Featured, from left: Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission; Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville; Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco.  Photograph Courtesy REP. ARMANDO “MANDO” MARTÍNEZ
Featured, from left: Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission; Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville; Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco. Photograph Courtesy REP. ARMANDO “MANDO” MARTÍNEZ

A major milestone for higher education in deep South Texas took place on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, when the House of Representatives approved House Bill 103, whose author is Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, that calls for the establishment of a public law school in the Rio Grande Valley.

HB 103 also features Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, as joint authors.

HB 103 still must be approved by the Texas Senate and by Gov. Greg Abbott before the end of the current regular session of the Legislature, which winds up on Monday, May 27, 2019.

“The Rio Grande Valley has been neglected for decades when it comes to educational opportunities.” said Martínez. “It has only been through the hard work of our communities and elected officials that we have seen progress in this area. The creation of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its medical school, the emergence of other higher education institutions such as South Texas College, and the outstanding capabilities of our young students shows that the region has the resources to justify the creation of a law school in the Rio Grande Valley. House Bill 103 continues this progress and provides our region with another opportunity for our students to enjoy a world-class education.”

Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez

The University of Texas System estimates that the new law school building would cost $52,500,000.

According to the House Research Organization, HB 103 would allow the governing board of a university system to establish and operate a school of law in Cameron County or Hidalgo County.

UTRGV currently offers four active doctoral programs and two cooperative doctoral programs. By comparison, UT-Austin offers 78 doctoral programs and Texas A&M offers 97 doctoral programs. Furthermore, the Rio Grande Valley is geographically isolated from other law schools. For a student from the Valley to attend law school, they would have to move 236 miles away to San Antonio, 305 miles away to Austin, or 341 miles away to Houston.

“HB 103 is a measured approach which will provide educational equity and address the need for professional degree opportunities in a region which has long been neglected,” Martínez said.

Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez

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Francisco “Paco” Sánchez contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)