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WESLACO, RGV – Some people know that Feb. 7, 2017, is Rio Grande Valley Day at the state Capitol but how many know what the Valley’s legislative agenda is for the 85th legislative session?

A forum to be held at the Weslaco Public Library Auditorium on Nov. 15 aims to shed more light on the RGV Legislative Agenda. Hosted by the Rio Grande Guardian and Futuro RGV, the forum will feature legislative wish-list presentations by five organizations that have Valley-wide reach:

•    UT-Rio Grande Valley

•    Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council
•    RGV Equal Voice Network
•    Rio Grande Valley Partnership
•    Rio South Texas Economic Council

Valley legislators and their staff will be invited to attend the forum. There will be a question and answer segment after the presentations. The event is open to the general public and free to attend. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. forum will start at 6:30 p.m.

The likely speakers will be:

•    Veronica Gonzales, vice president of UTRGV
•    Ron Garza, executive director of LRGVDC (confirmed)
•    Michael Seifert, network weaver of RGVEVN (confirmed)
•    Sergio Contreras, president of RGVP
•    Matt Ruszczak, executive director of RSTEC (confirmed)

Sponsors of the forum include the Rhodes Enterprises, Sam Garcia Architects, IBC Bank, Frost Bank, ERO Architects, Kalifa’s, Ford & Abby Sasser, Ernie Williams, FCC-DOC, Code RGV, Upper Valley Mail Services, and Copy Zone.

“The 85th Legislative Session is going to be an important one for the Valley. Before it starts we thought it would be good to hear from organizations that have true regional impact across the Valley, so we can learn what their big ticket items are for upcoming session,” said Mark Hanna, publisher of the Rio Grande Guardian. “I think it is going to be a very informative and productive evening for the Valley. We are excited to be putting the event on with our partners, Futuro RGV.”

Futuro RGV interim president Nedra Kinerk said the Nov. 15 forum will see the official debut of the group. The group’s new banner was displayed at a recent forum on the Hidalgo County Healthcare District issue but that event was hosted by Futuro McAllen.

“We cannot think of a better subject with which to officially launch Futuro RGV than the Rio Grande Valley’s regional legislative agenda. That is what we hope to achieve at our forum in Weslaco. We have invited the most recognized regional groups to tell us what their agenda is for the next legislative session. We will then invite the audience to ask questions. At the end of the evening we hope to have a clear picture of what the Valley’s agenda is for the 85th Legislature,” Kinerk said.

Kinerk said Futuro board members have been thinking about launching a Valley-wide civic group for some time. “We think we can build on the success we have achieved in McAllen with Futuro McAllen, developing a strong, well-respected and non-partisan civic group that cares about important, quality of life, issues. Our goal is to do the same with our RGV neighbors on a Valley-wide level. We believe our voice will be stronger and more effective when we are united.”

Kinerk said other organizations and institutions that wish to participate in developing the Valley’s legislative agenda for 2017 are welcome to display their material on booths outside the auditorium. These groups may include Hidalgo County, Cameron County, Willacy County, Starr County, Region 1 Education Service Center, RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Teach for America RGV, Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society, and Cameron-Willacy County Medical Society.

Speaking at a McAllen Economic Development Corporation meeting, David Girault, a board member of Futuro RGV, said he hopes Valley legislators will attend the forum, listen to the presentations and give input on the issues raised.

“We are going to invite our legislative delegation to come and sit in the audience and listen to the Valley’s needs for the next session. Following the forum, our goal is to put together a White Paper document that will reflect the Rio Grande Valley’s legislative agenda for next year,” Girault said.

For more information about the forum call David Girault of Futuro RGV at (956) 639-2702 or Patricia Fogarty of the Rio Grande Guardian at (956) 961-4880. For sponsorship and display booth opportunities call Nedra Kinerk of Futuro RGV at (956) 330-2071 or Shon Gonzalez of the Rio Grande Guardian at (956) 970-2966.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows, from top left to bottom right: Michael Seifert, Matt Ruszczak, Veronica Gonzalez, Ron Garza, and Sergio Contreras.