EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Members of the El Paso delegation of the Texas Legislature have been spending long nights at the Capitol and say there’s still much more work to be done to meet El Paso’s legislative priorities.
KTSM 9 News caught up with Sen. Cesar J. Blanco and Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody as the 87th Texas Congress prepares to draw to a close at the end of May.
“We’re not done yet. We still have about three weeks, and we’re still fighting. And I think Texas needs to do things like expand Medicaid, rein in costs on college tuition, tackle climate change and advance common sense gun safety reforms,” said Blanco.
Blanco has been busy passing bills as a freshman senator that include Senate Bill 162, his “Lie and Try” bill that criminalizes lying on a background check for a gun.
“I also passed Senate Bill 623, which is the Vanessa Guillen Act, to address sexual assault in Texas military forces. I was very fortunate to receive the blessing of the Guillen family. This bill is named after her, whose disappearance and death highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual assault in the military,” he said.
Blanco said much has been accomplished this session, but that the state still needs to rein in college tuition costs, reduce the price of prescription drugs and continue to find innovative ways to provide pandemic relief to individuals and small businesses.
In the House, Moody said the focus was on criminal justice reform as a banner issue, the first time in legislative history.
“Speaker (Dade) Phelan and I worked together on a package of bills that will make our criminal justice system fairer and smarter and we’ve sent those over to the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Moody.
The focus on gun reform in the Senate and criminal justice reform in the House coincide with violent incidents in El Paso, like the 50-person fight that resulted in a shooting last week at a bar in West El Paso, stabbings and recent animal mutilations.
Moody said it’s about being proactive rather than being punitive.
“Crime is almost never addressed through police and prosecutors. They do important work — I used to be a prosecutor myself — but it’s mainly about holding people accountable after the fact. What public safety is truly about is economic and social opportunity,” said Moody.
“It’s about strong neighborhood schools and good jobs and reliable health care. It’s about people feeling like they’re part of a community that’s greater than themselves. What history has shown time and time again (and what I’ve seen with my own eyes working on criminal justice for my entire career) is that when those factors rise, crime falls,” he continued.
Blanco says he’s working to make El Paso communities safer through authoring bills based on non-partisan recommendations by the Texas Safety Action report that he said is a good starting point, like his “Lie and Try” bill.
“This type of violence demonstrates that we have to do more to keep our community safe,” he said.
Both Blanco and Moody say they’re proud of the work that’s already been done, but they’re just getting started.
“Most legislators hope for their moment during session,” said Moody. “But for me, this session hasn’t been about a moment — it’s been about a movement.”