Roberto R. Alonzo is serving his fifth term as a Texas State Representative in the 80th Texas Legislature (2007-2009) having been elected in November 1992 to start his first term during the 73rd Regular Session in 1993. He has also served during the 74th (1995), 78th (2003), and 79th Regular Sessions (2005). State Rep. Alonzo serves House District 104 in the Legislature, which is in southwest Dallas including primarily the communities of Oak Cliff, Cockrell Hill, northeast Grand Prairie, North Oak Cliff, and Arcadia Park. When he was first elected, Rep. Alonzo made history by becoming the first Mexican American from North Texas elected to the Legislature, outdistancing his opponent by a 2 to 1 margin with over 66% percent of the vote. Making history is nothing new to Rep. Alonzo. In 1978, as a college student, Rep. Alonzo became the first Hispanic elected President of the Student Government at the University of Texas at Austin. The Austin campus today enrolls over 50,000 students in its 16 colleges and universities.
On July 7, 1993, Rep. Alonzo once again made Texas history when Governor Ann Richards signed HB 1261 into law – the first piece of legislation authored by the Dallas freshman representative, creating the Texas Partnership and Scholarship Program (TPSP). Gov. Richards’ signature of HB 1261 at the time made the TPSP the first program of its kind in the country modeled after the “I Have A Dream” Foundation of New York to be attempted on a statewide scale. The TPSP is a cooperative partnership effort between business, schools, and communities working together to provide mentoring/counseling programs and college scholarships for financially-needy students.
Education has consistently been one of Rep. Alonzo’s legislative priorities. In addition to HB 1261, in 1993, he authored HB 982 which provided over $8.2 million in scholarship monies from already-existing sources to financially-needy students attending college in Texas. During the 1993 session, as a member of the House Urban Affairs Committee, Rep. Alonzo worked closely with other legislators to pass one of the most significant packages of gang-related legislation ever passed in Texas to combat crime problems among our state’s teens and youth. During his first 2 terms, he also served on the House Transportation Committee, working on a number of important legislative measures that impacted positively the State’s transportation system, including improvements to our roads, highways, and interstate thoroughfares. Other committees that Rep. Alonzo has served on during his legislative career have included House Judicial Affairs and Corrections, in 1995 and 2003, respectively. Rep. Alonzo currently serves on the House Committee on Border & International Affairs and the House Judiciary Committee. The first committee has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to issues involving relations between the State of Texas and other nations; international commerce and trade; international and border area economic development; and other related matters that impact the U.S./Mexico border. The latter committee has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to uniform state laws; creating, changing, or otherwise affecting courts of judicial districts of the state; establishing districts for the election of judicial officers; the Texas Judicial Council; the State Commission on Judicial Conduct; the Office of the Attorney General, including its organization, powers, functions, and responsibilities; and state agencies such as the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System, the State Law Library, the Court Reporters Certification Board, and the Board of Law Examiners.
Among the legislative highlights for Rep. Alonzo during the 78th Regular Session in 2003 was to secure funding to set up the Alonzo Bilingual/ESL Education Scholars Program at the University of North Texas (UNT) to provide tuition assistance and loan forgiveness as incentives for students to pursue bilingual education teaching certification. During the 79th Session in 2005, the scholarship program was granted extension for 2 more years. In 2003, State Rep. Alonzo worked closely with House Appropriations Committee Chairman – State Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie – to secure much-needed textbook funding for third and fifth grade children enrolled in ESL classes, as well as up to a million dollars appropriations for small urban hospitals to provide community care. One of the most debated and controversial issues of the 78th regular session involved ethics reform, particularly campaign finance disclosure rules. To help address the issue, Rep. Alonzo was able to add one of his own pieces of legislation to the ethics bill that allows an individual to file for injunctive relief against a political candidate who failed to file a campaign finance report. Current law only provides for civil penalties if someone does not file a campaign finance report. With his successful amendment, Rep. Alonzo provided a new method for individuals to make political candidates follow the law, and thus address the much discussed ethics reform issue. Furthermore, Rep. Alonzo worked closely with former Rep. Steve Wolens of Dallas on much of the important ethics legislation that he amended.
Yet another one of Rep. Alonzo’s proudest accomplishments in 2003 was passing legislation that directs all junior college governing boards in the state to determine the need for and demand a program and/or course work in Mexican-American Studies. Working closely with Rep. Fred Hill of Richardson, as well as with officials and students from Richland College, a branch of the Dallas County Community College District, Rep. Alonzo offered legislation which permits Richland College to become the first junior college level institution in Texas to offer such a program. With such a thriving Hispanic community in the Dallas metroplex area and in Texas, Rep. Alonzo made it a priority to ensure that educational opportunities exist for all students to be able to study the history and culture of this vital ethnic group in the state.
Additionally, Rep. Alonzo wanted to ensure that diversity will be a valued goal at both the local and state government levels. Thus, he amended and helped successfully pass legislation to ensure that appointments to local governing bodies are representative of their constituencies. In addition, he helped pass a comparable measure so that all appointments to statewide governing bodies reflect the racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the state. Rep. Alonzo worked closely with key legislators on this important affirmative action legislation, namely State Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa and State Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine . Finally, he fought to keep the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) from repealing a section of law that encourages the use of disadvantaged businesses, such as those with minority ownership, in contract bidding.
In a legislative session in which many different communities were under constant attack, Rep. Alonzo in 2003 succeeded in passing two important measures to aid the disabled and underserved populations living in Texas. As part of the reorganization of the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE), some legislators sought to remove protections set up by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 for building requirements. Rep. Alonzo persuaded them to maintain the full effect of this federal act as part of state law, protecting disabled persons from future limitations to their public access.
Many hospitals have faced exorbitant high costs as many individuals usually receive the most expensive form of medical care in an emergency room after they are seriously ill, rather than take the necessary precautionary preventive measures early if they only had adequate and affordable health care coverage, to begin with. Keeping this in mind, coupled with the fact that our immigrant population is not going away, Rep. Alonzo co-authored legislation that allows hospitals to use local funds however they choose, including use of services for programs to administer health care regardless of status of an individual. There is no doubt that this will allow hospitals to save money in the long run by providing preventative care up front to those who need it most, rather than have to spend millions later for emergency care.
In 2003, Rep. Alonzo was equally successful in passing other key pieces of legislation affecting the lives of all average Texans in other areas as well. He sponsored a bill that protects peace officers’ ability to carry concealed weapons and another creating a study to improve the collection of court costs and fees in Texas. He passed legislation that requires the Texas Board of Medical Examiners (TBME) to review a national clearinghouse of disciplinary actions taken against physicians when investigating doctors. In addition, he co-authored legislation to limit ad valorem homestead taxes for the elderly and disabled, to set up a program to reimburse teachers for personal funds expended on classroom supplies, and to allow for cities to donate surplus fire-fighting equipment to benefit other local volunteer fire departments that otherwise could not afford such costs.
Through hard work and perseverance, Rep. Alonzo is determined to continue to address the needs of all his constituents and be an effective advocate for them in Austin. As a returning veteran member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Alonzo will use his past experience to give the constituents of District 104 the best representation possible. With that same level of commitment, dedication, and determination, and as he continues his fourth term in the 79th Texas Legislature, Rep. Alonzo is convinced that he will continue to fight for and support legislation that will enhance our state’s economic growth. He is ready to roll his sleeves even more, and continue to work to improve educational opportunities for all children, make a college education affordable and financially accessible for all qualified Texans, improve benefits and working conditions for our teachers, address the health and social service needs of all Texas senior citizens and needy residents – including children, tackle crime in the area, and most importantly, to improve the quality of live for all average, hard-working Texans. State Rep. Alonzo is further convinced that working in partnership with other local, state, and federal governmental entities, as well as with local groups and organizations, he will do all he can to curb crime all over the city, specifically in District 104. In January 2008, Rep. Alonzo was honored by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) with their “2008 Champion of Higher Education Award,” for his exemplary advocacy work on behalf of higher education issues in Texas, particularly the Latino population, students and faculty alike, and in February 2008, he was honored with the TACHE Meritorious Service Award presented by the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education during their 33rd Annual State Convention.
In addition to his legislative duties, civic affairs, and active political involvement in the community, Rep. Alonzo is an attorney by profession. A former migrant worker born and raised in Crystal City, Texas, in a family of 11 siblings, he graduated from Crystal City High School where he also served as his Student Body President and worked summers and after school in the town’s legal aid center. In 1973, he sat on the Crystal City Independent School District Board of Trustees as a Student Representative. This active involvement as a young teen was the first sign that later encouraged him to pursue a career as an attorney. At the encouragement of his high school teachers, he left the small south Texas town to pursue an undergraduate degree at UT-Austin on an academic scholarship graduating with a B.A. degree in 1980. From there, he continued his law studies at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston where he obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1984. Rep. Alonzo is currently a self-practitioner and small business owner in Dallas where he specializes in criminal law. In addition to his law practice, he is actively involved in a number of community affairs in the Dallas metroplex area. A former Board Member of both the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART), he has also served as an active Board Member of Hispanic PAC/USA in Washington, D.C. and the Mexican American Bar Association. He is also an active member of the Democratic Party, having served in a number of significant capacities at the local, state, and national levels, including precinct chair several times as well as on the Executive Committee at both the state and national party levels. Rep. Alonzo has served as both state and national delegate to a number of party conventions as well. He has been a key organizer and coordinator for a number of notable local, state and national/congressional campaigns, including both State Chair and National Co-Chair of the “Adelante Con Clinton” Campaign, organized to maximize the Latino vote in the country. as well as the Southwest Voter Registration & Education Project (SWVREP). Additionally, Rep. Alonzo is a former Assistant Texas Attorney General, Legislative Aide in the Texas Senate, state employee with the Texas Department of Human Resources, paralegal for both the Texas Rural Legal Aid Clinic and the Oficina de la Gente Legal Aid Clinic, which provide free pro bono legal services to low-income families.
Rep. Alonzo is married to the former Sylvana Avila, also of Crystal City. They have three children: Roberto, Jr.; Maria Xiomara; and, Jose Maria Emeterio.