OP-ED: Reflecting on serving the Big Bend in the Texas Senate

With the holiday season officially upon us and a new year right around the corner, this is a time of year to reflect on how we give back to our community. 2021 was a busy year for our office. It was my first year as your state senator and we faced many unprecedented challenges going into the 87th legislative session. We needed to pass legislation to support COVID-19 recovery in our state, get Texans back to work and increase access to healthcare. We had to ensure our kids had the resources needed to succeed, such as access to broadband and school supplies. Reflecting on this past year, we were able to successfully solve problems for our constituents and uplift our neighbors through the services we offered and the legislation we passed.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted countless Texans’ health and finances. Many lost their jobs, needed unemployment insurance or had questions about their health insurance. Our office understood that cutting through the red tape of a government agency can be a challenge, so we made it a priority to provide services that are useful and meaningful to members of our community. If you need help, we can assist with a range of matters, including food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, unemployment insurance, children’s health insurance, driver’s license and identification, elderly and aging services, and child and adult protective services. This year, we successfully assisted over 300 constituents by cutting through state bureaucracy and helping our constituents get the resources and benefits they needed from state agencies.

Our office is also committed to delivering appropriate community service events to bring essential support to residents in need. Since I took office on January 12, 2021, we have directly hosted 29 community-based service events and 31 town halls and presentations. We hand-delivered close to 500 turkeys across Senate District 29 for our 7th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway, including nearly 50 turkeys and thousands of pounds of food to families in the Presidio area. We provided back-to-school supplies for children attending elementary schools in the district, including Benito Martinez Elementary in Hudspeth County. We hosted virtual workshops for mental health providers dealing with military personnel and families, and put on several COVID-19 vaccination drives through which over 2,500 constituents were vaccinated.

We also gave away box fans for seniors to help them beat the heat, and joined the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas in Presidio to commemorate the restoration of El Cemetario del Barrio de Los Lipanes to the tribe’s stewardship with the Returning of the Stones Ceremony. In total, our office directly served over 6,000 constituents through our events in the past year.

We also helped uplift the Big Bend region through the legislation we passed this year. With a total of four sessions, we were able to accomplish a lot. During the third special session, I co-authored Senate Bill 8 to allocate over $13 billion designated to Texas in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for COVID-19 recovery, including $500 million to bridge the digital divide, $75 million for rural hospitals, and $180 million for tourism and travel. I also secured $15.5 million to complete construction of the Presidio Inspection Station for the South Orient Rail Line which will bolster the region’s economic competitiveness and alleviate congestion at other ports of entry.

During the 87th Legislature, I worked hard to improve the economy and increase access to healthcare in West Texas. I authored bills to promote tourism and economic development in the Big Bend, ensuring the region will continue to benefit from the thousands of tourists that visit every year. I sponsored a bill to protect the vital source of jobs and revenue from pecan farms in West Texas. The pandemic highlighted the value of telemedicine for those who live in medically underserved areas, so I co-sponsored bills to increase access to telemedicine for our rural communities.

We had a lot of work to do for our community this year, and I am proud of what we accomplished. It has been a privilege to serve you as your state senator. While the work we do at the Capitol is important, you can count on me to continue putting our constituents first with service events that we host in the district. If you need help cutting the red tape of a state agency or have ideas to improve our community, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It is, after all, YOUR senate office. To contact me or make a request, email us at district [email protected] or call 915-595-5955. I look forward to continuing to work for you in the new year and beyond.