Zaffirini: Feb. 1 Voter Registration Deadline Fast-Approaching

Deadline is Last Opportunity to Register to Vote for March Primary

(AUSTIN) —Monday, Feb. 1, is the deadline to register to vote in the March 1 primary election, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, reminded Texans today (Monday).

“Only one week remains to register to vote in the March primaries,” Senator Zaffirini said. “All eligible Texans should do so, especially because participating in our democracy is not only our right, but also our responsibility.”

In addition to choosing a new president, voters are facing important elections for state legislative and congressional seats, as well as for the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s important oil and gas industry.

Voter registration applications are available at the County Voter Registrar’s office and at many libraries, post offices or high schools. In most Texas counties, the Tax Assessor-Collector is also the Voter Registrar. In some counties, the County Clerk or Elections Administrator registers voters.

“I encourage all Texans to register to vote and to participate in both the March primary and the November general elections,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Your voice matters, and every vote makes a difference. Some elections are decided by very close margins.”

Early voting for the March 1 primary election takes place from Tuesday, Feb. 16 through Friday, Feb. 26. More information about voting in Texas is available via www.VoteTexas.gov.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI believes that voting is both a right and a responsibility. She encourages Texans to register to vote by Feb. 1 and to participate in the March primary and November general elections.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI believes that voting is both a right and a responsibility. She encourages Texans to register to vote by Feb. 1 and to participate in the March primary and November general elections.

Zaffirini: New Law Helps Texans Support Organ Donation

State’s Organ Donor Registry Reaches 8 Million Mark

(AUSTIN)As the number of registered organ donors in Texas reached a record 8 million just before the new year, a new law taking effect this month makes it even easier for Texans to register as donors and make financial donations to support organ donation, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced today (Thursday).

Sponsored and passed by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, and Senator Zaffirini, the new law allows persons to support the state’s organ donor registry by making donations of more than $1 during the vehicle registration and driver’s license application processes, allows the registry to use mobile technology to recruit more potential donors and extends registration opportunities to holders of commercial driver’s licenses.

“Every year thousands of generous Texans identify themselves as organ and tissue donors via www.DonateLifeTexas.org,” said Senator Zaffirini, a registered organ donor since 2005. “I’m confident that these new tools will allow even more persons the opportunity to give the gift of life.”

In 2005 Senator Zaffirini worked with the late Rep. Glenda Dawson to sponsor and pass legislation establishing Texas’ organ donor registry, and in 2007 the senator authored and passed legislation naming the registry in memory of Rep. Dawson, a kidney transplant recipient who was a passionate advocate for organ donation.

In 2009 Senator Zaffirini continued her advocacy for organ donation by authoring and passing Senate Bill (SB) 1803, requiring Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees to ask customers one question: “Would you like to register as an organ donor?”

This amazingly simple measure worked wonders, and registrations at DPS offices nearly doubled. Thousands soon registered as donors, but many wanted the opportunity to make a financial contribution, too. Accordingly, in 2013 she authored and passed SB 1815, allowing Texans to make donations of $1 during the driver’s license application process.

“The financial gift option is another great way for Texans to support life-saving organ donation,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Many, however, want to donate more than $1. The new law makes that possible.”

Texans can register as organ donors online via www.DonateLifeTexas.org, mail or fax or in person at DPS driver’s license offices. Materials are available in English and Spanish.

“Any Texan can register as an organ donor, regardless of age, race, gender or health status,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Don’t exclude yourself!”

More than 123,000 Americans are on the waiting list for organ transplants, and 22 die every day because the organ they needed was not available. Diseases requiring organ transplantation impact families of all backgrounds, but disproportionately impact racial minorities. One organ donor can save the lives of eight people, and one tissue donor can save countless lives.

ORGAN DONORS AND RECIPIENTS and their families join Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, at the Texas Capitol. The legislators authored and passed a new law taking effect this month that makes it even easier for Texans to register as organ and tissue donors and make financial donations supporting the state's organ donation registry.

ORGAN DONORS AND RECIPIENTS and their families join Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, at the Texas Capitol. The legislators authored and passed a new law taking effect this month that makes it even easier for Texans to register as organ and tissue donors and make financial donations supporting the state’s organ donation registry.

Senator Judith Zaffirini Receives J.C. Montgomery Child Safety Award

Award Spotlights Leadership and Innovative Approaches to Child Safety

(AUSTIN)Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today (Friday) received the J.C. Montgomery Child Safety Award from the Texas Office for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities (TOPDD) for her decades of leadership for Texas children, including in the arenas of child safety, juvenile justice, children’s mental health, infant health, and services for children with disabilities.

The award, named for former TOPDD Executive Committee Chair and Scottish Rite Hospital leader J.C. Montgomery, recognizes leaders throughout Texas who personify a wide variety of innovative approaches to child safety.

“I am grateful to TOPDD for this meaningful honor,” said Senator Zaffirini, a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “What’s more, I share it with everyone who cares about preventing developmental disabilities and protecting Texas children from injury and harm.”

She received the award not only for her dedication to the prevention of developmental disabilities, but also for her lifetime advocacy for the young, particularly children with disabilities. Her efforts have saved the lives of countless Texas children and improved the quality of life for even more.

TOPDD noted that Senator Zaffirni’s leadership has increased awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and child safety and prevention strategies, and her legislation regarding child safety seats improved transportation safety and reduced the risk of child fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

Senator Zaffirini’s Shots Across Texas bill (SB 266, 1993) established a goal of providing access to age-appropriate vaccines for all Texas children, and her House Bill 3054 (1997) created Texas’ immunization registry, ImmTrac, which helps ensure children receive life-saving immunizations timely. Her SB 1485 (1995) created Child Fatality Review Teams that made children safer by reporting preventable deaths and reducing their occurrence. Other legislation she authored and passed supports services and protections for runaway, missing and other at-risk children (SB 1698, 1989; SB 223, 1987).

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee she championed reducing the waiting lists for health and human services and secured funding for prevention programs; the Medicaid buy-in program for children with significant medical needs; and the birth defects registry, which helps identify research areas and links families to needed services.

A lifelong champion for child safety and the prevention of developmental disabilities, Senator Zaffirini authored and passed the legislation creating TOPDD in 1989 and served as a member of its executive board through 1995.

She also passed bills establishing committee members’ training requirements, standards of conduct and staggered six-year terms. This year she extended TOPDD by amending legislation that would have terminated it.

Other child safety leaders who received the 2015 J.C. Montgomery Award included:

  • Sarah Davis, R-Houston, who was honored for her leadership in improving healthy pregnancies and mental health services for children.
  • George Block, a founder of San Antonio Sports and developer of Viva Swim for Life, who has demonstrated a life-long commitment to water safety and ensuring all children have the chance to learn how to swim.
  • Alisa De Luna, executive director of CASA of Williamson County, an advocate and respected resource for policy makers dedicated to improving the lives of children in state care.
  • Sarah Duzinski, a research scientist at Austin’s Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and a state leader in promoting evidence-based prevention initiatives, including the highly respected Period of Purple Crying program.
  • Dolores G. Zarate, president and co-founder of Down on the Border, Inc, who organizes a festival for children and is active in public policy work.
  • Elaine Parker of Houston, a psychologist, author and parent of a child with a traumatic brain injury who spearheaded the development and distribution of a brain injury survivor card to be used when brain injury survivors interact with police and first responders.
  • Cherie Stanley, an instructional technologist for a school system, a parent of a child affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, who is actively raising awareness in her community and a recognized educator, policy advocate and leader on FASDs locally and statewide.
  • Will Mina, an 11-year-old sixth-grader who engaged the Dallas City Council to improve safety around his school.
  • Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, whose expansive Wesley Nurse Program serves rural communities in 80 different counties.
  • Peaks and Ladders, Inc., a multidisciplinary coalition providing equipment and education to prevent childhood injury and deaths.

“Collectively, we have made significant progress in raising awareness and developing strategies to reduce preventable injuries and developmental disabilities, but there’s still much more to do,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Count on me to continue to be a champion for Texas children, who are our only envoys to the future.”

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI accepts the J.C. Montgomery Child Safety Award from the Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities (TOPDD). Presenting the award were (L-R) Dr. Richard Garnett, TOPDD Board Chair; Rep. Gilbert Peña, R-Houston, TOPDD Board member; and former Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI accepts the J.C. Montgomery Child Safety Award from the Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities (TOPDD). Presenting the award were (L-R) Dr. Richard Garnett, TOPDD Board Chair; Rep. Gilbert Peña, R-Houston, TOPDD Board member; and former Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

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 (Wednesday) received $1,000 scholarships from the Mr. South Texas Foundation (MSTF).

“The mission of the Mr. South Texas Foundation is to help students on the pathway From Scholarship to Leadership,” said Senator Judith Zaffirini, MSTF president. “These 11 outstanding students 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 16th anniversary in 2015, the foundation has provided $150,000 in scholarships to 150 Laredo students. Each scholarship recipient is selected as his or her class’s most likely future Mr. South Texas honoree.

“By helping promising students achieve their higher education goals, we are making a wise investment in the future of our state and region,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Higher education not only will open doors of opportunity for these future leaders, but also will give them the tools they need to help countless others.”

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

The 2015 Mr. South Texas Foundation scholarship recipients are:

  • Isidro R. Alaniz, United High School
  • Enrique José Almazán, J.W. Nixon High School
  • Eduardo Arredondo, Martin High School
  • Abraham Alexis Benavides, Lyndon B. Johnson High School
  • Diego Armando Cruz, Cigarroa High School
  • Kevin Bradley Garza, Early College High School
  • Moises C. Martinez, St. Augustine High School
  • Valerya J. Perusquia, Laredo Community College
  • Reinaldo Javier Romo, Alexander High School
  • Juan Manuel Vazquez, Texas A&M International University
  • José Manuel Villanueva, United South High School

“These students lead by example,” Senator Zaffirini said. “They not only excel in academics and extracurricular activities, but also are dedicated to their families and to community service.”

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 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 Wednesday (Aug. 12) the senator and Texas A&M International University President Ray Keck congratulated the students, including standing (L-R) Moises Martinez, Eduardo Arredondo and Juan Vazquez; and seated (L-R) Diego Cruz, Abraham Benavides, Reinaldo Romo, Valerya Perusquia, José Villanueva, Kevin Garza and Enrique Almazán. Not shown is Isidro Alaniz.

“FROM SCHOLARSHIP TO LEADERSHIP” is the motto of the Mr. South Texas Foundation, which Senator 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 Wednesday (Aug. 12) the senator and Texas A&M International University President Ray Keck congratulated the students, including standing (L-R) Moises Martinez, Eduardo Arredondo and Juan Vazquez; and seated (L-R) Diego Cruz, Abraham Benavides, Reinaldo Romo, Valerya Perusquia, José Villanueva, Kevin Garza and Enrique Almazán. Not shown is Isidro Alaniz.

Trump’s Laredo Visit Should Be a Living Lesson

by Senator Judith Zaffirini

“I may never see you again,” Donald Trump worried Wednesday on Fox News about his trip to Laredo today.

While many might be happy never to see Trump again, no one wishes him ill, and no one I know considers him threatened physically in any way. Does anyone really believe that he would come to the border if he thought his safety was the slightest bit jeopardized? His statement is a ridiculous and insulting attempt to appear brave — unnecessarily.

The divisive billionaire may be familiar with the border between New York and New Jersey, but these and other outrageous comments he’s made — in addition to being horribly offensive — demonstrate his alarming lack of knowledge about the issues facing the Texas-Mexico border region today.

His visit to Laredo should be a living lesson not only about our real border security challenges, but also about the important relationships between the United States and Mexico. If he opens his mind to the truth and to reality, then his trip should be the equivalent of taking a course in binational trade, relations and friendship.

The reality of our southern border is far different from the one Trump has painted on the campaign trail, and I hope his visit today will help him correct his misperceptions and eliminate his irrational fears.

Most important, Texans hope he takes the opportunity to learn and listen. This may be a new approach for him. As we like to say in Laredo, Hablando se entiende la gente. Through communication we understand one another.

The people of Laredo are too welcoming and friendly to become a chapter in Trump’s efforts to divide. It’s time to show him our South Texas hospitality and our brand of entrepreneurial spirit that continue to make our city great.

If Trump is willing to listen, he’ll learn that Laredo is a dynamic, thriving community where we cherish our cultural and economic ties with our sister city and sister country to the south. Our city’s low unemployment rate, excellent business climate and status as the No. 1 inland port are a testament to the strong economic partnership between Mexico and its largest trading partner, the U.S.

Texas has dedicated significant resources to border security, and Trump will find hard-working law enforcement officers who work diligently to keep our community, state and nation safe. He should listen to them and learn about the challenges they face.

Contrary to Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric, the border is not a dangerous war zone. Laredo and El Paso have been ranked among the safest cities in the country, and most border communities’ crime rates are equal to or lower than the state and national averages. It’s critical that we neither exaggerate nor underplay the seriousness of border crime, especially because these communities are tired of being used as piñatas in national political campaigns.

Border security is a multifaceted issue, which is why I hope Trump will take the opportunity to learn about cross-border truck traffic and Texas’ infrastructure needs.

What’s more, recent energy reforms in Mexico are opening new avenues for collaboration with businesses in the U.S., and Laredo is uniquely positioned to become an increasingly important center for the energy industry. This is particularly true because the Eagle Ford Shale, which has been an economic blessing in our region, extends into Mexico.

Our community also prioritizes conservation and wise stewardship of natural resources, especially because hunting and nature tourism are pumping money into our local economy.

Trump loves to talk about his money, and I hope he’ll spend some of it while he’s in town. He clearly has cash to burn, and anyone will tell you that Laredo’s booming economy offers a far better return on investment than a doomed presidential campaign.

Trump could visit the local chamber of commerce to learn about business opportunities, attend a Laredo Lemurs baseball game, hit the links at one of our fabulous golf courses or enjoy our city’s many wonderful opportunities for dining and shopping. He might even be able to get a good deal on a Donald Trump piñata.

If Trump looks closely, he’ll find a city and state where people believe education and hard work are the pathways to a better quality of life. First-generation college students wait in long lines every day at our city’s international bridges to join their American classmates at Texas A&M International University, Laredo Community College and the University of Texas Health Science Center Regional Campus.

Finally, Trump should understand that Laredo’s American patriotism is second to none, which is why we celebrate it each year with the month-long George Washington’s Birthday Celebration, which also pays tribute to our city’s bicultural, bilingual and binational character.

Above all, I hope that during his visit, Trump will learn something about the value of international collaboration, cooperation, friendship and understanding.

If he doesn’t, he will have flunked the course.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, represents District 21 in the Texas Senate.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo, represents District 21 in the Texas Senate.

Senator Zaffirini Named Communicator of Achievement by Press Women of Texas

(AUSTIN) —Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was honored as the Press Women of Texas’ (PWT) 2015 Communicator of Achievement at the organization’s annual conference held June 12 in Fredericksburg.

The highest honor PWT bestows on its members, the award recognizes a member with a lifetime of achievement in communications and service to the community.

“I am grateful to PWT for this award, especially because I believe effective communication with my constituents is an essential part of my duty as state senator,” Senator Zaffirini said. “What’s more, I share PWT’s longstanding commitments to freedom of the press, education and public service.”

A member of PWT since 1974, Senator Zaffirini also was recognized with the Ann Faragher Sweepstakes Award for the most points accumulated in the organization’s 2015 communications contest.

Her 27 winning entries in the 2015 PWT contest included seven First Place award-winners that went on to win awards at the national level, including her annual newsletter to constituents, Senator Judith Zaffirini Reports to the Families of Senate District 21, and her convocation speech to the employees of Laredo ISD.

Founded in Dallas in 1893 as the Texas Women’s Press Association, Press Women of Texas now includes women and men from all branches of the media. The venerable organization champions First Amendment rights, promotes awareness of professional standards in journalism and communications and provides valuable resources for persons working in the communications arena.

In addition to the communications contest for its members, PWT sponsors a writing contest for high school students and provides two scholarships annually to college students.

A distinguished communicator, educator and leader, Senator Zaffirini holds B.S., M.A. and PhD degrees from UT-Austin, each with a 3.9 grade-point average. Through her business, Zaffirini Communications, she provides professional communication services, including consulting, workshops and seminars, one-on-one coaching, keynote addresses and writing.

A DISTINGUISHED COMMUNICATOR, educator and leader, Senator Judith Zaffirini accepts the Communicator of Achievement Award from Angela Smith, President of the Press Women of Texas.

A DISTINGUISHED COMMUNICATOR, educator and leader, Senator Judith Zaffirini accepts the Communicator of Achievement Award from Angela Smith, President of the Press Women of Texas.

Senator Zaffirini Advances Higher Education Access, Affordability, Excellence During 2015 Legislative Session

(AUSTIN) —Higher education access, affordability and excellence will be enhanced by 12 bills passed by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, during the 2015 legislative session and signed into law recently by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Improving Higher Education Governance

Three of the bills will improve transparency and accountability for the governing boards of Texas’ higher education institutions. Senate Bill (SB) 24 by Zaffirini and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, for example, will expand and enhance the training required for members of governing boards of institutions of higher education. The new law will require regents to complete an intensive short orientation course covering key topics such as ethics and student privacy before than can vote on budget or personnel matters.

“This will ensure regents understand their roles, responsibilities and duties before they vote on these critical issues,” said Senator Zaffirini, former Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

What’s more, SB 27 by Zaffirini and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, will make the meetings of boards of regents more accessible to the public by requiring conference call meetings to be broadcast live over the Internet.

“The public has a right to know about the decisions made by these boards, especially because they impact not only the students, faculty and staff of these institutions, but also our entire state,” Senator Zaffirini said. “What’s more, broadcasting conference call meetings over the Internet will allow more Texans to access meetings without driving long distances.”

Another of Senator Zaffirini’s bills, SB 42, sponsored by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, clarifies that student regent appointees must be selected from among students who apply for the position through their respective student governments.

“While the governor decides whom to appoint, this requirement ensures that students can participate in selecting their representative for their respective boards of regents,” Senator Zaffirini said.

She added that the law was clear before, but her bill was necessary because former Gov. Rick Perry named students who didn’t honor the process.

Supporting Students

Senator Zaffirini’s legislation also empowers students to access affordable, high-quality higher education opportunities that will allow them to complete their degrees timely. To help them achieve that goal, SB 1714 by Zaffirini and Howard promotes reverse-transfer degree awards. It authorizes Texas institutions to participate in a national clearinghouse to share student information between four-year institutions and community colleges.

The cost of college is a significant obstacle for many students, which is why Senator Zaffirini supports opportunities for them to access financial aid and work-study programs. Another bill passed by Zaffirini and Howard, SB 947, calls for the state to explore the potential for greater work-study employment in the private sector.

“Students should have more opportunities to receive credit for relevant experience, whether it’s in the university setting or in a private sector position related to their field of study,” Senator Zaffirini.

The senator also authored and passed SB 1066, sponsored by Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, which helps more institutions continue participation in the Texas T-STEM Challenge Scholarship Program. Established by legislation she passed in 2013, this program provides scholarships to gifted students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, who also work part-time in these fields.

What’s more, Senator Zaffirini sponsored and passed Rep. Clardy’s House Bill (HB) 1583, requiring community colleges to offer at least five of their programs in block scheduling format, which has been successful in helping students be graduated on time.

Increasing Accessibility

A longtime champion for enhanced educational opportunities for persons with disabilities, Senator Zaffirini collaborated with Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, to pass SB 37 and HB 1807. They  require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to collect data regarding persons with disabilities’ participation in higher education and develop an inventory of post-secondary opportunities for this population.

Promoting Research

An ardent advocate for university research at all levels, Senator Zaffirini also worked with Rep. Howard to pass SB 44, which clarifies that private gifts made to higher education institutions to support undergraduate research are eligible for matching grants under the Texas Research Incentive Program.

During the 2015 legislative session Senator Zaffirini passed 100 bills that became effective, breaking her personal record and passing more bills during the session than any other legislator. As the Senate’s top bill passer, she passed 44 Senate bills and 56 House bills, surpassing by 18 the next most productive senator and bringing her total bills passed and effective to 895.

A distinguished communicator, educator and leader, Senator Zaffirini holds B.S., M.A. and PhD degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, each with a 3.9 grade-point average. Her dedication to higher education is reflected in the name of Laredo Community College’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Library and Texas A&M International University’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center. Her son, Carlos Jr., endowed a scholarship in her name at UT-Austin and another at the Baylor College of Medicine. The Beaumont Foundation also endowed a scholarship honoring her and her husband at Texas A&M International University, where the annual Senator Judith Zaffirini Medal is presented to faculty and students for accomplishments in scholarship and leadership.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI is known as a top champion for higher education in the Texas Legislature. She holds B.S., M.A., and PhD degrees from UT-Austin, each with a 3.9 grade-point average and has served as chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI is known as a top champion for higher education in the Texas Legislature. She holds B.S., M.A., and PhD degrees from UT-Austin, each with a 3.9 grade-point average and has served as chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

 

Texas Senate Passes Legislation to Protect the San Marcos River

(AUSTIN) —The Texas Senate yesterday (Monday) overwhelmingly approved legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, that would promote safety and enjoyment on the San Marcos River and protect landowners’ private property rights.

Senate Bill (SB) 234 would authorize a local election to create a special recreation district along the portion of the San Marcos River that forms the boundary between Guadalupe and Caldwell counties, which is visited by more than 80,000 tubers and recreational users each year. The number of visitors to the river, especially for tubing, has increased substantially in recent years.

Due to a lack of rules and enforcement, however, this section of the river attracts minors who drink illegally and engage in other reckless and unlawful behaviors. As a result there are frequent alcohol-related incidents on the river ranging from minor to catastrophic in nature. Last summer, for example, 19-year old Tychicus Foston drowned after a day of tubing and drinking alcohol with friends. What’s more, landowners along the river face problems with excessive littering, trespassing and public intoxication.

“Residents of Caldwell and Guadalupe counties do not want any more preventable tragedies to occur on the San Marcos River,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Our bill would protect this precious natural resource, enhance public safety and enjoyment of the river and preserve the private property rights of area landowners.”

If voters approve, the district would be governed by a seven-member board, with three members appointed by each county commissioner’s court and one member selected by the district board from among nominations provided by each municipality included in the district. Once created, the district could levy a fee on water-oriented recreation businesses and use the revenues to fund public safety and health initiatives.

The bill caps the fee to be charged at $3 per person for rental of water oriented recreation equipment (tubes, canoes, kayaks) or for shuttle services for water oriented recreation if a customer brings their own equipment.

The district’s board also would have the ability to adopt reasonable rules and ordinances regarding littering and litter abatement and other rules to protect the health and safety of persons or property in the district, subject to the public’s paramount right to navigate inland water.

Offenses would be a Class C misdemeanor and would be enforceable by local law enforcement.

Many local business owners testified at the bill’s committee hearing that their businesses, including campgrounds, fly fishing guides and canoe and kayak rental services, have been damaged by the unruly and lewd behavior of intoxicated and frequently underage minors using the river.

“Because SB 234 would promote safety and a clean environment, we believe it would increase safe and lawful tourism to the area,” Senator Zaffirini said. “All Texans have the right to enjoy the San Marcos River, but they should do so safely and lawfully.”

SB 234 is supported by the commissioners’ courts of Guadalupe and Caldwell counties and the City of Martindale. The bill now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration. Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, will sponsor it. He also authored the companion bill, House Bill 2635.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI visits with constituents at the historic Zedler Mill on the San Marcos River in Caldwell County.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI visits with constituents at the historic Zedler Mill on the San Marcos River in Caldwell County.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill Naming McMullen County Highway in honor of Game Warden James E. Daughtrey

(AUSTIN) —The Texas Legislature unanimously approved Senate Bill 227  by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, naming a portion of a McMullen County highway in honor of Game Warden James E. “Jim” Daughtrey, who died in the line of duty.

Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, in the House of Representatives, the bill would name the portion of Farm-to-Market Road 624 in McMullen County from the La Salle County line to State Highway 16 the Texas Game Warden James E. Daughtrey Memorial Highway.

Warden Daughtrey was killed in a car crash on Dec. 8, 1978, while he was pursuing game law violators. He was survived by his wife, Cynthia Ann, who died in 2014; two daughters, Laura Kay and Jean Ann; and a son, James Eugene III.

“Though his tragic death occurred almost 40 years ago, James Daughtrey’s life, service and sacrifice have not been forgotten,” Senator Zaffirini said. “It is entirely fitting that the highway set to bear his name crosses the county he called home and the wild South Texas Brush Country he loved so much.”

The Texas Game Warden Association will donate funds to pay for the design, construction and erection of the highway signs.

Senator Zaffirini’s bill, which was supported unanimously by the McMullen County Commissioners Court, now goes to Governor Greg Abbott for his consideration.

The fallen game warden also is the namesake of the James E. Daughtrey Wildlife Management Area on Choke Canyon Lake in Live Oak and McMullen counties.

THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE recently passed legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, naming a McMullen County portion of Farm-to-Market Road 624 in honor of Texas Game Warden James E. Daughtrey, who was killed in the line of duty in 1978. (Illustration by Clemente Guzman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.)

THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE recently passed legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, naming a McMullen County portion of Farm-to-Market Road 624 in honor of Texas Game Warden James E. Daughtrey, who was killed in the line of duty in 1978. (Illustration by Clemente Guzman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.)

 

Texas Senate Approves Legislation Requiring Additional Training for College and University Governing Board Members

(AUSTIN) —The Texas Senate today (Wednesday) overwhelmingly approved legislation by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, that would enhance training for members of the governing boards of Texas institutions of higher education.

SB 24 would require that the current mandatory training for new regents and board members be completed during the member’s first year of service, rather than within the first two years as under current law. What’s more, it would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to develop an intensive short orientation course offered online that new regents would be required to complete before they could vote on budgetary and personnel matters.

“If Texas is to maintain its reputation as a state with a superior system of higher education, it is imperative that we hold our governing boards to the highest standards of excellence through rigorous training and accountability,” Senator Zaffirini said. “My bill would ensure that newly appointed regents have prompt and timely access to training about important governance matters prior to taking action as a regent.”

The intensive short orientation course would cover such topics as:

  • best practices relating to excellence, transparency, accountability and efficiency in the governing structure and organization of institutions of higher education;
  • best practices relating to the manner in which governing boards and administrators develop and implement policy, including the need for impartiality and internal review; and
  • ethics, conflicts of interest and the proper role of board members in the governance of higher education institutions.

During the 2011 and 2012 interim hearings of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, which Senator Zaffirini co-chaired, expert witnesses consistently testified that system regents would benefit from improved standards of training.

“SB 24 is a necessary response to ongoing controversies surrounding university system regents dating back to the spring of 2011 and would help our state avoid similar controversies in the future,” Senator Zaffirini said. “I am grateful to the many wonderful regents who generously volunteer their time and effort as stewards of our higher education institutions, and it is critical that we provide these leaders the training they need to be successful.”

Senator Zaffirini has filed legislation improving training for members of higher education governing boards each legislative session since 2011.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI is an advocate for affordability, accessibility, accountability and excellence in higher education. Her Senate Bill 24 would enhance training for members of the governing boards of Texas higher education institutions.

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI is an advocate for affordability, accessibility, accountability and excellence in higher education. Her Senate Bill 24 would enhance training for members of the governing boards of Texas higher education institutions.