Texas House committees to discuss trade, ports in Weslaco

State representatives on the transportation and international trade and intergovernmental affairs committees will hold a joint public hearing Tuesday in Weslaco to review infrastructure and international trade.

The committees, composed of 16 state representatives including State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, will hear expert testimony also encompassing economic growth and border wait times at Knapp Medical Center’s Conference Center beginning at 8 a.m.

The house committees during the interim are tasked with reviewing infrastructure at the shipping and border ports of entry and identifying transportation-related barriers, like border wait times, on the state’s economy.

“It’s very important that we hear from the ports,” Martinez said, adding that the hearing is significant to the region.

Martinez said representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, Texas A&M University, Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Ports Association, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of Brownsville, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Texas Department of Public Safety, produce and manufacturing industries and local officials will provide testimony.

“We want to emphasize the importance of commercial and vehicular traffic at our ports of entry and the focus that we’d like to center upon updating and or streamlining the inspection process so that it makes the process quicker and more efficient,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said.

The information gathered will be compiled into a study which could include suggestions for appropriations or lead to a bill filed during the next legislative session beginning January 2019, according to State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, the chairman of the Texas House Committee on International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs.

“It is a statistic that we hear all the time that for every minute that northbound traffic from Mexico into the United States is idling at the border, the U.S. economy loses $116 million,” Anchia said. “That’s for every minute. So, the goal of this hearing is to understand what the bottlenecks are, how we can make strategic investments in infrastructure to facilitate trade investment on both sides of the border.”

One reason the committees will host the hearing in the Rio Grande Valley is “the rest of the country benefits from infrastructure improvements made in ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley,” Anchia said.

State representatives, including those who will visit the region for the first time, will also tour ports of entry.