WESLACO, RGV – State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez welcomed members of two Texas House Committees to the Rio Grande Valley on Monday with an evening reception at the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco.

The reception was hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. Among the state representatives present were Martinez of Weslaco, Rafael Anchia of Dallas, Geanie Morrison of Victoria, Cindy Burkett of Garland, Celia Israel of Austin, Ina Minjariz of San Antonio, Ed Thompson of Pearland, Senfronia Thompson of Houston, Mark Keough of The Woodlands, Tan Parker of Flower Mound and Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City.

Morrison chairs the House Committee on Transportation, while Martinez is vice chair. Minjariz, Burkett, Israel and both Thompsons are on this committee.
Anchia chairs the House Committee on International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs. Keough and Parker are also on this committee.
Other members of the two committees will be in the Valley on Tuesday.

House Speaker Joe Straus gave the two committees a joint charge to consider during the interim. It is to:

“Review the current state of infrastructure at Texas’ international shipping ports and border ports of entry in Texas. Identify transportation-related impediments to international trade and estimate the impact of those challenges, including border wait times, on the state’s economy. Make recommendations for improvements to facilitate international trade and economic growth.”

The two committees will hold a joint hearing at the Knapp Conference Center in Weslaco on Tuesday morning, from 8 to 12, to consider this interim charge. Invited testimony only will be heard. The hearing will be split into four panel discussions. The four panels comprise:

I. Panel 1
1. Jesus Cañas – Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
2. Caroline Mays – TxDOT Freight & International Trade Section
3. Jolanda Prozzi – Texas A&M Transportation Institute
4. The Honorable Pete Saenz, Mayor of the City of Laredo – Texas Border Coalition

II. Panel 2
1. Jennifer Stastny – Texas Ports Association
2. Eduardo Campirano – Port of Brownsville
3. Chris Frabotta – Army Corps of Engineers
4. Dan Harmon – TxDOT Maritime Division

III. Panel 3
1. The Honorable Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez, M.D. – Mayor of the City of Pharr
2. The Honorable Eddie Treviño, Jr. – Cameron County Judge
3. Bradd Skinner – Deputy Chief U.S. Customs & Border Protection
4. Fred Whisenant – Captain,Texas Department of Public Safety

IIII. Panel 4
1. Matt Mandel – VP of SunFedProduce
2. Ivan Jaime – Union Pacific Railroad
3. Tony Bennett – Texas Association of Manufacturers

After the hearing has ended members of the two committees will board a bus and be given a tour of Valley land ports of entry. Bridge directors from the ports will be on the bus to explain their operations.

“Our land ports of entry, our sea ports of entry, are critical to the Texas economy and the U.S. economy,” said Sergio Contreras, president of the RGVP, at Monday evening’s reception.

In his remarks at the reception, Rep. Martinez thanked the City of Welsaco. “These are taxpayer dollars at work. We obtained a $500,000 grant for this center,” he said. Martinez also thanked RGVP and the sponsors of the reception, Knapp Medical Center for providing the conference center, his staff, and the two committee clerks, Jeff Madden, from International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs, and MacGregor Stephenson, from Transportation.

“It really is an honor to have all of our colleagues here and to see so many people here welcoming our colleagues. None of this would have been possible if Chairwoman Morrison and Chair Anchia had not agreed to do this,” Martinez said.

“Enjoy Weslaco, savor the flavor of what we are about. We are looking forward to having a great committee hearing tomorrow.”