LAREDO, Texas – Laredo leaders will be heading to Austin on Sunday for four days of meetings at the state Capitol and in the offices of various state agencies.

Such trips are always held at the start of each legislative session. The 2017 Austin Legislative Agenda Trip will culminate with Laredo Day at the State’s Capital next Wednesday.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz

Among the legislative agenda items is a request to designate a public health regional fund to support public health, surveillance and security for the Texas-Mexico border.

Mayor Pete Saenz will be leading the city delegation. Their stay is from Sunday evening, Jan. 22 thru Wednesday, Jan. 25. “We want to make our presence be known,” Mayor Saenz said.

Also on the trip will be Mayor Pro-Tempore Alex Perez, Council Member Rudy Gonzalez, Jr., Council Member Vidal Rodriguez, Jr., Council  Member Alberto  Torres, Jr., Council Member Nelly Vielma, Council Member Charlie San Miguel, Council Member George Altgelt, and Council Member Roberto Balli.

The formal days will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning. The first two days consist of group members splitting up and visiting the offices of state legislators, and the heads of state departments and agencies. On the various visits, city officials promote Laredo, discuss specific projects city leaders are working on, and outline their legislative agenda. There will also be legislative briefing sessions on each of the three mornings, between 7 and 9 a.m., in the assembly room of the Intercontinental  Stephen F. Austin Hotel in downtown Austin. The hotel is just a few blocks from the state Capitol on Congress Avenue.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini

Among the state agencies and departments the Laredo leaders will visit are: Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, Health and Human Services Commission, Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism, The Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Railroad Commission of Texas, State Energy Conservation Office, General Land  Office, Texas Attorney General, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Department of State Health Services, Texas Secretary of State, and Sustainable Food Center.

Wednesday is known as Laredo Day in Austin. The agenda for that day consists of resolutions on the floor of the Texas House and the floor of the Texas Senate, sponsored by state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, respectively. A reception takes place at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We have grown very popular (with the Laredo Day) and people are very familiar with it, and they even ask about it,” Mayor Saenz said, in an interview with Rio Grande Guardian. “It is a festive occasion, and we bring a lot of people in. We explain what our needs are and the solutions we are looking for.”

Saenz said that in the past there has been criticism over how much it costs to put on the trip. But, he said, the trip is extremely important for the city’s future.

“We do spend money but I am convinced that whatever we spend is worth its value because a lot of people go there,” he explained. “Staff is there, and contribute a lot toward our needs. They keep our leaders informed.”

Laredo Day in Austin is a festive atmosphere and solidifies relationships, the mayor added.

“That’s when business get done (because) our goal is what can we do for our city.”

State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond

Laredo’s legislative agenda in full:

●    Designate a public health regional fund to support public health, surveillance and security for the Texas-México border;
●    Funding for obesity reduction and diabetes risk reduction;
●    Laboratory response network certification’
●    Promote healthy food choices in the supplemental nutrition assistance program and require nutrition and wellness education to reduce obesity;
●    Re-initiate the tire remediation program;
●    Funding for residency program in Laredo.

Homeland Security:
●    Change threat vs population based on funding formulas;
●    Funding for radio communications and interoperability;
●    Funding for regional radio communications center;
●    Funding for Border Region Behavioral Health Center.

Local Government:
●    Coin operated machine businesses;
●    Rebate on State Occupancy Tax for a proposed Convention Center/Hotel in Laredo, Texas.

●    Implement Capital Program to replace aging transit fleet.
●    Transportation:
●    World Trade Bridge Fast Lane additional bridge lanes, additional exit booths “Weigh-in Motion” system;
●    U.S. 59/Future I-69W Corridor (US 59/US 59 Business to Havana);
●    Hachar-Reuthinger Parkway/Highway Mines Road IH-35 (at approx. mile marker 15);
●    Dedicated Aviation Sales Tax Revenue for Airport development.