EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The country is in a state of political flux, and Texas is no exception.
On Tuesday, members of the state legislature convened to launch Texas’ 87th legislative session. Lawmakers across the state plan to advance legislative priorities, and an El Paso state representative-turned-senator tells KTSM 9 news he plans to build on existing relationships.
“As I move over to the Senate, I think relationships are that much more important,” said Sen. Cesar Blanco. “So I’m going to continue to reach across the aisle to work with my Republican colleagues so at the end of the day, El Pasoans and Texans can thrive — so we can see greater opportunities. I’ll always put people above politics.”
Tuesday marks Blanco’s first day of his first term in the Texas Senate representing District 29 after serving three terms in the state House of Representatives.
Blanco’s district is made up of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties, as well as more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico Border. The district’s demographics are top-of-mind for Blanco as he contemplates the communities’ most urgent needs, including COVID-19 relief and social justice initiatives.
“As the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out, the disease continues to sicken and kill Texans. Thousands of other Texans are out of work and facing food insecurity. Businesses are struggling to stay open. And all the health and economic disparities in our community have only been worsened by COVID-19. We need to support our workers, small business owners, and help the economy bounce back stronger than before,” said Blanco.
Blanco’s swearing-in as senator comes on the heels of insurrectionist violence in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as pro-Trump protesters moved on Congress in an attempt to block certification of the electoral votes for President and Vice President-elects Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Tuesday marked a somber event at the state legislature as Blanco and other lawmakers took their oaths.
“We received information from DPS, and I did feel confident about today,” said Blanco. “I did decide to run with a skeleton staff just in case, and I think we’re all a little more aware of our surroundings and activity at the Capitol.”
Blanco’s other priorities include expanding access to health care, improving public education and passing legislation to combat violence, noting the civil unrest and widespread protests against police killings in 2020.
“George Flloyd’s death is a reminder that we need serious reform right now,” he said. “Public safety is one of the most important functions of government and law enforcement is essential to keeping our communities safe.”
One of the challenges of protecting and advocating for communities is redistricting that complicates the policymaking process.
Blanco noted that the U.S. Census Bureau reports that Texas has grown by 3.8 million people, which changes the population statistics for each congressional district.
“Redistricting is always a contentious process, but I’m in favor of fair systems — an independent redistricting commission is something I support,” said Blanco.
An independent redistricting commission would be tasked with drawing fair maps for each district, effectively eliminating the politics of the process.
“I think it would prevent the gerrymandering that has historically — and primarily — impacted communities of color,” added Blanco.
The state of Texas’ fiscal affairs are not as bleak as originally projected, which Blanco says presents opportunities to protect valuable programs and services across Texas.
Analysts initially feared Texas would face a $4.5 billion deficit pursuant to the pandemic but new reports into Blanco’s office estimate the deficit at $1 billion.
“I’ll be fighting for our fair share of resources to help our community respond and recover from COVID-19 and the resources to help our region grow and prosper with opportunity,” said Blanco.
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