SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, RGV – It does not happen very often but this week there are four Texas House Committee hearings being held in the Rio Grande Valley.

Today, the Business & Industry Committee meets in the city council chambers on South Padre Island. On Tuesday, the Business & Industry holds a joint hearing with the International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee meets in UT-Rio Grande Valley’s El Gran Salon in Brownsville.

State Rep. René Oliveira.
State Rep. René Oliveira.

Also on Tuesday, the Natural Resources Committee meets at Brownsville City Hall. And on Thursday, the Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement meets at the city council chambers on South Padre Island.

Click here for the full itinerary including agendas.

“I cannot recall having four House hearings in one week in the Valley. It is rare when it does occur,” said J.J. Garza, chief of staff to state Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville. Oliveira is chair of the Business & Industry Committee. “Now the primaries are out of the way, the committees are concentrating on the work they have to do before the next session.”

Garza said having four committee hearings in the Valley provides Valley residents a great opportunity to give their views to state legislators from across the state – as long as those comments are restricted to the topics under consideration at the hearings. “A lot of times these types of hearings occur up in Austin and Valley folks do not get a chance to participate because of the travel time and the expense. So, it is a great opportunity for the Valley to have its voice heard.”

Garza added that a number of lobbyists and association leaders will likely travel down from Austin to attend the hearings.

They attract a lot of people from Austin that are following what the committees are doing, lobbies and association leaders. “Hopefully they will see what a jewel South Padre Island is,” Garza said.

Rep. Oliveira said the focus of the Business & Industry Committee hearing on Monday will be on exploring the possibility of using state tax credits and the federal Work Opportunities Tax Credit to get Texas businesses to hire workers currently on public assistance. Oliveira believes this will save money for the state. He authored legislation last session to provide tax credits for this purpose but he was beaten by the clock towards the end of the session.

“Texas created a tax credit for businesses that hire people on public assistance before the federal government did. But, changes to the Texas tax structure have made it harder to Texas businesses to access the credit,” Oliveira (D-Brownsville) said. “We need to streamline the administrative process, and that will require changes to the law. More importantly, we can save millions of dollars in welfare payments, by providing an incentive to employers.”

Tuesday’s joint hearing by the Business & Industry Committee and the International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee will focus on manufacturing and international exports. “On the national stage, free trade has been taking a beating. I do not think people realize how many jobs are connected with free trade. When we don’t have free trade to Mexico that means less production in the United States. Anything we can do to promote that is only going to create jobs,” Garza said.

The exact wording of the interim charge given by House Speaker Joe Straus is: “Analyze recent data attributing the decline in domestic manufacturing to a consistent trade deficit caused by steady increases in net imports. Study how expanding trade and investing in manufacturing communities’ partnerships can grow the state’s skilled workforce and production as well as increase net exports and develop a trade balance.”

Tuesday’s Natural Resources Committee hearing will focus on water and desalination issues. State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, of San Benito, is a member of the committee.

Thursday’s Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement hearing will focus on reviewing the training and professional needs of law enforcement in the State of Texas. According to the interim charge given by Speaker Straus, the select committee will look at law enforcement training grants, and methods and types of training, “including training in emerging or changing threats such as human trafficking; mental health crisis and confrontation, organized crime, and critical incident shooting.” State Rep. Armando Martinez of Weslaco is a member of this select committee.