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LAREDO, TEXAS 2019 Legislative Agenda


LEGISLATIVE AGENDA This publication lists the Laredo Chamber of Commerce’s positions on state and federal legislative issues. It is intended to inform local governmental entities, the State legislature and representatives at the federal level of issues of importance to the Laredo/Webb County business community. These position statements were derived through an inclusive, comprehensive manner which included participation of thirteen local business and educational organizations.



Laredo Chamber of Commerce

Laredo Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) Laredo Motor Carriers Association (LMCA) Logistics & Manufacturing Association Port Laredo (LMA) Laredo Licensed U.S. Custom Brokers Association (LLUSCBA) Association of Logistics & Forwarding Agents (ALFA) Laredo Association of Realtors (LAR) Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM) Laredo Merchants Association (LMA)

LAREDO G-13 The Chamber's G-13 is a coalition of the heads of 13 local business-related organizations, formed specifically to address issues of interest to the local business community at the local, state and federal level with a primary focus on economic and workforce development, international trade, transportation and infrastructure. Major areas addressed by this Legislative Agenda: International Trade and USMCA Border Security Infrastructure: Freight Mobility Workforce Development Transportation & Infrastructure

Laredo Builders Association (LBA) Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) Laredo College Texas A&M International University

Laredo Chamber of Commerce

2019 Legislative Agenda TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction............................................................................ 1 International Trade ................................................................ 4 Border Security ...................................................................... 7 Infrastructure Funding ............................................................ 9 INFRA Freight Mobility Project US 59 / Loop 20 International Freight Gateway ..................... 10 Twenty First Century Border Management Cross-Border Bridge that Creates Jobs and Growth .............. 12 Workforce Development ......................................................... 14 Skilled Workforce for Industrial Production in Border Regions ................................................................... 15 Economic Development .......................................................... 18 Education ................................................................................ 18 Health and Wellness ............................................................... 19 Infrastructure ........................................................................... 19 Business & Enterprise ............................................................. 20 International Trade .................................................................. 20 Homeland Security .................................................................. 21 Immigration .............................................................................. 21

3,150,600 Texas Jobs SUPPORTED BY TRADE

Source: U.S. Census Bureau





Trade through Texas adds $224.3 BILLION to GSP annually.




11.3% AIR

Ports of entry play a crucial role in making Texas the world's 10TH LARGEST ECONOMY. LAND

WATER Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts


Port LAREDOTexas

The Port of Laredo is the # 1 inland Port along the US-Mexico border crossing over $214 billion in imports and exports.  Approximately 2,307,908 trucks crossed the border in 2018.

510 Freight Forwarders 400+ Trucking Companies 105 U.S. Customs Brokers


Customs District for Imports in the U.S.

International Trade The Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association strongly supports all infrastructure needs from the immediate expansion of World Trade Bridge to the planning of bridges 4 and 5 in Laredo. LLUSCBA also supports the USMCA trade agreement, which includes the updated standards with the Automotive Industry as well as new policies to enforce the protection of the Intellectual Property rights. In good faith of all three USMCA countries signing the trade agreements LLUSCBA supports the rescinding of 10% aluminum and 25% Steel tariffs, against our partner countries. Background: with over 2.3 million trucks and over 530,000 rail cars crossing the border with Mexico, the transportation of parts for the auto and electronics industries, foodstuffs, as well as finished goods has resulted in heavy truck and rail traffic. The outcome is an endless stream of 18 wheelers passing through Laredo, with Mexican truckers delivering goods, and U.S. truckers taking the product to its final destination which has created a demand for infrastructure with our international Bridge as well as supporting structural arteries leading to Laredo. Impact: Our short-term vision would be to have immediate expansion of the World Trade Bridge, including surrounding infrastructure and personnel to make it a viable project. An increase in the capacity of the World Trade Bridge will have little added value without the improvements needed for international trade cargo to continue out of the Import Lot to staging areas (industrial parks and transportation terminals) and on to the interstate highway system. Further, additional cargo bridge capacity will require additional CBP and PGA (Participating Government Agency) personnel to handle the additional work load. These are some of the things being worked or completed that will help the WTB and the commercial traffic.

INFRASTRUCTURE Urgent need in widening Loop 20 from the Import Lot gate to IH35. A very important request that has been addressed and requested from both, our Mayor Saenz, and Congressman Cuellar, was the addition of 4 additional booths at the exit gates to eliminate the bottleneck that currently exists during peak hours. City Council approved FASTLANE (2 additional exit Booths) project with an increment in the commercial tolls. Several proposed arteries have been projected to decrease congestion on the West side of the city. Vallecillo Road at a cost of $20M by the RMA has already finished the environmental studies. Hachar Highway project at a cost of 50M by City of Laredo is in progress. The widening of Mines road 1472 by TXDOT for a distance of 1.1 miles from InterAmerica to ITC (3.1M USD) has been completed. Expansion FM 3338 (Tienditas) from 2 lanes to 4 lanes by TXDOT to be completed in 2020. The RMA has a 90% Schematic on Vallecillo Road and has completed all environmental studies on the project up to this point. The next phase of the environmental on the project will commence once the project is fiscally constrained (i.e. identified and programmed for construction). The RMA is currently in high level discussions regarding Pass through Finance as a possible avenue for funding of construction. The RMA will do a North West Laredo/ Webb County Regional Transportation Planning Study. Project on Loop 20 & IH35 overpass, tentative date of completion is December 2019. ($32M USD) The Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor is a proposed divided highway corridor stretching from Laredo through West Texas to Denver, Colorado. (7 Billion 2015 Dollars) Killam turning lane (Mines Road) considered a choke point (2.7M)

2019 Legislative Agenda


International Trade


IH69 Widening (World Trade Bridge to IH 35/ IH 69 Interchange) (20M) IH 69 Widening from Laredo, Texas to Corpus Christi, Texas (from dry port to water port) Improvement in this trade lane would have effects throughout the state of Texas, and the United States. Although the current political climate seems to tend toward the notion that international trade costs American jobs, it does in fact make American jobs more secure, strengthen the economy and create new jobs.

USMCA TRILATERAL AGREEMENT Background: The port of Laredo has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the NAFTA trade agreements since inception in 1995, making Port Laredo the largest inland port along the US-Mexico border crossing over 2,307,908 trucks in 2018. The average daily truck crossing at World Trade Bridge is 7,500 trucks and Colombia Bridge is 2,200 trucks. The value of Laredo’s trade rose 7.13 percent, from $283.18 billion to $303.37 billion in 2017 when compared to the same period the previous year, according to a WorldCity analysis of latest U.S. Census Bureau data. Laredo’s exports increased 6.48 percent while imports rose 7.6 percent. Laredo’s deficit was $51.36 billion. Given the continued annual growth rate in international trade traffic, stimulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the volume of freight passing through Laredo and the associated truck traffic on local roads is expected to rise, transitioning into the new trade agreement USMCA. Impact: The USMCA trilateral agreement is a fundamental economic legislative tool that has the support of the Laredo Licensed US Brokers Association to replace the outdated NAFTA agreement. The passage of time has created the need for changes that the agreement never anticipated. The principal changes that have been addressed in the USCMA are upgrades in the automotive industry, new policies to enforce the protection of the Intellectual Property rights, and the unchanged dispute process. There are advancements in technology that did not exist 23 years ago when NAFTA was put in place, that could be applied to expedite the seamless process of international trade. All legitimate merchandise that goes across our borders should be accounted for in this era of technology, as well as providing detailed information for all partner government agencies. Inefficiencies at land ports is an area that still needs to be addressed in the USMCA. Our interest in improving cross border efficiencies with technology between the Mexico, Canada and the U.S. can help expedite the flow of legitimate trade. More emphasis on the place of entry, to improve the infrastructure development, both on the U.S. and the Mexican sides of the border, must be enhanced. USMCA will provide many advantages, one of the primary benefits to the U.S. consumer in particular is by keeping the reduced tariff rates, it trickles down to the consumer by providing lower prices for consumer goods. It also allows for increased exports as well as regional production areas that were previously predominately low-income border communities. We want North American trade agreements to make us the most competitive trading bloc in the world and ensure that competition is not only preserved, but enhanced.


2019 Legislative Agenda

International Trade Impact on the Trucking Industry and the Nation’s Supply Chain The Laredo Motor Carriers Association (LMCA) along with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports free trade, including the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the Department of Transportation’s cross-border trucking program. Background:Trade and trucking are synonymous, and the increased movement of freight across the northern and southern borders yields more good-paying jobs and growth in American companies. Since 1995, the U.S. has been in a trade bloc agreement with Mexico and Canada through NAFTA . Data shows that the U.S. trucking industry is a large beneficiary of NAFTA. Since 1995, the value of goods traveling via truck across both the northern and southern boarders jumped 172% and totaled $720 billion in 2017. This increase in trade has created or supported tens of thousands of jobs in the United States, with motor carriers, suppliers, and shippers, underscoring the benefits of free trade. In 2017, truck transported exports to Canada, as measured by the value of the goods, was 45% of total truck transported trade with the country. U.S. truck transported exports to Mexico, as measured by the value of the goods, was 43% of total truck transported trade across the southern border. Impact:Trucks haul roughly 70% of the nation’s freight tonnage and move 68% of goods across the Canadian border and 82% of goods across the Mexican border compared to other modes of surface transportation. The value of goods traded with Canada transported by truck equaled $336.1 billion in 2017, 80% more than in 1995 when NAFTA was enacted. It required 5.8 million truck movements across the U.S.—Canadian border to haul the$336.1 billion worth of merchandise.This truck-transported trade with Canada supports 20,049 U.S. full-time trucking jobs, including more than 13,000 truck drivers, and generates $2.81 billion in annual revenue for the trucking industry. In 2017, trucks moved $384.7 billion in merchandise across the Mexican border,which equates to 387% more than in 1995. Today,trucks haul 82% of the value of goods moving across the southern border via surface transportation. In 2017, this required 6 million truck movements across the U.S.—Mexican border.Annually, trade with Mexico moved by truck supports nearly 27,000 direct full-time jobs in the U.S. trucking industry, including 18,000 U.S. truck drivers, and generates $3.8billion in annual revenue to U.S. trucking companies. These analyses for Mexico and Canada do not take into account secondary benefits to other U.S. industries, like truck and trailer manufacturers and truck stops. Any change in restricting trade between Mexico and Canada could be detrimental to the cross-border industry. Solution: ATA will support any trade policy that helps create good-paying American jobs and the trucking industry. ATA supports the passage of the USMCA.

Half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs depend on exports, and one in three acres of American farmland is planted for international sales.

2019 Legislative Agenda

U.S.-manufactured goods exports to Canada and Mexico support the jobs of more than 2 million men and women at more than 43,000 manufacturing firms. National Association of Manufacturers


Border Security A Smart Wall Solution Laredo supports a Smart Wall Solution to address security along the U.S. and Mexico border. This combines a physical wall, fence or bulkhead in strategic locations, with technology such as drones, sensors, radar and cameras to detect, track and intercede on incursions across the border. This solution will preserve the valuable and cooperative relationship with Mexico, an ally and partner. Laredo opposes the construction of a contiguous border wall, in particular in Laredo area, because any solution needs to prove it will solve the problem of security, illegal migration and the smuggling of drugs, cash and weapons in the most effective and efficient manner. At best, a wall or fence is a partial solution. It is only a partial solution and not the most effective and efficient use of federal dollars; it negatively impacts the environment and disregards private property rights.

2019 Legislative Agenda

5 appreciates the leadership of its public and private sector, as well as, the foresight the Texas delegation to look to Laredo

reasonable and common-sense solutions by supporting a Smart Wall Solution that, in addition to strategically local barriers, includes clearing the river bank fast-growing, invasive plant species in order to increase security and visibility, hiring more Customs inspectors to support and facilitate border crossings, upgrading the land ports of entry and hiring more immigration judges. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trade has nearly quadrupled – up over 250% - since 1993, and shows no sign of slowing. Texas has been the top U.S. exporting state for the last 15 years; and, the Laredo Customs District is the 2nd largest customs district in the United States, and accounts for 50 percent of all U.S./Mexico trade. Laredo is in support of the United State Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) signed and yet to be ratified between the three partner countries. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), tasked with enforcing American immigration policy at its borders, is the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country. The federal government spends more on border and immigration enforcement than on all of the other federal law enforcement agencies combined. Today, this is nearly $20 billion per year—a 12-fold increase since the 1990s. Every day, $2 billion in economic activity comes through the U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry. Current facilities cannot handle the traffic flow, causing long wait times and costing the U.S. economy millions of dollars. A lack of inspection personnel, technology and infrastructure to support them has resulted in the land ports of entry becoming the preferred point through which the international drug cartels smuggling their deadly contraband. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reports nearly 90 percent of drug seizures including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl are being smuggled into United States through the ports. The U.S. government has spent $7 billion dollars building the existing fence, the majority since 2006 through legislation called the Secure Fence Act. The sections of the border that remain unfenced today largely fall into one of two categories: the Rio Grande River itself, or desert and mountainous areas – recognized as natural barriers. As border security spending and staffing has multiplied, the number of undocumented immigrants coming to the United States has fallen. In 2000, the Border Patrol apprehended more than 1.6 million Mexican nationals attempting to cross the border into the U.S. without authorization. Recently, that number had fallen to about 300,000 —a reduction of over 80%. In 2009, it was estimated that 6.4 million undocumented immigrants from Mexico were living in the United States, but by 2014 that number had fallen 9% to 5.8 million.


2019 Legislative Agenda

Border Security


Along most of the Texas and Mexico border, CBP seeks visibility of the river and access to the river. The salt cedar and Carrizo cane are invasive plants, and their density becomes a hiding place. This problem is solved by clearing up the riverbank along the Rio Grande. This would be enhanced with technology, including motion detectors, cameras and infrared sensors. Also, an all-weather river road, built to provide access to patrol the riverbank, could be constructed. This year Laredo proposed bulkhead solution as an initiative and alternative to a border wall in Laredo. This project would enhance the area, serve as flood and erosion protection. The shape and height would still have to be studied, but it would take into account security along the U.S. and Mexico border. A review of existing immigration policy is necessary. The United States needs the labor of about a half million less-skilled workers every year to keep the economy growing. Americans are not filling these jobs – many found in the agricultural sector. Another part of the solution falls on the judicial system which is inadequately staffed and funded. More immigration judges 2019 Legislative Agenda


and courts are needed. Through October 2016, more than a half-million cases were awaiting adjudication in U.S. immigration courts. As immigration enforcement budgets have increased, funding and staffing for the immigration courts have lagged far behind. Border Patrol executives put the wait time at 1,000 days. Laredo opposes a mandatory biometric exit system until the Congress has provided the necessary personnel, infrastructure and technology to handle CBP’s current workload. CBP is understaffed to handle incoming traffic. At the international bridges in Texas, the infrastructure was not designed for departure inspections tracking an outgoing vehicle and pedestrian traffic with biometric systems.

2019 Legislative Agenda


Infrastructure Funding Need for long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund The Laredo Motor Carriers Association (LMCA) along with The American Trucking Associations strongly supports adequate, long-term, stable and sustainable funding for the federal-aid highway program, including an increase in the fuel tax. Background: Since 2008, the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has experienced consistent funding shortfalls requiring the transfer of $140 billion in General Fund subsidies over and above income from highway user fees to avoid radical cuts in the federal-aid program. This lack of stable funding has forced states to delay or cancel critical highway projects, and has prevented them from fixing bottlenecks that are a significant cause of highway congestion. Income and expenditure projections suggest that the HTF will likely have sufficient revenue to support the federal-aid highway program through the life of the FAST Act (2020). However, unanticipated reductions in income, expenditures more rapid than projected and/or a failure to pass new authorizing legislation in a timely manner could necessitate passage of legislation authorizing funding bailouts from the General Fund. In the fall of 2016, then-candidate Trump’s campaign pledge to introduce a 10-year $1 trillion infrastructure funding proposal compelled ATA to establish an Infrastructure Funding Task Force to evaluate all potential sources of funding for our roads and bridges. This Task Force supports a user fee increase as the easiest and most direct way to raise revenue for our highway system. Ultimately, the Task Force, along with ATA, wants to be a resource for the Trump Administration and Congress as they work to identify solutions to our Nation’s infrastructure challenges. Impact:The lack of adequate investment in highways has resulted in a deteriorating and highly congested network. Two-thirds of highways are in poor to mediocre condition. Ten percent of bridges are structurally obsolete and congestion on the National Highway System alone cost the trucking industry more than $63 billion in 2015 and wasted nearly 1 billion hours, equivalent to more than 362,000 drivers sitting idle for a full working year. The lack of long-term, stable funding prevents states from addressing major bottlenecks, which often require a significant, long-term commitment of resources. Further, this lack of investment is having a real, and increasing impact on the cost of goods that Americans buy every day. Solution: ATA supports implementation of a “Build America Fee,” a 20-cent fee built into the price of transportation fuels collected at the terminal rack phased in over four years, with annual indexation to account for inflation and improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency. The revenue would dedicated to the HTF to keep it solvent, and to make strategic investments in critical highway bottleneck projects. Due to the lack of funding from traditional sources, state and local governments increasingly rely on alternative revenue streams, such as tolls. While tolls are an inefficient method for funding highway projects and should be avoided if possible, ATA does not oppose toll financing for new capacity. We do, however, vehemently oppose tolls on existing Interstate lanes and support removing existing federal authority given to states that allow tolls on existing Interstates under certain circumstances. Furthermore, ATA opposes “asset recycling” of highways, under which public highways are leased or sold to the highest bidder and toll road users are forced to subsidize projects and programs from which they receive little or no benefit.


2019 Legislative Agenda

Infrastructure Funding US 59 (Loop 20) Upgrade to Interstate Standards Project FY18-19 INFRA FREIGHT MOBILITY PROJECT The Chamber strongly supports the City of Laredo’s INFRA Grant application for the upgrade of the US 59 (Future IH 69 W) Corridor from International Boulevard to University Boulevard from an urban arterial to Interstate Standards project. This project includes three overpasses at the intersections of Shiloh Drive, Del Mar Boulevard and University Boulevard. When complete, the corridor will function as a full freeway (main lanes and access roads) from IH-35 to University Blvd (5.7 miles of freeway in place) since McPherson Road and International Boulevard overpasses are already constructed and the IH 35 overpass is currently being constructed. In 2014, the Texas Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration redesignated Loop 20 as US 59 and ultimately this roadway segment will be part of the future I-69 system as I-69 West. In addition to this designation, the Texas Freight Mobility Plan of 2017 has designated this section of Highway a critical Urban Freight Corridor. By completing the upgrade of US 59 to interstate standards, it will allow US 59 to become part of the I-69 West system from US 59 in George West, Texas to the United States-Mexico Border at the World Trade International Bridge IV in northwestern Laredo, Texas. This project will alleviate congestion and foster trade and transportation growth along the Primary Highway Freight System, of which I-35 is a key element. The total cost is estimated to be $250 million of which, the City of Laredo, Webb County, the Webb County-City of Laredo Regional Mobility Authority and the State of Texas will fund $142.6 million as their participation towards the project. With already programmed Category 2 funds of which $66 million from the federal government is already allocated, the City of Laredo requests an additional $42 million for the remaining balance via the INFRA Grant (See Exhibit “A”). From a funding percentage perspective, 57% of the project is funded locally and the remaining 43% would be funded by the federal government. Background: With a population close to 270,000, Laredo is the third-most populated city on the U.S.-Mexico border and the largest Inland Port in the United States. Its economy thrives on commercial and industrial warehousing, transportation, imports and exports – every major U.S. third party logistics and trucking company has a local presence. Laredo boasts: The second largest Port in the nation handling land, rail and air with over $200 billion in total trade A direct connection to I-35 and I-69 in the United States, highway 85 in Mexico, and the only air cargo service with both U.S. and Mexican customs agents to pre-clear cargo flights destined for Mexico; Two Commercial international bridges that cross 16,000+ trucks per day – more than 50 percent of all trade between the U.S. and Mexico; and A railway bridge, serviced by Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific, which plays a significant role for automakers, whose supply chain moves car parts across the border at Laredo several times as it works its way to completion.

One of the nation’s busiest trade corridors, Laredo connects the industrial markets in the Midwest, northeast, central states and even the western seaboard to Mexico. Issue: Texas Jobs resulting from freight transportation are identified by the 2017 Texas Freight Mobility Plan as having a major economic impact. The Plan identifies 2.2 million direct jobs and 1.3 million additional jobs; of these 3.5 million jobs, the truck transportation industry accounts for 52%. In fact, in the February 2017 Fiscal Notes publication, Texas Comptroller, Glenn Hegar identified the Laredo Port as handling 32% of all international trade in Texas, it creates 363,000 jobs and adds $52 billion dollars to the Texas gross domestic product.

2019 Legislative Agenda


Infrastructure Funding US 59 (Loop 20) Upgrade to Interstate Standards Project FY18-19 INFRA FREIGHT MOBILITY PROJECT (Cont.) This project will have national and regional impact by fostering employment, economic growth and will alleviate congestion on the I-35 Primary Highway Freight System as well as on U.S. 59 and I-69W. The project will alleviate congestion along the I-35 freight corridor by providing an additional route for freight traveling between the economic centers of Laredo, Houston, Memphis, Indianapolis, and other parts of the continental United States. Laredo is an important link in the local, State, National and International supply chain for all of the Americas. Critical goods for infrastructure and commercial purposes start and end their journey here in Laredo. Residents of Laredo depend on jobs at industrial and commercial complexes, and a reliable transportation network ensures residents can access these economic opportunities. As such, the project has incorporated critical safety features along the corridor including grade separated intersections at major local arterial roadways with the express purpose to reduce loss of life and safeguard the quality life of residents in the area. Again, the Chamber wants to express our support of this regionally and nationally important project. Thank you for your attention and consideration for selection of the US 59 (Future IH 69 W) Corridor from International Boulevard. to University Boulevard to Interstate Standards project for the INFRA Grant program.

(Exhibit A)


2019 Legislative Agenda

Infrastructure Funding Twenty First Century Border Management Cross-border Bridge that Creates Jobs and Growth Within the framework of both the Federal Infrastructure program and the Laredo Chamber of Commerce, a core priority is to encourage and engage the private sector and governments through the use of Public Private Partnership mechanisms to develop a positive long-term vision for cooperation to foster Laredo Texas and United States growth and competitiveness. In that sense this Chamber supports the construction of the new international bridge No. 5 for Laredo. In addition to alleviate congestion and pollution caused by commercial and light traffic at the other existing ports-of-entry, it will help stem the deterioration of United States competitiveness in trade and will create a diverse range of new employment opportunities for the citizens of Laredo, TX. The project is sponsored in the United States by the City of Laredo, Webb County and the Webb County-City of Laredo Regional Mobility Authority. In Mexico the State of Tamaulipas and the Municipality of Nuevo Laredo will be the lead sponsors for the project. The proposed location is land owned by “The D.D. Hachar Charitable Trust Foundation of Laredo, Texas.” Background: The Laredo economy thrives on commercial and industrial warehousing, transportation, imports and exports – every major U.S. third party logistics and trucking company has a local presence. Laredo boasts: • The second largest port in the nation, handling over $200 billion in total trade; • A direct access to highways I-35, I-69, I-359 and US-83 in the United States, highways Mex-85, Mex-2 in Mexico, and the only air cargo service with both U.S. and Mexican customs agents to pre-clear cargo flights destined for Mexico; • Two international bridges that cross 16,000+ trucks per day – more than 40 percent of all trade between the U.S. and Mexico; and • A railway bridge, serviced by Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific, which plays a significant role moving agriculture and produce, as well as heavy industry and finished goods to Mexican and South American markets. One of the nation’s busiest trade corridors, Laredo connects the industrial markets in the Midwest, northeast, central states and even the western seaboard to Mexico. Issue: In late 2012, the U.S. Federal government sought and funded through the US-Mexico joint working committee (JIT) on planning and transport, an evaluation of all transport projects and binational and border crossings along the Texas border with Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. This study was named “The Border Master Plan”, its objective was to assess, inventory and prioritize projects along the USMexico border, based purely on its merit, regardless of political variables, or other subjective factors. • The focus of the study was in the categories of congestion / capacity, demand, cost effectiveness / home preparedness, security, environmental impacts, and regional economic impacts. Laredo G-13 March 2019 2 • The rating entities of this study were authorities from federal, state and local governments, (GSA General Services Administration, Department of State DOS, Federal Highway Administration FHWA, Homeland Security DHS, Customs and Border Protection CBP, International Boundary and Water IBWC Commission, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and FMCSA, TxDOT, City of Laredo Texas, Webb County) and their Mexican counterparts.

2019 Legislative Agenda


Infrastructure Funding Twenty First Century Border Management Cross-border Bridge that Creates Jobs and Growth (Cont.) The new international bridge No. 5 for Laredo ranked 1st in this plan, in POE (Ports of Entry) and Roads categories both in Mexico and the U.S. Of over 200 projects evaluated, the projects ranked first in both the United States and Mexico, were related to a proposed new International Bridge 5 in Laredo Texas, and their respective interconnections to highways US-83, IH-69 and Mex-85, in the category of international crossings and highways respectively. The study will be updated in 2019. More information:

Advantages of this new international bridge Promoting competitiveness, better environment quality and connectivity Eliminating backlogs at the most important commercial border crossing between Mexico and the United States. • Increased competitiveness in the logistics chain and certainty on the times of import-export and delivery of consumer goods at the centers of consumption and production (Just in Time). • Better connectivity of existing roads. • It will alleviate air pollutants caused by the idling tractors and cars waiting to cross the border for long periods of time at the current bridges. (Results by: Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M). • Promote and attract private investments benefiting our national competitiveness in our role as the premier logistic hub of the United States. Since this bridge will be the prototype of “The border of the twenty first century”, an area of immigration and inspection for joint offices is planned, which will: √ Raise comfort and speed in processing tourists, while increasing binational security with the use of specialized detection equipment for: smuggling weapons, money, drugs and human traffic. √ Increase competitiveness and speed in processing each container. √ Reduce personnel, costs, and equipment used by Federal agencies of both countries. √ Joint inspection Port of Entry (U.S. and Mexico); Motto” Inspected once, accepted twice”. No action consequences • Today’s value of losses due to wait times are in the order of USD $3,650 million (Woodrow Wilson International Center, “Working together”, Economic ties between the U.S. and Mexico, p-31). • It is estimated that by 2020, the losses will have increased to the order of USD $5,880 million (Bloomberg Government, BOGV analysis “A Balanced border”, Author: Matthew Hummer”). • Commercial traffic has been growing at 5% accrued rate per year for the past 10 years, by year 2022 World Trade bridge will handle over 4,800,000 containers yearly.


2019 Legislative Agenda

Workforce Development The Laredo Motor Carriers Association(LMCA) along with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) need your support to help our industry recruit, train, and retain younger drivers to relieve the driver shortage and replenish our aging workforce. Background: By the end of 2017, the trucking industry was short 50,000 drivers. If current trends hold, we will need to hire 890,000 new drivers by 2026 to keep up with demand, taking into account retirement. In an ATA study, 90 percent of for-hire truckload carriers reported difficulty in recruiting drivers capable of meeting USDOT driver qualification requirements. Younger drivers in particular are needed in our industry; the median age of an over-the-rad truck driver is 49-7 years older than the average U.S. worker – whereas the median age of private fleet drivers is even higher at 52. In addition, 55 percent of the trucking workforce is over the age of 45. Only 4 percent is between the ages of 20 and 24. Currently, federal rules prohibit drivers under 21 from driving trucks interstate, even though all 48 contiguous states allow 18year-olds to drive trucks intrastate. As a result, driver candidates under 21 are forced to choose different paths, or to take on tens of thousands of dollars in college debt – nearly half of whom do not graduate within six years 0 only to face a job market with grim prospects for workers whose skills are not in demand. Below are specific bills designed to remove the single biggest regulatory barrier underlying the worsening driver shortage, while equipping young people with skills for jobs whose median pay is $54,585 and offer health and retirement benefits. The DRIVE Safe Act (H.R.5358, S.3352): The Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Act would train 18-21 year olds - who have obtained their CDLs allowing them to drive trucks intrastate – to also drive them interstate. The training would consist of graduated 400-hour apprenticeship program that ensures safety and the satisfaction of 12 performance benchmarks under the tutelage of an experienced driver. To provide an additional layer of safety, the bill would require trucks equipped with industry-leading safety technologies – such as active brake collision mitigation, event recorders, and speed limiters set at 65-mph. Several of these technologies are on NTSB’s 2017-2018 Most Wanted List, and the bill incentives their increased adoption in fleets by offering carriers access to a broader pool of labor in exchange for these additional investments in safety. Unlike H.R. 5358, S.3352 would not permit apprentices to drive trucks carrying hazardous materials. Apprenticeships: The 2015 FAST Act required that FMCSA establish a pilot program to study the safety implications of allowing younger drivers to operate in interstate commerce. However, this provision restricted participation in the pilot to active duty or recently retired military personnel whose military occupation classification was driving a truck. This provision severely reduced the available pool of drivers. The Waiting Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor Act (WHEEL Act) would expand the FAST Act pilot program to include civilian drivers younger than 21, who have a CDL, a clean driving record, and a certification of completion from a qualified training program. Expanding the pilot program in this manner would enable more qualified individuals to participate and generate more robust and accurate data for FMCSA to review – all the while upholding rigorous safety and training standards.

Nearly 71% of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks.

2019 Legislative Agenda


Manufacturing Skilled Workforce for Industrial Production in Border Regions Request: Create a productive industrial workforce by recruiting and vetting an existing pool of highly skilled, experienced talent from the abundant manufacturing base in our neighboring countries. Create a pilot program that targets specialized skills sets such as engineering, technology and research, and other STEM-based careers that will immediately close the skills gaps found along the US-Mexico border. A successful pilot program can be offered to other regions of the country. This will have a high impact toward productivity in predominantly low skilled areas along the border and generate binational cooperation for economically stable, sustainable, and more secure border regions. Background: A high-level dialogue between the US. and Mexico proposed a binational solution to challenges faced by communities of the four border states with Mexico by addressing issues related to competitiveness, workforce development , and productivity . The US-Mexico Bilateral Agenda recommended “working in a coordinated manner to change the perception of the border to one of mutual and sustainable prosperity; and a focus on high-impact strategic actions to increase competitiveness, connectivity, economic growth and productivity”. General border demographics provide a workforce that supports a competitive manufacturing industry, however targeting higher skilled, higher paid jobs such as engineers and trained technicians requires time to develop and remains a career path that is highly encouraged. Mexico has an abundance of engineers and technicians with much experience in the manufacturing industry. A study on U.S. and Mexico workers by the SMU Texas-Mexico Center concluded that “ encouraging and supporting integrated industries, rather than discouraging them, will boost the U.S. manufacturing sectors”1. [‘Are Mexican and U.S. Workers Complements or Substitutes?”, Dr. Raymond Robertson, 2018] Issue: Difficulty in finding talented workers to fill skilled factory jobs can deflate productivity and stall or altogether curtail development and growth of the manufacturing industry. With the right policies, the U.S. can address the current shortage of experienced workers particular to the manufacturing industry. By tapping into the experienced talent base that exists outside of the U.S., a process that will take thoughtful immigration policy reform, to target and vett the existing talent pool, the U.S can: Immediately fill the skilled labor gaps that exists along impoverished borders Integrate training and apprenticeship programs to provide the necessary skills to local communities Attract foreign talent. Attract investment incentivized by the availability of a skilled labor force and a “MADE IN AMERICA” designation. Generate job growth and economic stability along the border creating another means of securing the border. Promote skills development by way of industrial growth in highly impoverished, low-skilled regions Provide a secure and productive option for legal immigration by means of a targeted and vetted talent pool.

An abundant, productive and bilingual workforce makes Laredo an outstanding business or industrial location. With a 2017 estimated population of 260,654 the Laredo MSA is one of the fastest growing in the U.S.  In addition, there are approximately 399,431 people living just across the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico making a combined total population of 660,085


2019 Legislative Agenda


Economic Development In order for the local community and region to continue to move forward in an orderly fashion, a skilled labor force must be developed and strategies that contribute to strong economic growth must be promoted. The Laredo Chamber of Commerce advocates these strategies: Support continued use of a locally approved sales tax collected by cities to fund economic development efforts. Collaboration with local government to implement and/or modify existing Sports Venue 0.0025 tax for use as Type A Corporation or Type B Corporation Tax for economic development purposes. Support the ability of local taxing districts to phase in tax abatements and encourages the use of tax abatements to promote investment by developers.

Education The median age for the population of Laredo/Webb County is 26. The local labor force is young, and given a growing population, plentiful. It is imperative, however, that the labor force develop skilled and marketable talent to be able to compete in attracting industry into the area. For this reason, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce supports the following: Efforts by local school districts to not only meet minimum expectations for state and federal accountability, but to advance students to levels of higher achievement. Efforts by local school districts to adopt and implement rigorous common standards in mathematics and science that promote deeper learning in STEM subject areas; and increased collaboration of these programs with those of higher education programs (e.g., Laredo College and TAMIU) to ensure a smooth transition for students entering higher education. Funding for professional development for STEM educators to ensure that education professionals are prepared to implement common standards in mathematics and science and that policymakers understand their needs. Increased collaboration between community employers and the educational system and increased participation of business representatives in curriculum development efforts to ensure career-building opportunities for students.

2019 Legislative Agenda


Health and Wellness South Texas, and the Border area in particular, have historically been confronted by health-related issues and medical challenges in higher numbers than other areas of the state. The number of physicians per capita and medical facilities available for the general population (low statistically), did not experience noticeable change until the decade of the nineties. Yet, today, access to proper resources continues to plague this region. For this reason, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce endorses the following: Support for physical plant and utilities, weighted (academic) programs, medical and clinical research, and Graduate Medical Education (GME) for medical resident accredited programs accessible to South Texas. Recover and sustain state funding in Laredo/Webb County and other South Texas/Middle Rio Grande counties along the border to support historically successful student academic programs, research and clinical training opportunities provided by the UTHSA school of dentistry and health professions. Support funding and resources for the LMC Primary Care Residency Programs for Family Medicine and Internal Medicine established as a collaboration between the Laredo Medical Center, Gateway Community Health Center and the University of the Incarnate Word School of Medicine which will ultimately serve as a medium for the relocation of physicians into the South Texas area.

Infrastructure The Laredo Chamber realizes the importance that inland ports play in the interconnection with sea ports, commercial airports and manufacturing centers in the state of Texas. Cognizant, however, that the key role they play as an integral part of the state’s trade corridors is too often superseded by headline-grabbing issues involving immigration and law enforcement, which in turn puts them in a secondary tier in terms of funding, the Laredo Chamber supports the following initiatives: Funding to support the rebuilding and modernizing of Texas roads and highways, rail system, waterways and airports. Create a finance system to support a broad array of infrastructure projects with loans to be repaid through dedicated public or private funding streams. A dedicated funding structure to support the development of infrastructure of inland ports, particularly those at border crossings that facilitate cross-border commercial traffic vital to the manufacturing and transportation industries of Texas.


2019 Legislative Agenda

Business & Enterprise The Laredo Chamber of Commerce stands by the notion that a climate conducive to development of free enterprise will foster increased employment and a sound economy. For this reason, it supports the following platform: Appropriation of funds into the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) to assist in attraction of business to the State as well as implementation of additional transparency and oversight measures to the TEF. Support continuation of the annual “Free Sales Tax Weekend” for back-to-school purchases, with consideration for an increased inventory of allowable items. Oppose unfunded government mandates which shift the cost of financing programs to either the private sector or other levels of government.

International Trade Laredo is the largest inland port on the U.S.-Mexico border and the second largest in value of merchandise processed in the country -- second only to the port of Long Beach, CA. Logistics and International Trade constitute a major source of employment and economic impact for this community. The growth that Port Laredo has experienced in the last twenty-five years is directly attributed to NAFTA. The Laredo Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution in 1993 (and reaffirmed that resolution in 2016) in support of the passage of NAFTA. Given this state of affairs and given that the USMCA, an agreement negotiated by the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2018 as a successor to NAFTA, maintains many positive elements from the original agreement and seeks to maintain a close working relationship with our North American neighbors, the Laredo Chamber —

Supports passage of the USMCA by the United States Congress; Opposes the imposition of tariffs on products imported from Mexico and Canada as a form of protectionism, given that these result in a negative impact for American logistics and transportation industries and in the end create a negative economic impact for U.S. consumers.

2019 Legislative Agenda


Homeland Security Security along our borders and the guarantee of a safe environment in our communities is an issue of utmost importance to all Texans. The Laredo Chamber of Commerce supports this premise but underscores the fact that protection of our borders is the responsibility of the state and the federal government and local communities should not be left to face the brunt of funding required protective measures. Support programs of collaboration with Mexican government to increase security on the Mexican side of the border and enhance efforts to curb rising levels of crime in that country. Support the infusion of state funds into local communities to increase manpower of local law enforcement agencies to address issues of law enforcement along the southern border, such as auto theft and/or drug interdiction, but not to supplant the function of federal agencies The Laredo Chamber of Commerce opposes the construction of physical barriers along the southern border, particularly when these pose an infringement on private property. It rather supports the use of technology and other alternatives, e.g., the eradication of carrizo cane or providing infrastructure to allow easier access for federal agencies and law enforcement personnel to patrol the banks of the Rio Grande River, to stem the flow of illegal immigration and contraband..

Immigration The Laredo Chamber of Commerce takes the position that immigrants have contributed to the history and prosperity of the state and the nation. In addition, it recognizes that growth in the United States labor force is in a state of decline as the number of working-age adults declines due to “baby boomers” facing retirement and a decreasing fertility rate among Americans. For this reason, it supports the following initiatives: Clear understanding that the oversight and enforcement of immigration laws is the responsibility of federal agencies. It urges funding to ensure that the nation’s ports of entry are properly staffed and provided with needed resources. Supports reform of the immigration system to allow for speedier processing of green cards for individuals seeking legal residency in the United States and implementation of temporary worker programs for high-skilled and lesser-skilled workers. Opposition to any plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, but rather support for the implementation of a program to ensure a path to earned citizenship for individuals residing in the United States that arrived under a determined age level and that can prove of benefit to the country as productive residents and/or as members of the armed forces. Support for enforcement of legislation to protect the nation’s borders while ensuring that an efficient flow of trade and commerce is maintained. Support for the use of technology to speed up the flow of human and commercial traffic at the nation’s land ports of entry, but opposition to the imposition of systems that will bring about congestion and cause increased wait times at the same.


2019 Legislative Agenda

2310 San Bernardo Ave. Laredo, TX 78040 (956) 722-9895

Profile for Laredo Chamber of Commerce

2019 Laredo Chamber of Commerce Legislative Agenda  

2019 Laredo Chamber of Commerce Legislative Agenda  


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