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November 19, 1999     (512) 463-0300

Senate Special Committee on Border Affairs Held Public Hearing

EL PASO - The Senate Special Committee on Border Affairs held a public hearing Thursday, November 18 and Friday, November 19, 1999 in the Neill Auditorium, College of Business Building, at the University of Texas at El Paso. The committee is chaired by Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, vice-chaired by Senator David Sibley of Waco, and its members include Senators Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

On Thursday the committee discussed three of four charges. On Friday, a fourth was taken up. These charges had been issued by Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry for study during the current interim.

The first charge discussed by the committee, charge four, deals with developing recommendations to address the border region's water and wastewater system infrastructure needs, and the impact of the lack of adequate waste and wastewater systems on health conditions along the Texas border. Invited testimony was given by Mike Sheridan, Executive Director of the Texas Workforce Commission, Hugo Bustamante, Chairperson, and Martin Aguirre CEO, of the Upper Rio Grande Workforce, Cindy Arnold, Development Coordinator for La Mujer Obrera, Manny Pacillas, Director for IM3 at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Dr. Dan Hoyte, Deputy Manager of Strategic Research at the Office of the State Comptroller.

The second charge, charge number three, pertains to creating short and long term health care strategies to improve the Texas border health conditions. Testimony relating to this charge was given by Dr. Jacob Heydemann, Chairman of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Dr. Manuel de la Rosa, Dean of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, Bill Schlesinger, with the Community Voices of El Paso, Pete Duarte, CEO of Thomason General Hospital, Dr. Miguel Escobedo, Regional Director for the Texas Department of Health, Dr. Jorge Magana, Director for the El Paso City Council Health and Environment District, Dr. Maria Alen, Chairperson for the Texas Diabetes Council, Dr. William McGee of the El Paso Medical Association.

The third charge addressed, charge number two, is concerned with assessing the Texas border region's water and wastewater system infrastructure needs, and the impact of the lack of adequate water and wastewater systems on health conditions along the border. The committee worked on developing both short and long-term recommendations to address these infrastructure needs.

Charge number five monitors the implementation of Senate Bill 1421 relating to the regulation of the subdivision or development of land in certain economically distressed areas, including colonias, and other areas. Charge five also is concerned with monitoring the implementation of Senate Bill 913, One-Stop Border Inspection Facilities. Charge five testimony relating to SB 913 was heard on Friday.

Testimony was provided for charges two and five by Ignacio Madera, Jr., Border Project Management Division for the Texas Water Development Board, Jennifer Allis, International Relations Specialist, and Cecilia Rodriguez, El Paso Ombudsman, of the Office of the Secretary of State, Diana Borja, Director, Border Affairs Division, Office of Environmental Policy, Analysis and Assessment for the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, Hector Gonzales, Strategic Business Manager for the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, Ricardo Castanon, of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and C.P. Luis Mario Gutierrez Gutierrez, Presidente of the Junta Municipal de Agua y Saneamiento, Cd. Juarez.

Following invited testimony, there was compelling testimony from garment workers who had lost their jobs over the past two years, since the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Friday's charge five testimony was provided by Jennifer Allis, International Relations Specialist for Office of the Secretary of State, Becky Pestana, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Attorney General, Ed Wueste with the Texas Department of Transportation, David Laney, Chairman, Texas Transportation Commission, and Captain Coy Clanton and Captain Tom Cummings with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The committee will submit their findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which will convene in January of 2001.