March 2009 - A message from Carlos...

Last month, I received a call from a friend who told me about a tragedy in our city. I told her I had already heard the bad news, and agreed that it was time something be done.

The Feb. 10 slaying of 32-year-old Kristy Appleby exposed a gap in our law that must be filled. Kristy was gunned down on her way to work in an apparent rage of jealousy. Her sin? She once dated her killer's ex-husband. Kristy's death could have been prevented, and I pray that we don't see a repeat of this situation. In response, I have filed Senate Bill 843, which will allow law enforcement officers to obtain protective orders in cases involving two people not involved in intimate relationships. As the law stands now, one can only get a protective order against someone they are romantically involved with.

While this nuance in the law doesn't seem all that important at first glance, had it been different, Kristy may still be alive today. Months prior to the incident, Kristy sought a protective order against the woman now charged with her death, but it was denied. This gap in the law could have meant the difference between a criminal who was effectively deterred and one who was not.

Though no one may have foreseen the full impacts of the law when it was originally written, I am proud to say that the Legislature has reacted quickly to address the problem posed by a worn out statute. Never before have I filed a bill as quickly as I did that one. It was a gut reaction, and I can assure my fellow Texans that I will be fighting for S.B. 843. In my opinion, we can't afford not to.

If you read this message, and you don't live in District 19, call your legislator and tell them to support the bill. As Texans, we all have a responsibility to look out for our fellow citizens and a duty to seek out inadequacies and inequities in our laws and policies. My Senate seat is a resource for voters to use, and I encourage the constituents of District 19 to call, fax, write, or email me your suggestions for changes you'd like to see made in our Great State. Legal issues like the one here, while sometimes overlooked, can be remedied, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Semper Fi!

Voter ID Bill Will Harm Most Vulnerable Texas Voters

For the past century, America has worked to remove barriers to voting – granting the franchise to women, minorities, and young people, and eliminating the poll tax and “all white” primaries. The Voter ID bill will erect a new barrier, making it make it more difficult for people to enjoy one of their most fundamental rights. Sadly, the measure represents a step backward in all our efforts to make Texas a more inclusive democracy.

From the earliest days of our country, the right to vote has been earned and not given. Much blood has been shed to ensure the franchise is protected and used equitably. Ironically, our vote on this issue comes on the same month 44 years ago that civil rights activists crossed a bridge outside Selma, Alabama, to force America to allow everyone to vote. All our nation’s wars and historic movements were waged with the idea that voting was a privilege worthy of sacrifice. This is the genesis of my passion for the issue.

The motivation for this bill has a genesis as well: partisan politics. I cannot just quietly watch a vote that I believe will disenfranchise many of my constituents without challenging both the need for the law and the necessity of changing a long-held and very practical Senate rule to ensure its passage — all to provide a solution to a problem that does not exist!

There is no evidence this bill will improve voter access or strengthen the franchise. Proponents say it will eliminate fraud from our election process. Yet they cannot show that any voter fraud or voter impersonation have been found in my district. The integrity of the voting booth should be protected, but in a way that supports the voters' interests and does not impose more burden and bureaucracy on the process.

Two years ago, I emerged from a sickbed and came to the Senate to cast the deciding vote against Voter ID. People wondered how something that appears so simple — providing a picture ID to vote — could arouse such passion in both parties. I say that voting is much more than the physical act of showing up at the polls; it’s an ongoing dialogue between the represented and their representatives. As President Harry S Truman once said, "It's not the hand that signs the laws that holds the destiny of America. It's the hand that casts the ballot."

I have visited the homes of my constituents and asked for their support. They take seriously their responsibility as voters. They usually ask a lot of questions focused on keeping their elected officials accountable and remind me that we work for them. It is a sacred bond, and as a lawyer, minority, and former Marine, I do not tread lightly into any discussion of changing the right to vote.

I represent some of the most rural areas of Texas. District 19 is larger than 22 states and sits in two time zones. It takes almost ten hours to drive from the East end to the West. The people here have deep roots in Texas; their land has been in their families for generations. They are independent, rugged and embody Texas' can-do spirit. These residents must provide all the food, shelter and sometimes entertainment in their lives without much help from others. The frontier ethic that helped build our great state is still alive and well in this vast district.

On a large ranch, the day starts early and ends late. You have to be self-reliant, and trips into “town” are reserved for special occasions. Many of my older residents are not pleased that they will need to make a long round trip, sometimes more than 100 miles, to get a picture ID that will be used only when they exercise their right to vote. Many DPS locations are only open once a week or sometimes once a month, forcing these voters to extend their travel time even more. Always responsible voters, these folks have never been asked to prove their legitimacy or worthiness to cast a ballot. They make the effort because they care about their democracy and want to hold their representatives accountable. I have received surveys from nearly 1,200 residents from my district and not a one has stated that the Voter ID issue was a top priority.

The bill also places local election officials in a difficult position by requiring them to subjectively identify proper forms of photo identification without sufficient training. They will be forced to deny citizens a right that has been defended and admired throughout our great history. To disenfranchise citizens in the name of ballot security is unfair and irresponsible.

I voted against this bill in committee and again on the Senate floor. It’s the hands of all voting Texans that should decide our destiny, and I want to ensure that unfettered access to the ballot box is accessible to all my constituents.

A&M-San Antonio marking a milestone
By Melissa Ludwig
February 27, 2009
Reprinted with permission from the San Antonio Express-News

The Texas A&M University System released new drawings Thursday of its planned campus on the South Side, and it's breaking ground today on the gateway and main boulevard leading there.

The sketches, by Marmon Mok Architecture, depict residence halls, academic buildings and courtyards that reflect San Antonio's Spanish colonial heritage — a vision that will take 20 years or more to achieve.

“Folks around here used to have to drive 200 miles to get a dose of the Aggie spirit,” said Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke at a rollout event Thursday night at the Toyota manufacturing plant. “But ... they can do it here now,” Perry said.

Toyota officials, state lawmakers and community advocates also turned out to cheer progress on the future Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

“Tonight is a defining moment for Bexar County and the City of San Antonio,” said Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. “It brings it all together and the message is very clear: Texas A&M is coming and everybody wins from this.”

Though construction begins today on University Way, officials can't break ground on the first academic building until later this year at the earliest, or in 2010.

To begin construction on the permanent university, the seed campus needs to enroll 1,500 full-time students by 2010, which would trigger the issuing of $40 million in state tuition revenue bonds. The seed campus is a system center run by Texas A&M University-Kingsville, located in a refurbished elementary school near Palo Alto College.

This semester, full-time enrollment hit 1,052, an 85 percent increase since 2007. Because the seed campus is limited to juniors and seniors, most students transfer from one of five Alamo Community Colleges.

Local movers and shakers have set a goal of raising $3 million for scholarships to attract more full-time students. But with only a few months left to hit the mark, lawmakers have filed bills to either lower the enrollment threshold to 1,000 or suspend the 2010 deadline.

Perry supports the campus, but has previously vetoed a bill to lower the threshold. Through a spokeswoman, he declined to comment on pending legislation.

Lou Agnese, president of the University of the Incarnate Word and a vocal opponent of the Texas A&M campus, said the groundbreaking was premature because the school has not met its enrollment goals. The campus would compete with the University of Texas at San Antonio for state money, hurting UTSA's goal to become a premier research university, Agnese said.

“More and more, this reeks of being a fait accompli by politicians and developers at the expense of the taxpayers,” Agnese said.

One of those developers, Verano Land Group, donated the land for the campus and plans to build a 2,700-acre mixed-use community around the university, touted as a Harvard University-style urban village with wide promenades and tree-lined streets.

Uresti defended the development, saying it will bring jobs, people and economic activity to the South Side.

“We are conspiring to bring opportunities to the students of San Antonio,” Uresti said. “That's our big conspiracy and Agnese revealed it.”

Frank Madla III, son of the late Sen. Frank Madla, said Texas A&M's presence will not harm UTSA. At the seed campus, most students are local Hispanic women with families who are going back to school to boost their earning potential. UTSA serves an increasingly younger, more traditional population, with a growing contingent from outside Bexar County.

Sen. Madla pushed to bring Texas A&M to the South Side for more than a decade, and died before the dream became a reality.

“This university was part of my father's vision to bring equal opportunity and progress to a part of town that was underserved for too long,” Madla said. “Lou (Agnese) is welcome to come down and talk to students here ... and tell them they don't deserve a university on this side of town.”

Senator Uresti Visits Reeves County Detention Facility

Pecos, TX -- Senator Carlos Uresti visited the Reeves County Detention Facility, Friday, February 5, 2009, to tour the facility after recent reports of rioting at the privately-run, federally-controlled facility. The 2,400 bed facility holds undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and whom are awaiting extradition to their home countries.

"I was concerned about the safety of the staff given the recent reports. I felt it my responsibility to see for myself the impact the rioting had done to the conditions of the facility."

The tour also allowed Senator Uresti to visit with the Federal of Bureau of Prison officials and management of the GEO group that runs the operations of the prison. The Senator had previously visited the Prison last year and continues to carefully monitor the activities there.

"Given its location near the Mexican border, this facility is well positioned to fulfill this demanding purpose; however, we as a state need to ensure that we support the federal government's mission by giving the county government in Reeves the tools they need to support the facility. The recent riots damaged part of the facility and we need to make sure those responsible are held accountable," stated Senator Uresti.

Senator Uresti will continue to dialogue with elected officials in the area and with federal officials concerning the facility. Uresti stated that, "I have been diligent in monitoring the operations of the prison and will continue to do what I can as a state official to ensure the facility and those who staff it are given what is needed to operate the facility in an efficient yet safe manner."

Senator Uresti Celebrates Senior Day at the Capitol

On February 10th, hundreds of senior citizens came to Austin to ensure their voices were heard. Along with members of the silver-haired legislature and over 50 non-profit organizations, the group discussed with members of the legislature their concerns. Members of this coalition work hard to put the interests of our seniors first.

From Alzheimer’s research and care, to providing an avenue for seniors to identify and enter a new profession, I have worked with this coalition in the past and will continue to do so in order to improve the conditions of our seniors in Texas. While the Texas Area Agencies on Aging remains a model of service coordination and response for aging seniors across the state, Texas is next to last in the country in nursing home funding and ranks 49th in Medicaid for seniors. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the state has underfunded Medicaid by approximately $1 billion; this has a tremendous impact on our seniors who as a result are forced to choose between housing, food, and paying medical bills. We cannot allow this to continue.

Last session, I sponsored the "silver alert" program modeled after the amber alert to notify the public when seniors have gone missing. Senate Bill 1315 required the Department of Public Safety (TDPS) to issue Silver Alert by contacting designated media outlets, such as television and radio stations, when a senior citizen goes missing. Only the disappearance of an adult, age 65 or older, with a documented history of dementia would trigger a Silver Alert.

This session I am proposing a set of bills to protect our seniors. SB 1053, 1055, 1056 and 1057 will strengthen the guardianship process by allowing the Guardianship Certification Board to obtain a criminal history background check before guardianship is provided. The other bills will require reporting of the number of wards and will require accountability on the use of all funds in the guardianship process. This will ensure Seniors when they are most vulnerable are not mistreated.

In addition, this session HB 610 has been introduced to create a Joint Legislative Committee on Aging which will study issues relating to the aging population of Texas, including issues related to the health care, transportation, and housing. I plan to file the companion bill in the Senate. This is a good first step but Texas deserves better. We need to address key issues facing senior Texans including access to healthcare and having reliable and safe transportation. I applaud the seniors that made the trek to Austin and hope that all Seniors continue to call and voice their concerns on all issues that affect our state.

Click here for more news releases from Senator Uresti.

Child Abuse Prevention Month "Kick Off" Event
April 4th
1:00 pm

Join Senator Uresti for an event to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect.

Blue Ribbon Task Force Legislative Day at the Capitol
April 7th
9:00 am

Senator Uresti will host Blue Ribbon Task Force members at the Capitol.

Kids Day in the Park
April 18th
9:00 am

For the third year in a row, Senator Uresti will be teaming up with a number of other sponsors during Fiesta to bring the children of Bexar and the surrounding counties a fun filled day at San Pedro Park.

San Antonio District Office
Falcon International Bank
2530 SW Military Drive
Suite 103
San Antonio, Texas 78224
Toll Free 1.800.459.0119
Fax 210.932.2572

Eagle Pass District Office
Maverick County Courthouse
501 Main Street
Suite 114
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852
Fax 830.758.0402

Pecos District Office
Reeves County Courthouse
100 East 4th Street
Suite 100
Pecos, Texas 79772
Fax 432.447.0275

Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
Fax 210.932.2572

©2008 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224