this shortfall, TRS-Care participants could see premium increases as high as 135 percent, and benefits could be slashed to draconian levels,” she said. “We cannot let that happen to our retired teachers and school employees, many of whom are living on fixed incomes.”

Senator Zaffirini donated three books, Chato’s Kitchen by Gary Soto, The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell and The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary in Spanish, for the Seguin-Guadalupe County Retired Teachers’ Children’s Book Project.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI speaks to members of the Seguin-Guadalupe County Retired Teachers. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, she champions funding to improve the financial stability of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI speaks to members of the Seguin-Guadalupe County Retired Teachers. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, she champions funding to improve the financial stability of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

Baylor College of Medicine Establishes Senator Judith Zaffirini Endowed Scholarship Fund to Support South Texas Medical Students

Baylor College of Medicine on Tuesday (Sept. 30) announced the establishment of the Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship Fund, which will provide need-based financial aid to medical students from South Texas.

The scholarship was endowed by the senator’s son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., to recognize his mother’s longtime commitment to higher education in general and the Baylor College of Medicine in particular.

“For more than 100 years, Baylor College of Medicine has educated some of the finest medical professionals in Texas and the country,” Senator Zaffirini said. “It is my pleasure to work with the Harris County delegation to champion the institution’s stellar programs, and I am delighted that this scholarship will enhance medical education opportunities for more Texas students.”

Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency and former Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, the senator has prioritized legislation that strengthens graduate medical education and expands access to financial aid for all Texas students. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, she secured more than $73 million for Baylor College of Medicine in 2013.

“Senator Zaffirini has been an incredible supporter of Baylor and defender of higher education. She always has been on the side of better education and is truly one of the special people in the state of Texas working on behalf of higher education,” said Dr. Paul Klotman, President, CEO and Executive Dean at Baylor College of Medicine. “We are very grateful to Carlos for making this pledge in honor of his mother for scholarships for South Texas medical students.”

Baylor has forged partnerships with six South Texas high schools to provide education to students interested in the health professions. What’s more, it has partnered with The University of Texas-Pan American to expand medical education in South Texas by establishing the Premedical Honors College, a program that offers students joint admission at both institutions.

“My mother was elected when I was four years old and has fought with passion since then to make sure that young people have educational opportunities, and her passion has inspired me to create this scholarship,” Carlos Zaffirini Jr. said. “How special will it be if one of the students who receives it comes back to South Texas to change lives for the better in the border region.”

Carlos Zaffirini Jr. also created a scholarship with an initial $100,000 endowment in his mother’s name at their alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, and her son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., join Baylor College of Medicine President Dr. Paul Klotman and Baylor students in celebrating the institution's establishment of the Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship Fund. Endowed by Carlos Zaffirini Jr., the fund will provide need-based financial aid to medical students from South Texas.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, and her son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., join Baylor College of Medicine President Dr. Paul Klotman and Baylor students in celebrating the institution’s establishment of the Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship Fund. Endowed by Carlos Zaffirini Jr., the fund will provide need-based financial aid to medical students from South Texas.