Four younger members of San Antonio’s state legislative delegation will meet Tuesday, April 26, at the University of Texas at San Antonio for “San Antonio and The Legislature: The Issues in the Interim,” a free, public event hosted by the Texas Tribune, to discuss how statewide issues impact their communities.
The forum will take place on from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the H-E-B University Center, Ballroom II, on the UTSA Main Campus. The Rivard Report is a media supporter of the event.
Evan Smith, Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief, will moderate the discussion with state representatives Diego Bernal (D-123), Rick Galindo (R-117), Ina Minjarez (D-124), and Justin Rodriguez (D-125), which will touch on matters such as school finance and school choice, immigration, health care, spending and taxes.
It’s free to RSVP, and the Texas Tribune will provide a light lunch for the more than 200 people expected to attend. Spots are still available but are expected to fill up fast. Starting at noon, the conversation will be live streamed here, and video will be accessible afterward.
The Texas Tribune has been organizing a series of public conversations focusing on current state issues and how they affect fast-growing cities and towns as a lead up to the 85th Legislature, which convenes in January 2017.
“We tried this out in Houston three times last year” with state legislators representing the Houston area, Smith said. The Tribune had to host three events because Houston has a large delegation by virtue of its size, and the nonprofit wanted to ensure that every representative would be available to participate in more than one conversation.
Having multiple meetings ensured that different lawmakers could take part, providing a variety of insights about the same city. The Tribune will apply this mindset going forward with large cities such as San Antonio, Dallas and Austin, Smith said.
“We have all of these state issues, but they all go down to the city and town levels,” he said. “For Houston, it is the largest city in Texas and the most diverse in the country. We talked about health care, immigration, school choice, (and) school financing.”
Such conversations help educate the public about the major issues that the Texas Legislature will cover in the next session. For the first San Antonio conversation in the series, the Tribune has invited the youngest members of the local legislative delegation in terms of age or experience in Austin, including three Democrats – Bernal, Rodriguez and Minjarez – and one Republican, Galindo.
The next San Antonio conversation about legislative issues “will have more veteran representation” from local legislators, Smith said.
Bernal, a former District 1 San Antonio City Council member, was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2015. He is a member of the Urban Affairs and the International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs committees. Galindo was elected to the Texas House in 2014, in an upset of Democratic incumbent Phillip Cortez, and serves on the Public Education and the Government Transparency and Operation committees. Minjarez won a special election in 2015 to fill the Texas House seat once filled by now-state Sen. José Menéndez, and serves with the State Affairs, Transportation, and Federal Environmental Regulation committees.
Rodriguez, elected to the Texas House in 2012, serves on the Rules and Resolutions, Pensions and Appropriations committees.
Bernal, Minjarez and Rodriguez all ran unopposed in their March Democratic primaries and have no opposition in this November’s general election. Galindo and Cortez had no opposition in their respective March primaries, and will have a rematch this fall.
“You could call Justin (Rodriguez) the grizzled veteran of this group,” Smith said.
Bernal said he looks forward to joining his fellow state representatives at UTSA and discussing long-contested issues such as education and school finance.
“The Texas Supreme Court, sometime in the near future, will issue a ruling about public school financing, and we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with that,” he said.
Representing an area that includes 55 traditional public schools and 18 charter campuses, Bernal said it is important for lawmakers to talk with educators about how to improve their jobs and lives from policy and practical perspectives.
“The way we currently finance our public schools is wildly inequitable,” he said. While neither consumer protection nor foster care issues are scheduled for discussion at the Tribune event, Bernal hopes they, too, will be addressed at the next legislative session. How a community benefits from a legislative decision on a statewide issue depends lot on the details in a finally passed and signed bill, he added.
“It’s time for us to evaluate leadership on these issues,” he said. “We’ve been fed a steady line of rhetoric without looking under the hood to see if what we do actually is working.”
Top image: Texas State Capitol building in Austin. Photo by Stuart Seeger.