AUSTIN (KXAN) -- For the first time in approximately three decades, Texas' Legislative Budget Board—the entity that establishes the financial priorities for the state—has no person of color serving on the board.
The state director of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Lupe Torres, says the lack of representation is a disservice to ethnic minorities in Texas. "The absence of persons of color from the Legislative Budget Board speaks to the lack of understanding for an appreciation of diverse points of view, which should be reflective of the legislative discussions when developing budget and policy recommendations for legislative appropriations," says Torres.
On Monday, Latino and black stakeholders from across the state held a news conference at the Capitol calling on state leaders to will call on our state leaders to make inclusiveness a top priority during the 85th Legislative Session. Senator Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, was flanked by several other state representatives as well as speakers from major organizations such as NAACP and LULAC.
After a divisive presidential election, Rodriguez says it is up to Texas lawmakers to make sure everyone in the state is treated fairly and equally. Rodriguez cited recent cases across the nation and even in his district where people have been targeted because of their race, gender or immigration status.
Rodriguez gave an example of how a girls volleyball team from his district were subjected to harassment and racial epitaphs by a predominantly white school district because they were Mexican-American.
"I, along with my House and Senate colleagues, are going to do everything we can, along with the various organizations represented here today, to be strong advocates against this kind of rhetoric, this kind of conduct," says Rodriguez.
The Southern Law Poverty Center, a group that tracks hate crimes across the country, indicates that from Nov. 9 to Dec. 12, 2016, there have been 71 incidents of harassment and intimidation in Texas.
Yannis Banks with the Texas NAACP says their organization has talked to students and parents who are worried about the situation at schools. Banks brought up the December incident at Texas State University where flyers were posted around the San Marcos campus urging people to turn in undocumented students.
"We are asking for the governor to use his resources to make sure that the citizens and people of Texas are feeling safe wherever they are," says Banks.
The group says they want the lawmakers to focus on items that matter to their constituents, such as education funding, not headline-making items like the recently filed "bathroom bill."
According to the Texas Tribune, five of the 115 Republicans in the 85th Texas Legislature are people of color, and they all hold seats in the House. Out of 181 members of the Texas Legislature, 35.9 percent are people of color.
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