LAREDO, Texas – A border lawmaker wants Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, described the COVID-19 pandemic as “the most significant crisis in our lifetime.”
In a letter to Abbott, Peña Raymond, a former chairman of the House Committee on Human Services, said: “We must meet before hospitals and our health care system becomes overwhelmed and before our economy continues its decline.”
The veteran legislator is eighth in seniority in the House of Representatives. He said he is confident that by working together, state lawmakers can take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This could include passing new laws, he said, to allow state agencies and the private sector to more effectively help solve the crisis.
“I have asked that Governor Abbott direct all state agencies, leaders from the state’s healthcare infrastructure, education, law enforcement, local government and others to let him and members of the legislature know what they can do to help, if given legislative authority,” Peña Raymond said.
“I have do doubt, based on conversations I have had with many elected officials and others that there is much we can do to help save lives and our economy, but it’s going to take an ‘all hands on deck’ approach.”
Peña Raymond added: “First Responders go to work every day — in spite of risk to their own health — legislators should also be willing to do our part. But we cannot pass any laws, appropriations, or reforms, unless we have a special session of the Texas Legislature.”
State Rep. Peña Raymond’s letter to Gov. Abbott
Here is the letter:
March 22, 2020
Richard Peña Raymond
State Representative District 42
Texas House of Representatives
Governor Greg Abbott
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto Austin, Texas 78701
Dear Governor Abbott,
First of all, I want to thank you for all you are doing to help address the COVID-19 Pandemic which has infected Texas — and virtually the whole world. As much as you are doing, I know you cannot do it alone.
I am writing to formally ask that you call a Special Session of the Legislature, so we can all do our work in helping to fight the biggest threat any of us have ever experienced.
I have to talked to a lot of people, including many legislators — Democrats and Republicans alike — everyone is saying we will and must have a Special Session. I wholeheartedly agree. But only you can make the Special Session happen.
We must meet before hospitals and our health care system becomes overwhelmed and before our economy continues its decline. Let me also state, I am confident we can take the appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Capitol.
I am writing to let you know I believe every single legislator stands ready to help you. I have had the opportunity to work with you on many issues in the past, such as property tax relief. However, I doubt there will be a more important issue we will ever be able to work on than stopping the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I believe you should immediately direct every agency in state government, as well as leaders from our state’s health care infrastructure, education, law enforcement, local government, etc. to immediately let you and all of us in the legislature know what they can do to help, if given the legislative authority.
One of my Republican colleagues suggested, for example, that we allow or direct Appraisal Districts around the state to use 2019 appraisals for 2020 property taxes. I agree with this approach, but we need to pass a law to make it happen.
It is just one example of a good idea from one of the 181 members of the legislature, who are willing to work with you to address this crisis.
It goes without saying, we are also going to have to help hospitals and other health care facilities, where the federal government does not provide enough help.
One of the current analysis by a reputable business organization projects that the city I represent, Laredo, Texas, could lose up to 26 percent or our jobs.
We can and must do everything possible to save lives and our economy. Governor, we cannot wait until January to come into legislative session. We simply cannot. Too many people will die and more and more businesses will shutter, if we wait until then. The longer we wait, the more that human pain will be felt.
First Responders all over the state are going to work every day and doing their jobs — in spite of the threat to their own well being. The least we as legislators can do is show up and do our work as well.
I respectfully ask, as I always have when we have worked together, for you to call us into Special Session and allow us to do our part for the sake of our communities.
Richard Peña Raymond