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Government/Politics

For Bexar County Delegation At The Capitol, It Was A Session Well Worth Fighting For

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Ryan E. Poppe
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The final bang of the gavel was followed by a unanimous cheer that the session had come to an end. For one San Antonio lawmaker, Monday was about saying goodbye. 

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
Joe Farias has served 5 terms as a Democrat in the Texas House. At 69 years old, Farias says his only regret about the Legislature is that he didn't get there sooner or at a younger age.

  Since 2007, Democratic Rep. Joe Farias has served in the House, making veterans’ affairs one of his number one issues.  This session, Farias said he was proud to have helped keep veterans’ tuition benefits intact.

“Thousands and thousands of veterans from across the state sent us emails, calls, in support of Hazlewood. So I told my staff I need arms around this and work on it and see what we can do to preserve it,” Farias said.

Farias announced he was leaving the House to be closer to his family and care for his ailing wife.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
San Antonio Republican Rep. Lyle Larson

  San Antonio Republican Rep. Lyle Larson said the biggest moment for him this session was the passage of a bill that stopped the diversion of funds from state parks and outdoor areas. “So we’ll add another $100 million-plus every two years to the park system. We’ve got close to $600 and $700 million of deferred maintenance for our park system,” Larson said.

He added, though, that he would have also liked to see his bill that proposed the creation of a statewide water grid, similar to the state’s electric grid, make it out of the Senate. But he does plan on filing that bill again in 2017.

Over on the Senate side, San Antonio Democrat Carlos Uresti said he was extremely pleased about the amount of state money being awarded to Texas A&M — San Antonio. “That means in one year, because of that money we were able to get — it’s the first time I sat on Senate finance — coupled with the $ 67 million to build a new STEM building, that means we’re going to have a four year institution on the Southside of San Antonio,” Uresti explained.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
San Antonio Democratic Sen. Carlos Uresti

Uresti said his other number one priority was to increase the amount of money the state spent on child abuse prevention.  The City of San Antonio has the second highest rate of abuse and neglect of all Texas cities.

For freshman Sen. José Menéndez, this session was not only about getting his own bills passed, it was also about making sure that some of the more controversial bills up before the Senate failed. “We were able to keep sanctuary cities bottled up, we were able to keep so many unnecessary anti-gay [legislation], there were like 26 pieces of legislation filed, zero passed,” Menendez said.

But if he had it to do over again, Menendez said he would have liked to see the legislature give teachers an across-the-board pay raise this session.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
House Speaker Joe Straus

  Another lawmaker representing San Antonio as well as the State of Texas, House Speaker Joe Straus, said an important issue he was proud to have seen passed was the $30 million slated for the restoration of the Alamo complex.

“Bexar County did very well, there was a big boost for the Alamo, plans for the Alamo with funding to follow that,” Straus said confidently.

The Legislature managed to pass more than 5,600 bills in total this session. Now it’s up to Governor Greg Abbott to decide which ones to sign or veto.