AUSTIN, January 19 - A legislator from another part of the border region is encouraging his colleagues to attend next week’s Rio Grande Valley tour.
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, went on the 2009 tour of the Valley and said it was a tremendous experience, both for learning about issues important to the region and for team-building.
“I had never spent a significant amount of time in the Rio Grande Valley before going on the 2009 trip so to go down there and really get a handle on the topics and issues was rewarding. The Valley delegation really got to share with us their passion for issues in their community,” Moody told the Guardian.
“Plus, it was also a good way to team-build. When someone like me from El Paso goes down there and I see common interests with Senator Lucio or Representative Lucio, or Representative Martinez, then I can talk to them about an issue that impacts me and the El Paso delegation and we can find some common ground.”
Moody said he remembers going to some of the schools, universities and medical complexes in the Valley in 2009. He also visited Cameron Park, the largest colonia in the United States. And, he said, he went on a boat ride with law enforcement officials to get a better understanding of border security. “I still have my Port of Brownsville hat. I had a great time. It was a good learning experience. I hope those who get to go this time take that in for what it is,” he said.
Organized by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce for the Valley, the Valley Tour is held every other year when the legislature is in session. The Upper and Lower Valleys alternate in hosting the visiting legislators. This year the focus is on the lower Valley. The tour begins next Thursday, Jan. 24 and ends Sunday, Jan. 27. Lawmakers will be flown from Austin to Valley International Airport in Harlingen and will be based on South Padre Island for the duration of the tour. A cool feature of the trip is that the buses taking the lawmakers to various locations are accompanied throughout by a police escort, meaning there are no stops at traffic lights.
Among those participating this year are House Speaker Joe Straus, state Sens. Larry Taylor and Wendy Davis, Secretary of State John Steen, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and UT System Executive Vice Chancellor Kenneth Shine. Gene Powell, chairman of the UT System, is also hoping to participate, if his schedule will allow. Powell is a native of Weslaco.
Among the stops are the University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, the ports of Brownsville and Harlingen, the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, the VTX-1 fiber optics and broadband center in Raymondville, a colonia in Sebastian, and a new wind farm project belonging to Duke Energy at the intersection of FM 1018 and FM 507 in Willacy County.
Rep. Moody, who is just starting his second legislative session, said he cannot attend the Valley tour this year because he has business to attend to in his district. However, he said he would recommend it to all of his colleagues in the House. So, far, 25 have signed on to go.
“It is going to be a great trip and I am sorry I am going to miss out on it this time. My wife and I had planned to be in El Paso that weekend and there are some things back home I have to take care of. If I could be anywhere else than El Paso it would be in the Rio Grande Valley,” Moody said.
The House members who are slated to attend the Valley tour are Cecil Bell, Lance Gooden, Travis Clardy, John Raney, James White, Dana Miller, Ed Thompson, Eddie Rodriguez, Poncho Nevarez, Lon Burnam, Rafael Anchia, Armando Walle, William Ratliff, Bill Fletcher, Alma Allen, J.M. Lozano. This is in addition to the Valley House delegation of René Oliveira, Ryan Guillen, Armando Martinez, Eddie Lucio, III, Sergio Muñoz, Bobby Guerra, Terry Canales and Oscar Longoria, all of whom have said they will participate.
State Sens. Eddie Lucio and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa are also slated to attend.
For more information about the Rio Grande Valley Legislators Tour contact Febe Zepeda at the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.