|AUSTIN, September 17 - The 83rd legislative session is regarded by many as the best ever for the Rio Grande Valley, principally because a bill was passed creating a new university and medical school for the region.
State Rep. Sergio Muñoz is hoping the successes achieved by the Valley legislation delegation will be remembered when voters go to the polls in March. The Mission Democrat recently announced he is running for re-election in Texas House District 36.
“With all of us working together, I believe that we will usher in a new era of prosperity for the Valley as we implement the successes won at the Legislature this session: the university merger and medical school, the overweight vehicle corridor that will boost our economy, the expansion and designation of I-69, support of women’s healthcare and enhancing our education system,” Muñoz said.
“This is the foundation we are building to support our quality of life, and it’s proof positive that hard work, good public policy and partnerships can raise our standard of living.”
Muñoz is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which crafts the state’s biennial budgets. He said he is particularly pleased that $4 billion that was cut from public education in 2011 was restored this session.
“As a result of the national economic recession, public education, health and human services, and other important state programs and services suffered significant budget cuts, which I opposed when the Legislature met in 2011,” Muñoz said. “But as a member of the House Appropriations Committee earlier this spring, I worked very hard to begin restoring those budget cuts and do so without increasing taxes. The results speak for themselves.”
Much has been written about how funding for women’s health services fared in the 2013 legislative session. Muñoz is pleased with the accomplishments. “We succeeded in providing an additional $100 million for providing primary health care services to women with the intent that the services include preventative health screening, such as breast and cervical cancer screening, diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, and STD-HIV screenings; family planning services, including contraception; perinatal services; and dental services. We helped fund family planning services with $32 million in state funding when federal funding for the program was not realized. Plus, we continued the Texas Women's Health Program, which provides low-income women with family planning services, related health screenings and birth control, with $71 million in state funding.”
Just under a year ago, House Speaker Joe Straus appointed Muñoz to an interim committee on manufacturing. At the time Muñoz said consideration of this subject should not overlook the impact manufacturing in the maquila plants along the border have on the Texas economy. He said the the Valley possesses a ready and willing workforce which is being trained by second to none educational institutions such as South Texas College.
“Combine these assets with the know-how of the Economic Development Corporations in the area, our Chambers of Commerce, and a culture of innovation and hard work, and we will be at the forefront of increased manufacturing capacity and job creation,” Muñoz told the Guardian. “This committee will help develop a plan to put Texans to work and should emphasize the facilitation of partnerships between the business community and educational institutions.”
One piece of legislation from Muñoz that has received a lot of media attention and which has been lauded by economic development corporations in the Upper Valley is a bill that allows overweight trucks from Mexico to cross certain bridges in Hidalgo County and use a specially designated corridor in order to reach warehouses and industrial parks along Military Highway and South 10th.
“This corridor is a key piece of infrastructure needed to promote trade and attract jobs and investments,” Muñoz said. “We know that with the opening of the Durango-Mazatlan Superhighway many produce businessmen will be turning to our region for expedient delivery of products, but we need to have infrastructure such as this corridor in place.”
Muñoz explained that truck weight regulations in Mexico are different from those in Texas and businesses transporting goods from Mexico through Texas currently have to divide loads, many of which are perishable items, across the border before arriving at warehouses in Hidalgo County for final processing and distribution throughout the country. Other areas in Texas, as well as major produce Ports of Entry such as the Nogales, Arizona commercial Port of Entry have embraced similar corridors, Muñoz said. He pointed out that businesses with overweight trucks will be required to pay a fee per load to cover road maintenance costs.
House District 36 comprises all of Granjeno, Hidalgo, and Palmview, 25 percent of McAllen, 76 percent of Pharr, and 70 percent of Mission. Muñoz has served the district for two terms. He sits on the Appropriations Committee, the Insurance Committee, the Local and Consent Committee, and the Select Committee on Transportation Funding. As a member of this select committee, Muñoz helped craft legislation that asks voters to approve the use of $1 billion a year from the Texas Rainy Day Fund to help pay for highway and road construction and maintenance. Muñoz is also a member of the House Veteran's Caucus, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the House Democratic Caucus and Young Texas Legislative Caucus.
Muñoz was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. His campaign office provided these biographical details:
“Sergio Muñoz is married to Maria Elena and they are the parents of Gael Sebastian. Muñoz is the son of Sergio Muñoz, Sr., a local businessman and former State Representative of District 36. His mother is Connie Muñoz, a long-time educator from the Mission area, and his sister, Marla Muñoz-Lopez, is a healthcare professional. Muñoz attended Mission High School and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Business Administration. He then earned his law degree with honors at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University, graduating magna cum laude.
“Muñoz is a civil and criminal law attorney and has served as a Municipal Judge in Palmview, Texas. He is a member of the Hidalgo County Bar Association. Beyond his professional service, Muñoz is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Knights of Columbus. He attends both Our Lady of the Guadalupe Catholic Church and St. John of the Field's Catholic Church.”