Texas lawmakers with NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected Officials) met virtually Thursday to talk about the next steps in this legislative session.
State Rep. Mary González, who is on the Board of Directors of NALEO Educational Fund and is the Vice-Chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), welcomed two other Texas lawmakers, state Sen. José Menéndez and MALC Chair state Rep. Rafael Anchia, to discuss their legislative priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the discussion, and both Menéndez and Anchia acknowledged the disproportionate impact on Latinos in Texas. In many parts of Texas, Latinos have faced the highest rates of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. Latinos are also falling behind when it comes to vaccination efforts.
Menéndez talked about the work from his own office in helping residents in his district get vaccine reservations, particularly for those who do not have access to an internet connection.
Anchia mentioned that his district, which includes the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, had the highest COVID-19 cases in the county. Anchia also reflected on the high numbers of Latinos working as essential workers. “Many of the inequities in our society have been laid bare,” Anchia said.
Both Anchia and Menéndez emphasized the need not just for relief from COVID-19, but also recovery. “We have to focus on rebuilding after this pandemic,” Menéndez said. The state senator cited a number of opportunities for the Texas Legislature to work on, including strengthening public schools, increasing rural broadband access, and expanding Medicaid.
Arturo Vargas, the CEO of NALEO, noted the importance of Texas when it comes to Latino political representation. Vargas also said that Texas often serves as a model for determining solutions for the Hispanic community.
Redistricting was another major topic that the lawmakers focused on. Anchia announced that he had just been named to the Redistricting Committee in the Texas legislature. However, he cautioned that data would not be available until late spring because of the Trump administration’s botched Census approach. Anchia also mentioned that congressional redistricting would likely happen around August, while the state house maps could get pushed until 2022.
Vargas also warned that NALEO’s own research has determined that Texas is potentially on the cusp of missing out on a congressional seat due to incomplete census data. Still, everyone agreed that redistricting would remain a huge focus of this legislative session.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call