The Texas Senate gained a new member Wednesday as Sen. José Menéndez took over Leticia Van de Putte‘s seat representing San Antonio.
Menéndez, a House member representing San Antonio since 2001, took his oath of office surrounded by members of the Senate, his family and constituents in the Senate chamber. In a speech following his oath, Menéndez touted public education for Texas children, especially immigrants, and cooperation between parties.
Menéndez won Van de Putte’s seat in a runoff election against state Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher (D-San Antonio) last month.
As the son of immigrant parents, Menéndez said he has faced the issues of public education and immigration firsthand.
“For a young man that went to his first day of kindergarten not knowing how to speak English, many of the issues that we talk about — these laws and how we are going to do public education — these are issues I lived,” Menéndez said.
Potential laws and issues that impact children need to be prominent in policy discussion this session, Menéndez said.
“We need to take into consideration that every child in every classroom in this great state deserves the opportunity to serve with us, or to be a teacher, or to be a doctor, or whatever they want to be,” Menéndez said. “Their education should not be defined by their zip code.”
Menéndez said he has little interest in the party identifications of his fellow legislators.
“If someone wants to work, I’m there to work side by side whoever wants to get the job done,” Menéndez said.
This session, senators must make tough decisions for “the right reason” in order to implement effective policies for Texans, Menéndez said in his speech.
“Sometimes it’s easier for us to make votes that are politically correct [and] say things that are politically correct, and that’s why, sometimes, I think that people lose faith in what we do and don’t do,” Menéndez said.
At the oath of office ceremony, Sen. John Whitmire (D- Houston) said celebrations such as Menéndez’s swearing-in make the Senate’s process debates and struggles during the legislative session more rewarding.
“An event like today, where we are going to celebrate his public service and this historical occasion, makes all the door knocking very worthwhile,” Whitmire said.