McALLEN, RGV – State Sen. Eddie Lucio says he is going to look at legislation already on the books to see if it can be used to help him create a Texas-Mexico Commission and a Border Czar.
The legislation was championed several sessions ago by then-state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso and was added to House Bill 925 during the 79th session and House Bill 654 during the 76th session.
HB 925, authored by then state Rep. Norma Chavez of El Paso, gave authority for an interagency work group on border issues. HB 654, authored by state Rep. Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, gave authority for the creation of a Border Commerce Coordinator.
Lucio, a Democrat from Brownsville, has received support for his efforts to set up a Texas-Mexico Commission from Hidalgo County Commissioners Court and the City of McAllen. Both entities have added the issue to their legislative agenda for the 84th Legislature.
“I am going to study the language in Senator Shapleigh’s legislation and what we can do with that language to create a Texas-Mexico Commission and a border commissioner. I would hope that our newly elected governor, Governor Abbott would get behind this effort as governor of the state. It would be his responsibility to meet with border governors in Mexico to talk about Texas-Mexico relations,” Lucio told the Guardian.
“A Texas-Mexico Commissioner would be Governor Abbott’s right arm and also the right arm of the Legislature when working with our counterparts in Mexico. He could sit down and represent our position on immigration, on international trade, on criminal justice, and on energy, which may be a forefront in the coming years. I really think a Texas-Mexico Commissioner could be a great sounding board for the Legislature.”
Lucio said it pains him that political relations with Mexico have not advanced to the same extent as trade and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico. “I think we need to get back to that. I feel strongly we should never have left it. I think a lot of the problems that exist, exist because of a lack of communication. The fact that we are not doing enough to reach out to our neighbors and it is time we do. It is the right thing to do and it is something that will help us better understand the dynamics between our two countries and how our two economies are intertwined,” Lucio said.
Hidalgo County Commissioners Court recently adopted its agenda for the 2015 legislative session. On international relations, the Court said it wants to see the creation of a “Bi-National Commission that communicates infrastructure needs and logistics between Mexico and Texas.”
McAllen City Commission recently adopted its agenda for the 2015 legislative session. On international relations, the Commission said it will: “Seek and support legislation to enhance Texas’ relationship with Mexico by requiring the Governor’s office, the Secretary of State and senior staffs to hold high-level annual meetings in McAllen or (another) RGV city with counterparts in Mexico’s states that border Texas and federal relations officials to discuss trade, transportation, energy, security and other bi-national issues.”
McAllen City Commission’s legislative agenda points out that Mexico is Texas’ largest trading partner. The document says Texas exported $101 billion to Mexico in 2013 and that this comprises 36 percent of the state’s total exports. It also points out that Mexico is the top trading partner for Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Beaumont and El Paso. It states that Mexico and Texas share a 1,250-mile border and more than two dozen international crossing points and billions of dollars in tourism.
There was much talk about a Texas-Mexico Commission at the recent Border to Border Transportation Conference, held at the McAllen Convention Center. A number of speakers and attendees complained there was not one over-arching entity that can handle Texas-Mexico issues for Texas state agencies.
One of the speakers, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa said he wanted to learn more about the Arizona-Mexico Commission, which a Texas-Mexico Commission could be modeled on.
One of the speakers at the conference was Eduardo Hagert, a senior analyst in the Texas Department of Transportation’s international division. Hagert said he was pleased to hear discussion about improved coordination between Texas and Mexico. He said legislation is already on the books to set up a Border Czar and a Texas-Mexico Border Commission.
“The tools are there. Previously, I worked for a state senator who passed legislation to set up a Border Czar. Senator Hinojosa expressed interest in a commission similar to what Arizona has with the State of Sonora. That legislation has been passed by the same senator, creating a Texas-Mexico Commission. In my opinion the tools are already there and people simply do not know about them,” Hagert said.
Hagert was chief of staff to Sen. Shapleigh.