May 30, 2011

Sine Die

Ken Legler: "The Most Interesting Man In The World"

“He is a lover not a fighter, but he is also a fighter so do not get any ideas”

“Chihuahuas have never barked at him, he is just that intimidating.”

”His organ donor card also includes his beard”

“He once visited a Psychic…to warn her.”

May 27, 2011

My NO Vote on HB 1

Based on the interests and circumstances of the population I serve, the education funding in the budget contained in House Bill 1 was inadequate. Education for many in my district, is the one road out of difficult circumstances. The budget additionally contains spending that could be used for other priorities like education.

This budget also unwisely shifts the cost burden to local governments and school districts. In addition, the accounting manipulations used to approve the budget may lead to additional problems for the 2014-2015 budget. Lastly, and most importantly, the overwhelming majority of citizens and leaders that have communicated with me and my office have asked that I vote against the legislation.

Gov. Perry Opens the Door to 2012 Presidential Bid

At a bill signing this morning Texas Gov. Rick Perry made some news when he stated that he will consider seeking the Republican nomination for president. "I'm going to think about it," Perry said.

Yesterday, I joined the members of the Hispanic Republican Conference in encouraging Gov. Perry to run with an endorsement from the conference.

It is my belief that when the Texas Legislature adjourns Monday that the governor will move forward with an exploration in to running for president.

May 26, 2011

One Helluva Staff

As the 82nd Legislative Session comes to a close, it's appropriate that I take a moment to recognize the solid staff that makes our office run as effectively as it does. These are smart, young people who have found public service to be a value. They are a credit to our community and to the State of Texas. I expect great things from them. Here, along with our "Little Giant," is one helluva staff.

Bottom Row -- Left to Right: Maricela DeLeon, Chief of Staff; Aaron Peña, State Representative; Paul Kamprath, Technology Committee Clerk

Top Row -- Left to Right: Felicia Peña, Assistant Committee Clerk; Melinda Reyes, Intern; Mikael Garcia, Legislative Director; Trey Perez, Intern; Jacob Welch, Assistant Committee Clerk

The Hispanic Republican Conference Endorses Rick Perry for President

The Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas voted today to take a position encouraging Texas Governor Rick Perry to run for President and to be one of the first political organizations in the nation to endorse his candidacy.

UPDATE: The day after our endorsement Gov. Perry after being asked about HRC's endorsement took a step forward on a possible presidential run when he told the press that after the session ends he would think about it.

May 23, 2011

NASA Astronaut Gene Cernan To Be Recognized On The House Floor

I had breakfast with a national hero this morning and I'm fully expecting him on the House floor today.

Eugene "Gene" Andrew Cernan (born March 14, 1934) is a retired United States Navy officer and a former NASA astronaut and engineer. He has been into space three times: as pilot of Gemini 9A in June 1966; as lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in May 1969; and as commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972. In that final lunar landing mission, Cernan became "the last man on the moon" since he was the last to re-enter the Apollo Lunar Module during its third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA). (While crewmate Harrison Schmitt was "the last man to arrive on the moon" as Cernan left the module first). Cernan was also a backup crew member for the Gemini 12, Apollo 7 and Apollo 14 missions.

More from Wikipedia.

May 19, 2011

Caltrop Legislation Passes

Moments ago we passed legislation today that will outlaw the use, possession and manufacture of caltrops, more commonly known as road spikes. With this act we follow the wishes of the border patrol officers who months ago asked us to carry the legislation.

Our Last Technology Committee Hearing

The House Committee on Technology met for the last time this session. My thanks is extended to the members who made the hearings enjoyable and a pleasure to participate in.

Rep. Munoz raises the four foot "little giant" that was used to gavel in today's meeting. The gavel which was a committee gift from the members has attracted a lot of attention. The gavel, which is by far the largest gavel in the Texas capitol, is available for pictures in our office.

Happy Birthday Brother

My little brother, Eric Pena, turned 51 years old today. Here he is doing what he does best barbecuing. Happy birthday Eric. Here is the link to his Facebook page. Give him hell.

May 18, 2011

John Austin Peña 1984 - 2001

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.



OCT 04, 1984 -
MAY 18, 2001

Through God's Grace

May 13, 2011

City of Weslaco Comments on HB 3736

SB3736 5.13.11

Texas Tribune: Weslaco Asks Edinburg Rep. For Help From Weslaco Rep.

A South Texas border brawl, complete with personal attacks about weight and cowardice, took place between former allies Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg and Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco.

A bill Martinez filed would have required city managers that assume the duties of a police or fire chief to undergo the prerequisite training required of appointed chiefs. The bill's purpose, according to its analysis, was “to prevent unqualified City Managers from appointing themselves as [a] ‘department head.’”

As it turns out, there was more of a back story Peña wanted members to know about. He rose to speak in opposition (he tweeted that he planned to do so about an hour before the debate) and asked Martinez, a firefighter, if it wasn’t true that he was under an investigation from the very same city manager that assumed the duties. Peña said he tried to raise the issue during Thursday’s floor debate but Martinez “ran away.”

“I didn’t run away. Maybe I thought you were going to eat me,” Martinez told Peña. A mix of cheers, laughter, jeers and hisses ensued.

But Peña didn’t seem fazed and kept perusing the question, despite repeated pleas from the speaker’s chair to remain on point and debate the merits of the bill (state Rep. Dennis Bonnen was in the chair). Peña began to read aloud a letter sent to Martinez from Weslaco City Manager Leonardo Olivares urging Martinez to pull the legislation, arguing it was “a solution in search of a problem.”

The Tribune thanks our Supporting Sponsors

“There is a potential conflict of interest and this could be construed as self-serving legislation,” the letter states. Penã said the letter was posted on his website if members wanted to read the rest, which was greeted with another bang of the gavel in the hopes of restoring order.

Again Peña asked about the investigation, to which Martinez replied: “Rep. Peña should be investigated for not living in his district.”

Because of the commotion, members may not have noticed veteran lawmaker, state Rep. Senfonia Thompson, D-Houston, walking toward Martinez. Martinez did, however, and leaned in to hear what the longest-serving Democratic member and respect-commanding lawmaker said.

“I apologize for any remarks I have made,” he told the floor before the vote.

The bill failed to adopt following a 36 to 78 vote, but the sparring seemed an appropriate end to a week where partisan gridlock tested tempers and seemed capable of derailing an entire session.

May 12, 2011

Texas Political Worker Explains Mail-Ballot Harvesting

South Texas citizens and political leaders have noted and requested help from our legislature to deal with the election abuses that occur in nearly every election cycle here in the Valley. Years ago I made it a promise to those who wanted to clean things up. This session as I have done before I am working hard to keep that promise.

I have filed and have passed a significant number of bills to pass the legislation in order to clean up elections in our South Texas community.

A strong effort this legislative session is being made to bring confidence to the electoral process by reigning in some of the excesses of voter harvesters or politiqueras.

Here is a recent story on our effort.

May 8, 2011

"The Little Giant"

Bringing home a few gifts for Mothers' Day for the ladies in my life. Speaking of gifts, I received a "little" gift last night from the House Committee on Technology. The four foot gavel, appropriately named "The Little Giant," should fit in nicely with my gavel collection, with names like "Big Tex," "The Ivory Princess," "The Mexican Mesquite Mallet" and "The Treaty Oak Gavel". My thanks to the committee members and staff for their thoughtful gift. If I can lift it, I will use it with great enjoyment.

May 7, 2011

Aaaaaah!!! God I Miss Home

It was an acrimonious day at the Texas House. Glad the work day is over. In the words of one famous sailor, "That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!"

I'm heading home. Got to pay my respects to my mom and my lovely wife.

May 6, 2011

Sanctuary Cities Bill Hits Texas House Today

by Julian Aguilar, The Texas Tribune

Is it about security or racial profiling? Will it financially drain local governments through unfunded mandates? Is it an innocuous tool that simply allows law enforcement to ask more questions? Will U.S. citizens be targets of harassment? Will it stain Texas with the reputation Arizona thrust upon itself?

The Texas House will likely entertain those and other sensitive questions when House Bill 12, commonly referred to as the "sanctuary cities" bill, hits the chamber's floor on Friday. Observers expect the item, one of five declared an "emergency" by Gov. Rick Perry, to test how far lawmakers are willing to go to address the issue of illegal immigration in Texas. Fifty-nine amendments, mostly authored by Democrats, have already been filed.

HB 12, which is being carried by state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, would prohibit cities, counties and other governmental entities or special districts from adopting a policy that prevents law enforcement from asking persons lawfully detained or arrested if they are in the country legally. Governmental entities would also be prohibited from enacting policies prohibiting law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officers or prohibiting federal immigration officers from conducting enforcement activities at municipal and county jails. Entities not in compliance could risk losing state funds.

The bill will likely be the first test for Hispanic Republicans in the House, who have pledged to ensure that the law does not violate a person's civil rights.

"One amendment will make it very clear that racial profiling will not be tolerated in the implementation of the bill," said state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg. Peña, the chairman of the Hispanic Republican Conference, who was a Democrat until he switched parties last fall, said his colleagues would introduce a host of amendments to make the bill "more palatable for members to support." Peña said he would also try to amend the bill to exclude hospital districts so all people may "obtain medical treatment without fear."

Democrats know they don't have the votes to stop the bill, so they'll try instead to convince lawmakers of its burdensome fiscal impact on local governments. They hope the GOP mantra of "no unfunded mandates" will resonate enough to work in their favor. While the fiscal note for HB 12 indicates no significant impact to the state, local governments could fare far worse, according to the analysis. Because of penalties for failing to implement the legislation, local entities could see a reduction in the amount of state grant money they receive.

Additionally, the Texas Municipal League cites costs to larger cities that would be forced to expand jail space and personnel. The City of Houston Police Department, for example, could be forced to spend more than $4 million on 58 new personnel, including officers and guards and expanded jail space. Those costs are one reason that a majority of big-city police chiefs and county sheriffs oppose the bill.

"Frankly, if what we are trying to do is make sure the criminal element isn't in our country, there are systems in place for that," said state Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, referring to the federal government's Secure Communities and Criminal Alien programs, which check the legal status of people arrested or charged with crimes and places an immigration hold on them until they are turned over to the federal government.

Law enforcement officials say the bill will erode trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community.

"This bill could actually negatively impact U.S. citizens. If a non-U.S. citizen witnesses a crime that affects the U.S. citizen, the witness may very well hesitate to call the police or report their observations," said Arlington Police Chief Jennifer White.

The original bill allowed school district employees to inquire about the immigration status of students, leading Democrats to question how the policy would affect education. According to the state and federal constitutions, schools must educate students regardless of their status. The modified bill excludes school district, charter school and junior college employees except for campus police. Gonzales said that provision could still lead to higher rates of truancy.

Solomons has been steadfast in his belief that the bill doesn't require law enforcement to do anything — that it only gives them the option to ask about immigration, which falls in line with what Perry has said he wants since declaring the item an emergency.

Still, immigrants rights groups and other opponents of the bill say the measure will ultimately lead to racial profiling, to the bullying U.S. citizens who are minorities based on their appearance.

"It's going to cost the state in ways we never imagined," Gonzales said. "There will be unintended consequences in this bill."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

May 5, 2011

Sanctuary Cities Up On Friday

At the beginning of this session Governor Perry included "sanctuary cities" as an emergency item to be addressed by the Legislature. The legislation coming before the body seeks to address concerns regarding cities, counties and other subdivisions of government enacting ordinances that prevent lawful enforcement of state and federal immigration laws.

On Friday, May 6th, House Bill 12, the so called "sanctuary cities" bill is scheduled for debate in the Texas House. In anticipation of the debate and due to the interests of many the officers of the Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas have gathered to discuss various options in addressing the legislation.

Because the bill may raise sensitive issues of ethnicity and race, the conference wishes to have a positive influence on the debate. It will submit a number of constructive amendments, including the controversial issue of racial profiling. Speaking for the membership I can say that is our hope to make improvements to the bill and to guard against any nonconstructive measures pushed forward.

The Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas was organized to study issues related to all Texans but will focus on examining those of particular significance to the Hispanic community. House members whose Hispanic populations comprise over 40% are voting members of the conference. Those whose districts comprise over 30% Hispanic population are able to join as associate members.

Follow the Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas on Twitter @HRCofTexas on it's website, and on Facebook.

The Texas Tribune has more.

Boys From Edinburg's IDEA Academy Makes it to the Capitol

May 3, 2011

Honoring the Life of the Late Jorge Saenz

I had the honor this morning of recognizing the life of Jorge Saenz of the Rio Grande Valley.

Joining me on the dais was Laurentina Saenz, Marco Saenz, Jonas Saenz, Jorge Saenz, and Sonia Del Angel.

May 2, 2011

Honoring Fallen Police Officers

Law enforcement officers and agencies from across the state participated in the Texas Peace Officer Memorial Service to officers who died in the line of duty. I took these photos of today's important event.