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Category: Periódico

Pete’s Periódico: Early Voting Begins

The economy is almost fully open, early voting is underway, pumpkins are being carved, and now you can enjoy a beer at your favorite watering hole. Per a recent Executive Order from Governor Greg Abbott, county judges are able to open bars and similar establishments to 50% capacity. The Governor’s order also increases the occupancy levels for all business establishments other than bars to 75% – all counties where COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity can open all businesses other than bars to 75% capacity.

Many business have suffered since March––given they have been almost fully closed, bars have suffered more than most businesses. For the sake of establishments across Senate District 19, I applaud the Governor for finally reducing restrictions on base and related business. We strongly encourage the opening of Texas as soon as possible.

The Governor’s decision comes with strong data from Texas State Health Services suggesting Texas has this virus under control. Daily new cases of COVID-19 in Texas peaked in mid-July and has consistently declined since; from around 11,00 daily new cases to around 4,000 now. For the past six weeks, daily new cases has hovered right around 4,000.

The daily new fatality numbers has steeply declined since mid-July as well, but we’re still losing Texans––family members, neighbors, coworkers––to this virus. We are faring better than many other states. Texas ranks #14 in cases per capita and #18 in deaths per capita, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas will continue to stand together and emerge from this pandemic stronger than before.

COVID-19 is destructive to small businesses, so is a lack of public safety. Cities across our country have seen local businesses destroyed by riots and criminal actors––I am thankful for the leadership of brave police chiefs, sheriffs, state law enforcement and their officers to keep Texas business, families, homes, and schools safe.

As a Texas Game Warden for 27 years, I serve in the Texas Legislature with a very unique perspective. I understand better than most the daily sacrifices and challenges our men and women face. While serving as a Warden, I had colleagues who died in the line of duty. They did not die in vain––those brave officers gave their life protecting Texas and the great people in it. We must always honor their memory and never take their sacrifice for granted.

 

While leading over 500 Wardens as Colonel, I always made sure my officers were fully prepared, mentally and physically, to interact with the public and keep Texans safe. Police departments across this state should act no differently. As a state, we must support our public safety officers and keep our communities safe. Public safety and maintaining law and order is the fundamental duty for any government. In this effort, we trust peace officers with incredible responsibility, held accountable by high standards. Texas law enforcement is regarded as some of the best in the world. We must always ensure our officers maintain high-quality character and decision-making.

 

Citizens engage best in all parts of their government by voting. Across this state, Texas are exercising their voice at the ballot box, choosing future public servants at the local, state, and federal level. Early voting ends on Friday, October 30. In-person polling locations can be found by contacting the county elections department or visiting the following website: www.votetexas.gov.

 

Eligible Texans are able to vote early by mail; deadline to apply for a ballot by mail is Friday, October 23. Texans can also call 1-800-252-VOTE (8683) for more information. Exercise your civic duty and vote.

Pete’s Periódico: Back to School

We made it to August, a month many see as a pivot from the slow summer break and to the busy fall filled with school, sports, holidays, and the occasional cool weather. Of course, this year is different, especially for our K–12 students.

The Texas Constitution states it is the duty of the Legislature to provide an “efficient system of public free schools.” The recent 86th Legislative Session was primarily focused on education; we increased funding per student, established pay increases for teachers, balanced the pension fund for retired educators, and provided some retirees with a one-time supplemental check. I strongly supported this position and my affirmative votes reflected it.

How to best serve students and open schools during this ongoing pandemic is an incredibly complex decision. But it is a decision that must be made by local school districts. In a state as large and diverse as Texas, a blanket order on school operation will likely do more harm than good. On this, I agree.

Last week, the state’s top elected officials – Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen – and the leaders of the Education Committees in the House and Senate released a statement regarding opening schools with a simple message: let districts decide. The authority to make decisions about when and how schools safely open rests with the constitutionally and statutorily established local school boards.

School districts can choose to open in August, September, or even later. But, whenever the local school board chooses to open, the board must comply with the requirement to provide the necessary number of days and hours of instruction for students. The Texas Education Agency and Texas Attorney General have been very helpful in providing clarity and resources on how this can be done.

By many factors, Texas remains incredibly healthy, ranking #22 in deaths per capita and #8 most deaths in the nation, despite being the second-largest state. We remain under statewide mandates on wearing masks, occupancy limits, and more in an effort to keep Texans safe. All policies have the potential for negative effects, but we must try something to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable Texans safe.

The best resources for COVID-19 remains the Texas Department of State Health Services: learn the symptoms, explore the data, and find testing locations at their website: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/. If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact DSHS directly: dial 2-1-1 and choose option 6 or email coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov.

There are testing centers across Senate District 19 outside of Bexar County: Uvalde, Hondo, Eagle Pass, Del Rio, plus in relatively close cities such as Odessa, Van Horn, Sonora, and Junction. Mobile testing sites continue to make their way around underserved parts of Texas – keep an eye on the DSHS testing map for a mobile testing center coming to your community.

We must continue to work together to practice common sense hygiene and public behavior to contain the spread of the virus. The sooner we get our state working, the better it is for us all.

I must end on a tragic note – on Saturday, August 8, three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees died in a helicopter crash in Brewster County. They dedicated their lives to wildlife conservation in our great state and lost their lives doing what they believed in. The pilot, a private contractor, survived the crash and is undergoing further treatment. We will always remember their service to our state and Senate District 19.

We will prevail in true Texas fashion. I remain ever optimistic and am thankful to have the opportunity to honorably serve all of the people of Texas Senate District 19.

Pete’s Periódico: Moving Forward in Difficult Times

Originally published on July 24, 2020.
From the beginning of this crisis, two primary factors drove decisions by Governor Greg Abbott and other state leaders: data and doctors. Governor Abbott eased restrictions and slowly opened Texas businesses, restaurants, bars, and other places in early May. Recently, Texas has experienced a new rise in COVID-19 cases, causing the Governor to re-evaluate and adjust regulations to keep Texans safe and businesses open
Seeing the rates of positivity and hospitalization rise, Governor Abbott decided in late June to immediately close all bars, limit restaurant capacity and outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The number of confirmed cases is rising in part due to increased testing––Texas has completed over 2,820,000 tests.
In Texas at time of writing, there are an estimated 136,000 recoveries and 3,200 fatalities, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In other words, 99.98% of Texans who contracted COVID-19 survived––the true number is likely higher, as not every individual with COVID-19 realized they were sick and received a test. One death is too many, but we can be grateful for such a high recovery rate.
If you feel sick, do not hesitate to get tested. Testing centers are up and running across Senate District 19 in San Antonio, Uvalde, Hondo, and Del Rio. Constituents can also find testing in nearby cities such as Kerrville, Junction, San Angelo, Odessa, and Presidio. Texas has mobile testing sites serving underserved areas, including many cities in Senate District 19. Constituents interesting in obtaining a COVID-19 test, especially those who live far away from the cities listed above, should be on the lookout for a mobile testing site, available by appointment only. More information on testing can be found by calling (512) 883-2400 or visiting www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus or txcovidtest.org.
A central question many are wondering as summer passes its midpoint: will schools be open in the fall? Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency issued guidance for a safe return to school, including giving the parents the option between on-campus instruction or remote learning. The TEA is hoping to give parents flexibility and I agree: parents and local school boards should determine what is best for their school children.
A one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer to the various needs of our Senate District and our state. Senate District 19 is incredibly diverse––what works for Bexar county schools will not work for Val Verde county. These decisions should be made locally. I believe Texas can honor its constitutional requirement to provide a quality education without mandating districts to operate beyond their ability.
For those students in college pursuing service in the armed forces, I encourage you to apply for the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program. I have the ability to nominate one constituent for a scholarship up to $10,000. Applicants must be completing a baccalaureate degree and intending to become a member of a brand of the military. Constituents interested in applying need to submit a cover letter, resume, and essay by July 31, 2020––more information can be found at www.flores.senate.texas.gov
For the sake of struggling businesses across this state, I sincerely hope Texas does not revert to a full economic shutdown. I remain optimistic we can work together and emerge from this crisis in true Texas fashion: stronger and more united, continuing to lead as the best state in the nation.

Pete’s Periódico: Opening Back Up

Originally published on June 9, 2020.
Restaurants, bars, and stores are open again. With the beginning of June, Texas entered the third phase to safely reopen the economy––effective immediately, all businesses in Texas can operate at up to 50% capacity with very limited exceptions. Business that previously have been able to operate at 100% capacity may continue to do so and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Effective June 12, Restaurants may expand their occupancy levels to 75%. Counties with 10 or less active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limits to 75%. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with DSHS will need to do so. On June 19, amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 may open at 50% capacity.
All businesses should continue to follow the minimum standard health protocols from DSHS. For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit http://open.texas.gov. Small business owners and their employees bore the economic brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic––I urge all able Texans to get out and support local businesses.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) continues to process unemployment applications to those out of work. For those still waiting on your application to be processed, please be patient as TWC handles the same quantity of applications it normally receives over years, not months. This pandemic has stretched TWC like never before and I am impressed with their ability to adapt and serve Texans. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you need assistance; we have been working nonstop to serve Senate District 19 constituents.
I stand with my fellow Americans when I say what happened to George Floyd was wrong. Our system of justice will prevail and hold those guilty of wrongdoing responsible. The rights we all have for peaceful protest is protected and promoted in this country under the First Amendment. I strongly support people acting lawfully to express themselves and I will continue to work hard to uphold our Constitution.
I strongly condemn those who unlawfully riot and attack innocent people, destroy businesses, and hurt our communities. They are to be held criminally responsible for their actions. The rule of law applies to us all. I thank all of our first responders and law enforcement officers for their continued service and dedication to serve each of us.
Congratulations to Senate District 19 2020 graduates––whether high school, trade school, or college, earning a diploma is no small task. I am always encouraged when I interact with new graduates. You are entering a world of wonderful opportunities; dare greatly and achieve your full potential.
No matter what happens in our state and country, Texans and Americans are strongest when we stand together. I find the hardworking people of Senate District 19 agree on much more than they disagree. Let’s find those areas of commonalties first––Texans are strong and we will get through this together.

Pete’s Periódico: Lives and Livelihoods

Originally published on May 20, 2020.
Texas is (almost) open again. Under the leadership of Governor Greg Abbott, business across the state can open doors, furloughed or laid-off Texans can earn a paycheck again, and we can take small steps back to “normal” life. As usual, Texas will lead the nation and show how we can protect lives and rebuild livelihoods.
Governor Greg Abbott has announced a multiple-phase plan to Open Texas, pairing nationally recognized medical experts with public and private-sector business leaders in the recently announced Strike Force to Open Texas for advice and expertise. The goal is to move methodically: staggering reopening of business and public places, allowing time for data on infections to be reported. Maintaining lives and public health is Texas’ top concern––Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is issuing minimum standard health protocols for all businesses and individuals to follow.
Texas cannot afford to wait much longer. By the end of the first week of May, 1.8 million Texans filed for unemployment. The odds are every Texan still employed has a loved one or close friend who is not. I’ve heard stories from struggling business owners across Senate District 19, worried their doors may need to close for good if they cannot return to normal operations soon.
Per the Governor and his Strike Force, all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls are permitted to reopen starting the beginning of this month. These services must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. Within shopping malls, the food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed.
All museums and libraries may open under the same 25% occupancy limitation, but interactive areas of museums must remain closed. State libraries and museums are able to open; local public museums and libraries may reopen only if permitted by the local government. Single-person offices may reopen as well.
The next phase of Open Texas began Friday, May 8, allowing barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, and cosmetology stores to reopen. As with other phases, these stores should practice social distancing and other measures––customers should make appointments to avoid a rush of people, for instance. The next phase, planned to begin May 18, will allow gyms, manufactures, and office-based employers to reopen. For more information on the Governor’s plan, please visit: gov.texas.gov/opentexas.
These openings are supported by public health expertise, data, and gained knowledge of the virus over the past few weeks. Based on data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 76% of confirmed COVID-19 fatalities in Texas were individuals 65 years of age or older. Across America, less than 3% of fatalities are individuals younger than 44 and the majority of hospitalizations patients due to coronavirus have pre-existing conditions, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Texas, the second-largest state, ranks 15th in the number of COVID-19 fatalities. One death is too many from this virus, but we can be grateful for the superb leadership at the state and local level––plus a commitment from all Texans––for potentially saving tens of thousands of lives.
Every Texan is at risk for contracting the coronavirus and a cure remains undiscovered. But there is a clear trend here: the elderly and individuals with preexisting medical conditions are at a higher risk from getting very sick, and potentially dying, from COVID-19. I urge all Texans who fit this description to take increased precautions.
As we Open Texas again, please continue observed health practices: wash hands often and longer, use hand sanitizer, avoid touching face, disinfectant surfaces often, avoid contact with people who are sick, continue to practice social distancing, avoid crowds, limit physical contact, and wear a mask when necessary. Texans will overcome this challenge as we always do.

Pete’s Periódico: Texas is Stronger than the Coronavirus

Originally published on April 14, 2020. 
Whether on the fields of San Jacinto or floods of Hurricane Harvey, Texans are resilient in the face of a challenge. Together we are strong and together we can overcome anything––including this coronavirus outbreak.
A quick review of the present situation: we officially remain in a statewide public health disaster, recently continued by Governor Greg Abbott indefinitely. Many cities and counties have issued various shelter-in-place orders, which remain a local government imperative. The Governor has no plans for a statewide order given Texas is too geographically diverse: what works for San Antonio will not work for Ft. Stockton.
Millions of Personal Protection Equipment (masks, gowns, gloves) have been delivered to the state and distributed to health care centers; more are on the way as Texas businesses step up to produce more equipment. The Governor has signed dozens of executive orders, waiving laws and regulations that slow public health response. Testing centers are up and running––through private and public labs, the state has tested almost 125,000 Texans thus far. Our testing ability will continue to increase.
The hardest part: at least 271 Texans have died from coronavirus at the time of writing. Among those hardest hit are our nursing homes, where elderly Texans fight the coronavirus disadvantaged by age and preexisting conditions. My heart breaks for every Texan we have lost and those who currently lie sick. The State of Texas, working in conjunction with local leaders, is doing everything it can to prevent further loss of life from coronavirus.
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has a hotline Texans should call for more information on coronavirus and local testing: 2-1-1. If you’re feeling sick, self-quarantine and contact your doctor––Governor Abbott has allowed increased use of telemedicine by healthcare professionals. Do not go to the hospital unless you cannot breathe or otherwise in critical condition. Of course, I am a former Game Warden and not a doctor––please contact your doctor for in-depth medical information, visit DSHS and Center for Diseases Control and Prevention websites, and continue to use 9-1-1 for any emergencies.
Schools remain closed by Governor Abbott until May 4 at the earliest. All schools are still offering continued instruction, though it looks different––it is times like this when we realize how truly grateful we are for Texas teachers. Given the instability of our present situation, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements are waived for the 2019-2020 school year.
Many schools continue to provide food for students that rely on those meals––the Texas Education Agency (TEA) created a webpage where families can find food pick-up locations: www.txschools.gov. Any specific question on education should be made to your local school district or TEA, which can be reached via email disasterinfo@tea.texas.gov or phone (512) 463-9734. TEA also has a dedicated webpage providing administrators, educators, and parents with updated information, announcements, operating procedures, and more: www.tea.texas.gov/coronavirus.
With businesses closed around the state, many Texans are suffering financially. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has experienced an unprecedented number of inquiries––more people have opened claims in the last five weeks than all of 2019. To handle this heavy load and help as many Texans as possible, government employees from other departments, including my office, are beginning to volunteer their time to help TWC claims. Additionally, TWC is asking Texans to call at staggered times assigned by the first digit in a phone’s area code. More information can be found at the following TWC webpage: www.twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-job-seekers.
In an effort to help fellow Texans newly out of work for no fault of their own, I encourage all able Senate District 19 constituents to donate food or funds to a local food bank. Food banks are under heavy strain right now due to the increase of people in need; they rely on donations to keep serving our fellow citizens. I recently signed a letter with other members of the Bexar County legislative delegation requesting Texas accept the State of Texas Assistance Request for San Antonio Food Bank, which serves Bexar and 15 surrounding counties. How you can help and more information on the San Antonio Food Bank can be found by visiting the following website: www.safoodbank.org or South Texas Food Bank in Laredo, which services many constituents in Senate District 19, at: www.southtexasfoodbank.org.
My office works daily to serve you. We are working remotely, but still accessible via phone and email. Do not hesitate to reach out by emailing District19.Flores@senate.texas.gov, an email inbox we check multiple times a day. Other contact information can be found on my Senate webpage: www.flores.senate.texas.gov. Information is also posted regularly to my social media accounts: www.facebook.com/SenatorPeteFlores and www.twitter.com/PeteFlores_TX.
Texans must do their part to remain healthy: be vigilant about washing and disinfecting surfaces, practice social distancing, limit contact to at-risk populations, wear a facemask in public if you have one, and stay home if sick. Our state, and our people, are capable of defeating this virus.

Pete’s Periódico: The Census is Here, Shape Your Future

Originally published on March 10, 2020. 

There were 28,995,881 people living in Texas in 2019––or at least we think so. That was the estimated population projected from the 2010 U.S. Census, an official count of our population as a country and state. Now it’s time to count again.
Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census occurs every 10 years. Participating in the Census means you are participating in your future: the official population given by the Census impacts federal funding amounts, school district populations, Texas Congressional delegation size, and more.
During the last two weeks of March, you will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail at your household. The notice will give detailed information how you and your family can respond to the Census online, by phone, or by mail. By April 1––National Census Day––every home should have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census.
Information reported to the Census is safe and secure. By law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your family, your business, or your immigration status. We need every Texan to participate in the Census. This is the time to shape your future. If you have questions, please visit the U.S. Census website: https://2020census.gov/
As populations change, so must legislative representation. New legislative districts for Congress, Texas House, Texas Senate, and more will be redrawn during the 87th Legislative Session beginning in January 2021 following the Census count. But the work begins now. The Texas Senate Redistricting Committee will host a series of field hearings, coming directly to communities across this state.
Unfortunately, the initial hearings planned for late March are being rescheduled due to public health risks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19). As a member of the Committee, I urge all Senate District 19 constituents to participate by attending a future Redistricting Committee hearing or otherwise contacting my office to share your comments and concerns.
Texas is not standing idly by on coronavirus. Our state and local leadership is facing the threat head-on, with six public health labs ready to perform COVID-19 tests in Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, and Lubbock. The remaining four labs in Tyler, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Harlingen will have testing capabilities very soon.
The state’s public health lab network will be able to test over 125 patients per day once the entire network is equipped. The ability to provide testing in Texas will help shorten the time for healthcare providers to receive test results and public health officials to take appropriate steps.
As Texas does everything in its power to stop the spread of coronavirus, so can you. I encourage all Texans follow the recommended Texas Health and Human Services practices to prevent coronavirus: Wash your hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds––especially before eating or after using the restroom. If soap is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick. Always cover your cough or sneeze; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. If you feel sick, please consult a doctor and stay home if able.
If you have any questions, I encourage you to contact the following state and federal agencies. Texas Department of State Health Services can be reached via phone at 1-877-570-9779 or email at coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov. More information can be found at the following website: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/. A complete list of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19) local health entities can found at the following website: https://dshs.texas.gov/regions/2019-nCoV-Local-Health-Entities/. Information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.

Pete’s Periódico: Tales of the West

Originally published on February 10, 2020.
This year started with a trip to the western edge of Senate District 19. Our district stretches 400+ miles northwest of where I live in Pleasanton to Pecos, counting a few miles of the border with New Mexico. The West Texas tour included five events hosted by my office, plus another two hosted by other groups.
We began in Ozona for lunch where I was able to visit with constituents over burgers at the Hitchin’ Post Steak House. We went next to Ft. Stockton for a grand opening and open house of my District Office, blocks away from the library and Historic Ft. Stockton. We finished the first day with a Town Hall in Pecos.
The following morning, we drove to Alpine for a series of meetings related to oil, gas, and the energy industry at Sul Ross State University. In between events, we hosted an afternoon meet and greet in Alpine. Finally, the next morning we stopped in Marathon for a coffee and meet and greet before heading back home.
It was a great trip and a much-needed opportunity to visit with constituents. Marshal Hoak, my West Texas Constituent Liaison, is based in Ft. Stockton and serves the area composed of Brewster, Crockett, Pecos, Reeves, and Terrell counties. Please reach out to us with any concerns––it is one of my unique challenges to balance the different issues facing the variety of Senate District 19 locales: urban city, rural area, border town, energy-rich sector. Hearing from you helps me continue to serve you effectively.
I would like to congratulate two Senate District 19 public servants on appointments to statewide boards by Governor Greg Abbott–– Crystal City Mayor Frank Moreno and Pleasanton City Manager Johnny Huizar. Moreno was appointed to Governor’s Broadband Development Council and Huizar to Texas Municipal Retirement System Board of Trustees.
Additionally, Governor Abbott designated Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward to the Texas Violent Gang Task Force. The task force forms strategic partnerships among local, state, and federal criminal justice, juvenile justice, and correctional agencies to better enable those agencies to take a proactive stance towards tracking gang activity and the growth and spread of gangs statewide.
I view advocating for Senate District 19 constituents for appointments on boards and commissions as one of the most important parts of my job as a State Senator. Our communities need and deserve a seat at the table––check board positions on the governor’s website and notify my office if one aligns with your qualifications and expertise.
The Senate Redistricting Committee is about to begin a tour of field hearings around the state, with plans to visit over a dozen cities to hear from the public on this important issue. All dates and locations are still tentative, but it is likely the first of such hearings will occur in San Antonio in late March.
The decennial redistricting process is difficult. The Texas Legislature aims to make the process as efficient, transparent, and accessible as possible; these field hearings are a key part of that strategy. Myself and the other Committee members look forward to hearing from Senate District 19 constituents at this hearing. More information coming soon.

Pete’s Periódico: Raising Awareness of Human Trafficking

Originally published on January 13, 2020. 
Happy New Year, Senate District 19. I hope you enjoyed your holidays; between field Redistricting Committee hearings, interim charges, other Committee meetings, constant town halls and events across the District, this year is sure to be a busy one.
During this month of January, the state of Texas is trying to raise awareness of a sad but ever-present issue: human trafficking and child exploitation. Governor Greg Abbott proclaimed January 11, 2020 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day and the entire month as Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
At any given time, our state has approximately 234,000 victims of labor trafficking with another 79,000 children who were in the sex trade, according to the Texas Attorney General’s office. These are staggering numbers and as Texans, we refuse to stand idly by.
In addition to the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section of the Attorney General, I supported legislation creating the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force in the Governor’s Office. This task force, composed of individuals from state agencies, trade associations, medical staff, law enforcement, and more, will serve as a place of ideas, future policy, and coordination for all forms of sexual assault and abuse. Additionally, the Texas Secretary of State established the Texas Businesses Against Trafficking; a network of businesses committed to working together to combating human trafficking.
All these divisions and more focus daily on freeing men, women, and children from modern-day slavery. In an effort to raise awareness of this issue, billboards across the state of Texas appeared towards the end of last year, featuring a trafficking victim and the simple message: “Can you see me?”
Advocates against human trafficking believe that victims are often in plain sight. Clues associated with human trafficking victims include: controlled (verbally, financially, transportation, etc.) by another person; signs of physical or substance abuse; overt lack of trust; lacks official identification or few personal belongings; bad health or malnutrition.
The billboards, displayed in English and Spanish, urge the public to report possible instances of human trafficking to the Polaris National Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 (or text at 233-733) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678.
In my work as a Texas Game Warden, I relied on the community in which I was serving to help enforce the law and preserve public safety. The same is true for human trafficking. Our law enforcement in Texas relies on us to be on the lookout, reporting suspicious activity. Please take a minute to save these numbers in your phone. Join me and millions of other Texans in the fight to end human trafficking.
This week, I will be traveling across the western part of Senate District 19, hosting town halls and attending events in Ozona, Ft. Stockton, Pecos, Alpine, and Marathon. I look forward to seeing many of you out there––visiting with constituents is one of the best parts of my job as a Texas Senator. As always, feel free to call my Capitol office or District office near you with any questions or comments.

Pete’s Periódico: Committees, Commissions, and Christmas!

Originally published on December 9, 2019. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! This month started with two Senate Committee hearings: Health and Human Services and Finance. Both committees discussed interim charges; this is the first time either committee has met since the conclusion of the 86th Legislative Session. I was glad to be back in a committee room at the Texas Capitol, joining my other Senators to hear from government officials, stakeholders, and the public on these issues.
Health and Human Services discussed the emerging public health concern of e-cigarettes and implementation of Senate Bill 21, which raised the legal age of smoking tobacco to 21. We also examined the current status and future direction of Texas healthcare. In Finance, we discussed stronger restrictions on constitutional state spending limits, economic dynamics of current business personal tax, and implementation of House Bill 1525, related to online marketplace taxes.
I recently attended the Winter Meeting of the Education Commission of the States. This Commission is a community of state policymakers, supporting all 50 states and four territories to guide education policy. I was appointed to the Commission by Governor Greg Abbott in August and serve alongside another Senator, two Representatives, and three other government officials.
I enjoyed this time to dive in to education policy, from pre-K to college. As a member of Senate Higher Education Committee, I found it helpful to connect with other state legislators, policy groups, and other stakeholders. I couldn’t help but brag on the importance Texas places on education, sharing recent major school finance reform from the 86th Legislative Session.
The holidays are finally here, the perfect time for cookies, carols, and crime. Criminal activity tends to spike this time of year; the Texas Department of Public Safety is reminding Texans to stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. To aide vigilance, DPS created a mobile app to make reporting quick and easy. Called iWatchTexas, the app is free and available for Apple and Android phones; Texans can also submit reports online at www.iwatchtx.org or by calling 1-844-643-2251.
While we’re talking about DPS, you may have heard the Legislature invested almost $200 million to help alieve the disastrous wait lines at DPS driver license offices. DPS aims to hire over 500 new staff members with the new funds, in addition to other reforms such as an appointment system. Keep in mind that under a year from now­––October 1, 2020––all Americans will require a REAL ID for official federal government purposes, such as boarding a domestic flight or entering a federal building. REAL IDs are denoted with a gold circle with an inset star located in the upper right-hand corner of a license. More information can be on the DPS website.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from myself, my family, and my staff. I hope you spend this time with dear friends and family, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the end of a great year.
One gift you can give me during this holiday season: feedback. I need feedback from my constituents to serve you as a Texas Senator in the manner you deserve and expect. I ask that you complete an online survey of the issues most important to you and your family. The survey takes around find minutes and can be easily completed via computer or phone by visiting the following link: www.senate.texas.gov/SD19survey.
As always, feel free to call my Capitol office or District office near you with any questions or comments. Merry Christmas!