|The UT Med School is one of the most important pieces of legislation that has passed in recent memory to affect South Texas. Representative Canales personally spearheaded efforts to get the 100 co-authors to sign onto the bill, and he also noted that because tuition revenue bonds were not dealt with this session South Texas lost approximately $100 million dollars.
One of the more groundbreaking pieces of legislation was HB 349, which allows for electronic filing of court documents in Hidalgo County. This will actually not be implemented until the year 2015, but this bill is still a critically important step in taking Texas into the 21st century. Representative Canales mentioned that it is not uncommon for lawyers to drive an hour or so round trip just to file a document for court, and currently Hidalgo County actually leases space to store all of the paperwork they receive. Considering the technology for e-filing has been around for the past four or five years, Representative Canales noted that the regular filing of massive amounts of paperwork is a largely antiquated process and it is time that we utilize the tools that are available to us.
Representative Canales also authored HB 2090, which is a very simple bill that allows a written statement that is made by an accused person under custody or interrogation to be in the same language of the accused person. This is essentially meant to prevent a non-english speaker from signing a statement, possibly incriminating themselves, without even being able to read the statement because they cannot speak English. This protects the civil liberties of the accused and the liability of the accuser as well. As the Representative put it when describing the bill, "it cuts both ways." Essentially this bill just allows a person who is in custody to write out their own statement in the language that they understand.
Of course Representative Canales not only made waves through his legislation, his active and sometimes combative presence on the back mic on the House floor caused him to have a small reputation. From going toe to toe with senior members like Joe Pickett and Lois Kolkhorst, and once notoriously challenging House members that he probably owns more guns than any of them, he was definitely not considered furniture during this legislative session. In particular he was one of only members from the valley to speak against the abortion legislation when it charged through during the special legislative sessions. He notably said that most of his constituents would be more likely to go to Mexico to get an abortion instead of making the six hour drive to San Antonio.
When asked about his gun ownership and his stance against the guns on campus legislation he said that his family has ranched in South Texas for over 300 years, and guns are simply a part of life where he lives. He even called himself a strong advocate for guns but insisted that they have "absolutely no place at a university" (with the exception for actual law enforcement officers of course).
One things is clear, Representative Canales promises to have an interesting career to follow. The last question I asked was what was one new thing he learned, or was surprised to learn, once he got to the capitol in Austin. He said that he learned relatively quickly that being a successful legislator means being a master in the art of compromise as opposed to the art of persuasion.
"It means very little to people in the capitol where most, rather than rely on logic and reasoning, fall victim to party lines and public perception."