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Hospital District legislation for Hidalgo County would help provide for the poor and medically-uninsured, while helping secure creation of UT medical school in the Valley, says Rep. Canales


Poor and uninsured residents in Hidalgo County would have access to a better system of medical care under legislation approved on Wednesday, May 1 by the Texas House of Representatives, says Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured left, who is a Joint Author of the measure. House Joint Resolution 147 by Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, would allow the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, with local voter support, to create a hospital district, which is public body whose main responsibility is to provide medical and hospital care for needy residents. Canales says a hospital district would also provide a stable source of local revenue to help pay for the successful creation of a planned University of Texas medical school in the Valley. “Every major metropolitan region in Texas with a medical school has a hospital district, and those medical schools have a huge and positive economic and educational impact,” Canales noted. “The UT System already has pledged $100 million over the next 10 years for the Valley medical school. A hospital district that would work with this state-of-the-art medical school would go a long ways towards healing the sick, which is our moral obligation. Plus, this partnership would provide advanced medical education, create high-paying jobs, and reduce poverty.” Identical legislation is being carried in the Senate by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center, in this image with Canales and Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American. In addition to Canales, the rest of the Hidalgo County House delegation – Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya – are Joint Authors of Guerra’s HJR 147. See lead story in this posting.

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, featured right greeting constituents at his District Office in this file photograph, has secured approval by the House of Representatives for his legislation that is designed to improve security for thousands of students, staff and faculty in Texas public schools. On Saturday, May 4, Muñoz’ House Bill 801, which would increase protection at rural school campuses against accidental gunfire from hunters and marksmen engaged in their sport on nearby properties,was tentatively passed, without opposition. It will be sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “On December 12, 2011, two students were trying out for the basketball team at Harwell Middle School (in Edinburg) when they were shot and seriously injured,” Muñoz recalled. “Stray bullets from an individual(s) engaging in target practice on a nearby ranch crossed into school property, striking the students. Teachers, parents and students should not have to worry about stray bullets coming from surrounding areas while they are at school.” Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes much of the deep South Texas school district, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, are Joint Authors of Muñoz’ HB 801. “Texas is a growing state and as more schools are located in formerly rural areas, the problem of stray gunfire crossing school property is expected to increase,” said Canales. “This is a common-sense proposal that does not interfere with property owner or gun owner rights.”

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Edinburg posted a 7.3 percent unemployment rate in March 2013, the second-best showing among the Valley’s major cities for that month, with only McAllen, at 7.2 percent, claiming the top spot. Edinburg’s March 2013 unemployment rate also was better than the national rate of 7.6 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, which noted that the state’s unemployment rate came in at 6.4 percent. Mayor Richard H. García, featured left, has been working with national and state leaders to continue bringing business and jobs to his hometown. The mayor in late March promoted Edinburg during a visit by a congressional delegation to Edinburg. From left: Mayor Richard H García; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security; former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, who is the Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System; and Edinburg City Councilmember Elías Longoria, Jr. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, featured in the foreground, on Thursday, April 18, passed Senate Bill 1084, which would amend the Government Code to revise the definition of a qualified employee, a veteran, and a qualified business as they relate to an Enterprise Zone relating to the Texas Economic Development Bank. The bill would provide provisions for the nomination and administration of certain enterprise projects by the certain governing bodies. The bill would also amend the Government Code and the Tax Code to remove the ability of an enterprise project to receive a tax credit and to revise certain requirements for an enterprise project to be eligible to receive a tax refund. “A provision of the bill that I am particularly proud of is incentivizing the hiring of veterans as part of a qualifying businesses workforce requirements. As our service-members are returning home, we should make sure as many doors of opportunity are open to them as possible,” Hinojosa said. “This provision will also give businesses extra flexibility with an extra labor pool to draw from for the program’s workforce requirements.” See story later in this posting.

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Seeking to speed up the development of a full-service Veterans Administration Hospital in deep South Texas, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, has filed legislation seeking state financial support for the long sought-after medical facility. Such an investment by the state would eventually create thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in economic activity for the region and state. Martínez, who is the lead author of House Bill 665, wants the Legislature to allow the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and the Speaker of the House to use money from the Texas Enterprise Fund – which currently has more than $141 million in its bank account – to help pay for the construction of a full-service VA Hospital for the Rio Grande Valley. “Beyond the positive economic impact, there is a need in the Valley for a veterans hospital. It takes our veterans hours to get to the nearest veterans hospital in San Antonio,” he testified on Wednesday, April 17, on behalf of his legislation, House Bill 665. HB 665 was considered during a public hearing of the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development. “Using the Texas Enterprise Fund for veterans hospitals is not a difficult decision – an investment by our state can spur economic growth, and Texas would benefit from significant economic returns,” he said. Featured in this image from the House Chamber are Martínez, left, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. “It is imperative that we provide our country’s veterans with more than adequate access to health care. Once they have served us, we must serve them,” Canales said. Canales and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, are joint authors of Martínez’ HB 665.

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In response to Texas House Bill 972, legislation that would allow licensed concealed handguns on campus, South Texas College’s Student Government Association (SGA) found it necessary to voice the opinions of the student body they represent. By conducting surveys at the Pecan, Mid-Valley and Starr County campuses, STC’s SGA was able to gauge where the students stand on legislation that could invariably affect campus life. The legislation, also known as the Campus Personal Protection Act – by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, also would provide Texas public universities and colleges a chance to opt out if they first consult with students, faculty and staff. Approximately 558 students were surveyed with decisive results. Sixty-five percent of STC students voted against allowing concealed handguns on campus for all students, faculty and staff. See story later in this posting.

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Migrant farmworkers are so important to America that without them, the United States would no longer serve as the “breadbasket of the world”, helping alleviate hunger and famine here at home and throughout the world. In recognition of the vital roles played by the estimated two million to three million seasonal and migrant farmworkers in the country – including more than 131,000 in the state – the Texas House of Representatives designated April 23, 2013 as Migrant Farmworker Day at the Capitol. “Many Texans have a link to migrant farmworkers, either because they once toiled in the fields themselves, or they, their family or their friends are or have been members of this noble profession,” said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who authored House Resolution 1431 to recognize the vast contributions of this important labor force. “Migrant farmworkers are the foundation of the miracle of American agriculture, which puts food on our tables.” See story later in this posting.

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The Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley will be hosting their third annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Prom on Saturday May 18, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Art Village Event Center, located at 800 N. Main Street in McAllen. The goal of this event is to provide a safe and positive space in where people of any age can come together to fellowship and celebrate who they are. The theme of the event is “There’s no place like PROM!” For more information, or to RSVP and purchase tickets, log on to the event’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/events/497492020310674/ The Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley is an organization of politically active individuals working for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community in the Rio Grande Valley and the State of Texas.

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McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, featured third from right, on Tuesday, April 15, received a partnership award for his six years of dedication to the Mayor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. Cortéz, who did not seek reelection, received the honor during the 2013 Project HIRE Kick-Off Event, held at the Cooper Center for Communication Arts at the Pecan Campus of South Texas College. The gathering also celebrated the second year of a $1.25 Million DRS Project HIRE Grant awarded by the Texas Council for Development Disabilities. Project HIRE participants with developmental disabilities from area high schools were introduced along with their parents. Project HIRE, which began in January 2012, provides 50 area high school students with educational and career coaches who will monitor their progression through college and eventually help them land jobs. The program provides students with “wrap-around services” such as on-campus counselors who help with college success, intensive summer training programs focused on independent living, and life skills provided by University of Texas-Pan American educational coaches, and job placement services through UTPA’s Placement Office. Featured, from left: Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Provost, the University of Texas-Pan American; Bonnie González, Chief Executive Officer, Workforce Solutions; McAllen City Commissioner Jim Darling, who is the only candidate on the May 11 ballot for McAllen mayor; McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; Pattie Rosenlund, Executive Director, Easter Seals RGV; and Dr. Shirley Reed, President, South Texas College.

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The Texas Senate on Tuesday, April 23, authorized $2.4 billion in tuition revenue bonds (TRBs) to finance $4.1 billion in construction costs for 60 projects at 58 colleges and universities. If approved by the Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry, Senate Bill 16 would include $98 million for a Science Building II at the University of Texas-Pan American and $60 million for a new campus for the University of Texas-Brownsville. Passed unanimously with strong bipartisan support, SB 16 was authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.?“To keep up with enrollment growth, the Texas Legislature traditionally has passed a TRB bill every other legislative session,” Zaffirini said. “It has been seven years, however, since we last passed one, and our colleges and universities are bursting at the seams.” See story later in this posting.

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On Tuesday, April 16, the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court recognized County Auditor Ray Eufracio and his staff for achieving the “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting” by the Government Finance Officers Association for the county’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011. The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. This is the ninth consecutive year the County Auditor’s Office has received this award. Featured, front row, from left: County Auditor staff Letty Chávez and Linda Fong; County Auditor Ray Eufracio, C.P.A.; and County Auditor staff Becky Luna. Back row, from left: Precinct 4 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Precinct 3 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joe M. Flores; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; Precinct 2 Hidalgo County Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios; and Precinct 1 Hidalgo County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Jr.

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More protections for women and children in Texas who are exploited by human traffickers, along with stiffer punishments for those smugglers, were approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 16, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, a joint author of the legislation. House Bill 8, whose lead author is Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, is the state’s most recent effort to combat human trafficking, a global problem which is growing in Texas. “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” said Muñoz, featured here at the front podium in the House Chamber. “Many victims are brought through Texas through our border with Mexico, which stretches almost 1,300 miles in length. We have a responsibility to continue to fight this criminal enterprise, which especially exploits and endangers women and children.” See story later in this posting.

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Mayor Richard H. García, featured left, was among several political, business, and news media leaders who participated in a work session of Leadership Edinburg Class XXIV on Friday, April 17, at Edinburg City Hall. Twenty-five years ago, a group of Edinburg citizens involved in the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce decided leadership would improve if potential and emerging leaders had an opportunity to interact with one another and learn about the problems and issues facing the community. From this vision, Leadership Edinburg was born. To date, more than 400 people have met the Leadership Edinburg challenge. After completing the class, members have gone on to improve Edinburg by serving their communities on community boards and by participating in local politics. The mayor was part of the day-long gathering that focused city and school government and politics. Edinburg City Councilmember Elias Longoria, Jr., Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios, and Edinburg School Board President Juan “Sonny” Palacios joined the mayor for that presentation. Featured, from left: Mayor Richard H. García; Nicole Sosa (Kidz College Learning Center); Joe L. Sánchez (Legacy Chapels Life Events Center); Cindy Esparza Reyna (Elijah Pest Control); Debbie Pequeño (Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson); Katherine De La Peña and Jorge A. Gutiérrez (The University of Texas Pan American); Kelly Rivera Salazar (Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson); Lazaro J. Guerra (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance); and Araceli Valencia (Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg RGV).

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The Leadership Edinburg Class XXIV’s work sessions on Friday, April 17, at Edinburg City Hall included presentations on how the news media works, and insights on politics and government at the county and state levels. Providing their expertise in the media were Brian Godínez, owner of Godínez Communications of McAllen; Davis Rankin, President of FUTURO McAllen; Rick Díaz, anchor for KRGV-TV Channel 5 News; Irma Garza, Director of Public Information for the City of Edinburg; Martín Hernández, Director for KATS-TV with the Edinburg school district; Mark Montemayor, Photojournalist with the Office of Public Information with the Edinburg school district, and Jared Janes, Legislative Correspondent with the Monitor. Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, Precinct 4 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios, and Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Kelly Rivera Salazar provided their perspectives on county and state politics. Featured, from left: Ronnie Larralde (Edinburg Chamber of Commerce); Adriana Hernández (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance); Rubén J. De Jesús (Melden and Hunt, Inc.); Shea Prevost (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance); Rolando Bocanegra, Jr. (G Tech Corporation-Texas Lottery); Edinburg School Board President Juan “Sonny” Palacios; Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios; and Edinburg City Councilmen Elías Longoria, Jr. Members of the Leadership Edinburg Class XXIV who were unavailable for the photo session of the event were Cristina Niño Villarreal (Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson), Roy Esparza (L&L Logistics), and Jason Chang (South Texas Health Systems/Edinburg Regional Medical Center).

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Pharr Mayor Palacios says STC board should appoint successor to fill vacancy

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation has honored Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center, with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas.  The public recognition was bestowed on Wednesday, October 27, at the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid office in Edinburg. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, featured right, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Hinojosa. Lilia Ledesma (featured left), an attorney with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, a national law firm with offices in Edinburg and Brownsville, also attended the public ceremony. Hinojosa was recognized for his outstanding leadership efforts in the 81st Texas Legislature during the spring of 2009 that led to an historic appropriation of $20 million for civil legal services for poor and low-income Texans. “Times are tough, and funding is scarce for the legal assistance low-income Texans desperately need, whether it’s a protective order to prevent abuse, obtaining benefits for the family, help with an eviction, or other legal services,” Hecht said. “Sen. Hinojosa understands, and he has supported this worthy cause with leadership, determination, and courage.” See story later in this posting.  

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Rep.-elect Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, featured right on Thursday, October 21, at the University of Texas-Pan American, was selected to attend the prestigious NALEO National Institute for Newly Elected Officials in Washington, D.C., which was held November 18 – 21. The three-day governance “boot camp,” hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, is a professional development seminar designed to help newly elected officials acquire the skills needed for effective governance and establish professional networks needed to succeed in public office. Congressmen-elect Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, and Raúl Labrador, a Republican from Indiana, were among this year’s participants. In addition to Muñoz, other new members of the Texas Legislature selected for the Institute were: Sen.-elect José R. Rodríguez, D-El Paso; Raúl Torres, R-Corpus Christi; Rep.-elect Larry Gonzáles, R-Round Rock; and Rep.-elect Naomi R. González, D-El Paso. For her part, Zaffirini  on Monday, November 8, pre-filed the first 44 Senate bills of the 82nd Texas Legislative Session that will convene on Tuesday, January 11. See stories on Muñoz and Zaffirini later in this posting.  

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McAllen banker Alonzo Cantú, featured left, and businessman Forrest Runnels, also of McAllen, on Wednesday, November 10, were sworn in by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, as the newest members of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority Board of Directors during the RMA’s work session in Weslaco. Cantú was appointed on Tuesday, November 2, by then-Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez, who is featured in the background, while Runnels was appointed, also on November 2, by Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Óscar Garza at the request of incoming Precinct 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios. Both appointments received unanimous approval of the county commissioners court. In late October, R. David Guerra, Vice President and Director of International Bancshares Corporation (not shown), was sworn in as an RMA board member, representing the City of McAllen, on Wednesday, October 27. “Alonzo, Forrest and David bring tremendous credentials, integrity and vision to one of the most important projects that will affect all Hidalgo County residents," said RMA board member Michael G. Cano of Pharr, an attorney with the national law firm of Linbarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, which has offices in Edinburg and McAllen. "For all of us, it is both very challenging and very gratifying to be part of history in the making. We encourage all Hidalgo County residents to provide their ideas, concerns, and hopes to us at any time." The seven-member governing board for the RMA is charged with many responsibilities that will affect the economic and transportation development of Hidalgo County, including planning and financing toll roads and other major highway improvements for the region. See story later in this posting  

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes,  featured here during his campaign victory party  in McAllen on Tuesday, November 2, has been elected as the 1st Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus aims to address national and international issues and the impact these policies have on the Hispanic community. The function of the Caucus is to serve as a forum for the Hispanic members of Congress to coalesce around a collective legislative agenda. Hinojosa, who was formerly 2nd Vice Chair of the organization, was promoted on Thursday, November 18. Congressman Charles A. González, D-San Antonio, was elected as Chair, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, as 2nd Vice Chair and Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-California, as Whip. "I am honored to have been elected 1st Vice Chair to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” said Hinojosa. "I, along with my colleagues in the CHC, will continue to work on the issues that affect our Latino community in the 112th Congress. Together, CHC members will follow our new Chair, Congressman González, in our commitment to finding solutions to the problems facing Hispanics. I look forward to serving in my capacity as the 1st Vice Chair of the CHC and as a U.S. Congressman. We will all work vigorously to address the challenges that face Latino families today.”  

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The Holiday season is upon us. This is the season where Americans share good times with loved ones and count their blessings. Let this also be the time of year where we give to others and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing we have brought a smile to someone’s face. The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce would like to invite the community to join them in their efforts with the “Surprises from Santa” Toy Drive. With this toy drive, that will run from November 30 through December 17, they hope to collect as many new unwrapped toys as possible so that they may be distributed in some of the colonias of the Rio Grande Valley. “Financial contributions will also be accepted to buy toys and clothing for the more unfortunate children,” added Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGVHCC. The drop-off location for anyone interested in donating toys will be the RGVHCC office, located at 3313 N. McColl Road in McAllen. Please call them for information at 956/928-0060. Featured making preparations for the “Surprises from Santa” Toy Drive are, from left: Melisa Tejada, membership director; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; and Obie Calzada, events intern. Seated in front is Michael García, membership intern.  

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Ready to kick off the holiday season with your friends and family? Come to South Texas College’s Christmas Toys and Joys Family Night on Thursday, December 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the college’s Pecan Campus located at 3201 W. Pecan Boulevard in McAllen. The event is open to the public and admission is two canned goods for the RGV Food Bank, or a coat for Tim’s Coats, or an unwrapped toy for The Salvation Army. Activities include games and rides, music, holiday carolers, a lighted train tour and more. Children will meet Santa and his helpers. For additional information, contact Armando Ponce at 956/872-2515.  

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Redistricting could be a treasure map for South Texas, McAllen and Mission, says Rep. Martínez

Leaders with the Renaissance Cancer Foundation on Wednesday, July 28, received a check totaling $3,500 on behalf of employees of Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa to help area patients. The money is part of the District Clerk Office’s Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign, which benefits local charitable organizations. The Renaissance Cancer Foundation is a private, non-profit organization established to help local cancer patients with the medical needs and emotional challenges related to the illness. “We are delighted to contribute to the Renaissance Cancer Foundation to assist in their efforts in addressing the needs of cancer patients in our region,” said Hinojosa. “We encourage other organizations to give of their time and/or money to this important endeavor. Together, our contributions can help make cancer services and education more accessible to the many friends and families who are affected by this disease and the community at large.” Featured, front row, from left: McAllen City Commissioner Jim Darling, who also serves as DHR General Counsel; Yadhira Y. Huerta, Cancer Care Coordinator; Norma Cavazos-Salas, D.O., Chief-of-Staff; and Sandra Yañez, Radiation Oncologist Director. Featured, back row, from left: Mario Lizcano, DHR Marketing Director; Chico Meyer, DHR Associate Administrator; and Ricardo Contreras, Chief of Administration and Public Information, Hidalgo County District Clerk Office. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College students Juan Solis, Ariana Castellanos and Marisela Chávez show off the college’s 2010 summer enrollment figures in front of registration lines as the college gears up for an equally busy fall semester. Approximately 16,457 students took advantage of summer 2010 classes at STC, an increase of 3,820 students over the summer 2009 enrollment of 12,637 students. Geographically, the college saw large increases in summer enrollment at several of its campus locations. Summer enrollment was up 62 percent at the Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco, 26 percent at its Pecan Campus in McAllen and 42 percent at its Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City. See story later in this posting. 

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María Medina, featured right, Director of Operations for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV (Rio Grande Valley), on Thursday, July 22, was chosen as the 2010 Administrator of the Year for the South Texas Professional Association RGV Chapter. “It was such an honor and surprise to be selected for the award, considering the high caliber of club professionals that were nominated,” Medina said. “I know the value of working with youth and have spent more than three decades championing youth development for our kids.” The Administrator of the Year award recognizes a Boys and Girls Clubs professional who holds the title, duties and responsibilities of an executive director, assistant executive director, or director of operations within their organization, and who has made a significant contribution to the work of the Boys & Girls Clubs profession while in their current position. Teresa Walch, featured left, the Southwest Regional Vice President Boys & Girls Clubs of America, made the presentation to Medina. See story later in this posting.

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Kimberly Ann Rodríguez of Edinburg this summer in Houston participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine (NYLF/MED), considered the nation’s foremost program in pre-medical education for high school students. Rodríguez, daughter of Johnny and Melissa Rodríguez, was joined with other high school students from around the country who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership potential and an interest in a career in medicine. NYLF/MED introduces outstanding high school students to the world of medicine. This 10-day program familiarizes students with professionals from some of the nation’s top medical centers and faculty from renowned institutions of learning. See story later in this posting.

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Someone will walk away with $100,000 in their pocket from the Jalapeño Golf Classic, hosted by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, on Saturday, August 28 at Los Lagos Golf Course in Edinburg. To qualify for the $100,000 Shootout, a contestant must be a participant of the Jalapeño and be an amateur player. Men will drive from 165 yards while women from 150 yards. Two lucky people will get to participate in the hole-in-one event. Sponsoring the $100,000 Shootout event is Deutsch & Deutsch of McAllen/Laredo. Featured at Los Lagos Golf Course promoting the event are, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, the president and chief executive officer for the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce;  Pres/CEO; Donna Saccomanno; John Haley, the Los Lagos golf pro; Ruth McCollough; Hector González; and Chuy Negrete, chair of the Jalapeño Golf Classic. More information on the golf classic or the $100,000 Shootout are available by calling the MHCC office at 928-0060.

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Hidalgo County Judge-Elect Ramón García on Monday, July 19, addressed the need for the Valley to have an extra congressional district during testimony he presented at the McAllen Convention Center before state lawmakers, including Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco. The Mid-Valley lawmaker, who was appointed Chairman of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Subcommittee on Redistricting, said the stakes – and potential payoff – are high for South Texans in next spring’s legislative battle on legislative redistricting. "Make no mistake about it – we are talking about billions of dollars in additional state and federal funds for deep South Texas over the next 10 years – and it all revolves around a map-drawing process called legislative redistricting, where the boundaries of congressional, state senatorial, and state representative districts are created," said Martínez. "Even for people who could care less about politics, the stakes are enormous, especially for the Valley, which could gain power and money for every important program, from education to transportation to heath care." In the case of the Valley, one of the fastest-growing areas of Texas, the area is in good shape to get a new congressional district, with western Hidalgo County – including McAllen and Mission – and Starr County serving as the population base, he envisioned. See lead story in this posting.

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Rep. Martínez: McAllen’s call to crack down on sales of guns, ammunition meant for Mexican drug cartels drawing legislative interest

With shovel blades and even the overturned earth bearing a gold coloring, Valley legislators literally and figuratively hit pay dirt in Weslaco on Friday, May 14, during the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned $40 million Department of Public Safety Regional Headquarters.

The complex will feature about 110,00 square feet and accommodate 212 employees, who will serve and protect area residents as a regional state public safety command center – including housing the Highway Patrol, Texas Rangers, and aircraft – plus focus on criminal investigations, intelligence and counter-terrorism, crime laboratory, communications, and emergency management. In addition, the complex will include a driver’s license facility, victim services, information technology, and agency support. It is expected to open for business by the summer of 2011. In 2007, the Texas Legislature, led by the Valley legislative delegation, authorized the funding for the construction of the facility, which will serve Hidalgo County. The Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, directed by Hernan Gonzalez, donated the 21-acre tract of land, which is located at the corner of FM 1015 and Sugar Cane Drive (Mile 9). Featured, from left: Rep.-elect J.M. Lozano, D-Kingsville; Steven C. McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety; Weslaco Mayor Buddy De la Rosa; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. 

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Leadership Edinburg Class XXI on April 19 held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for one of its projects, a "Welcome to the City of Edinburg" monument located on the town square at the corner of McIntyre and Closner. The group, which is growing organization that strives to encourage a better Edinburg through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, education, quality of life, and more, has more than 450 graduates. Graduates of Leadership Edinburg typically continue to apply what they learned and demonstrate it by showing interest in community involvement including serving on committees and at times politics. Residents interested in participating in the next Leadership Edinburg Class may contact Letty González at 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Emilio Santos; Lisa Chávez; Sal Martínez; María Medina; Abel Vaquera; Juan Uribe; and Maris Aguirre. Front row, from left: Myra L. Ayala-Garza; Jensid Álvarez; and Rita Flores. 

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Edinburg’s "Market Day", a planned monthly service of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, will begin on Saturday, June 5, with the inaugural event to be held at the Town Square from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Market Day – scheduled for the first Saturday of every month – is designed to help revitalize businesses in that key section of the city, assist small entrepreneurs, and provide family entertainment, according to Edna Peña, a "Market Day" committee member who also serves on the local chamber’s board of directors. "Market Day" will be free to the public, who will be able to purchase various items that will be offered by area vendors. Business owners who wish to sell their products and services during "Market Day" may set up a booth for a $25 fee. For more information, residents and prospective vendors may contact the local chamber at 956/383-4974 or by logging on at http://www.Edinburg.com. Featured, from left: Edna Peña; Imelda Rodríguez, Director of Tourism of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. 

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The City of McAllen, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation on Thursday, May 20, will be hosting a reception to allow constituents to meet Rep.-elect Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. The event, scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, will be conducted in a casual and informal setting. Muñoz, an area attorney and Palmview Municipal Court Judge, faces no opponent in the November general election for the two-year term, paving the way for him to be sworn into the Texas Legislature when it convenes in mid-January for its five-month regular session. An RSVP is required, so area constituents are being asked to confirm their attendance by contacting Michelle Rodriguez with the local chamber by e-mail at mrodriguez@mcallenchamber.com or at (956) 682-2871. In addition to hearing from residents on legislative issues important to them, the gathering also will allow Muñoz to share his vision for House District 36, which includes Granjeno, Hidalgo, southern McAllen, most of Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, and Pharr. 

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On Tuesday, May 11, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville (featured left), was presented a certificate in his Capitol office naming him to the Texas PTA Legislative Honor Roll by for his work during the 81st Legislative Session in 2009 to improve nutrition in public schools and address the childhood obesity epidemic. Lucio passed legislation that created the Early Childhood Health and Nutrition Interagency Council to develop an early childhood nutrition and physical activity plan. "Texas PTA applauds Sen. Lucio’s efforts to improve the health status of all Texas children," said Texas PTA President Sharon Goldblatt. "He was also honored for recognizing that students’ academic progress is directly tied to their physical health.” Presenting the honor to Sen. Lucio is Kyle Ward, executive director for Texas PTA. See story later in this posting. 

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Investing more state resources into helping border law enforcement agencies to crack down on the flow of guns, ammunition, stolen vehicles, and even criminal fugitives across the Texas border region’s international bridges into Mexico deserves a close look, says Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, featured right. That approach was proposed by McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodríguez  – and endorsed by McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz – on Thursday, April 30, during a major legislative public hearing in McAllen by the House Committee on Border and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Public Safety. Martínez was one of more than a dozen state lawmakers who heard day-long testimony from a wide range of law enforcement, political, economic development, and community leaders who gathered at the McAllen Convention Center to discuss the threat of border violence spill-over from the ongoing battles in Mexico between Mexican military forces and criminal drug cartels. "With so much attention being placed on the importance of the Texas border region because we are a key economic asset to Texas, we have the opportunity to invest more state and federal funds for law enforcement and  public safety in our area," said Martínez. "Many important ideas came out of this legislative hearing, none more important, in my opinion, than what was proposed by McAllen." Featured, from left: Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; Rep. Joseph E. Moody, D-El Paso; and Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez. See lead story later in this posting. 

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Texas veterans denounce Texas Monthly’s attack on Rep. Flores for fighting for disabled war heroes 

Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, flanked by leaders of local veterans’ groups, on Thursday, June 11, explained why he took on powerful legislative enemies in order to get his bill passed that will provide up to a 100 percent home property tax break for thousands of disabled veterans. "We veterans, we don’t leave anyone behind, and I wasn’t about to leave these veterans behind," Flores said during a press conference organized by the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley. The group chose the Rio  Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission as the site for the news event, noting that Flores had also been the principal architect in bringing the state veterans cemetery to the Valley. Despite behind-the-scenes legislative opposition to his measure, Flores, a U.S. Army veteran, outmaneuvered his  political rivals and passed the veterans’ home tax break. Flores praised Texas veterans groups for playing a key role in the measure’s hard-fought success.  See lead story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured first on right, was rated as one of the best state lawmakers in Texas by Capitol Inside, a non-partisan web site news service has been a big hit with Republicans, Democrats and diehard independents as well since making its debut online in January 2003. At the conclusion of each legislative session, several political publications and websites name best and worst performers based on their service to their districts and the state. This year, Capitol Inside and political strategists Ted Delisi and Harold Cook compiled top ten lists, each naming Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, as one of Texas’ top ten legislators. Capitol Inside referred to Hinojosa as a veteran legislator that "just keeps getting better."  The Delisi/Cook list noted Hinojosa’s ability to secure funding for District 20 projects, including highway infrastructure, and millions of dollars for health care delivery services. From left, during a recent visit to the Capitol, are Hidalgo County Treasurer Norma G. García, Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa (no relation to the senator), Hidalgo County County Clerk Arturo Guajardo, Jr., and Hinojosa. See story on the Capitol Inside ranking later in this posting. 

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South Texas firefighters were among the dozens of area groups which visited state lawmakers at the Capitol during the recently-concluded five month regular session. On Wednesday, April 1, a Valley delegation brought their issues to Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. Featured with Lucio, in his office, are, from left: Manuel Vargas, McAllen; Raul R. Zúñiga, Jr., San Benito; Javier Gutiérrez, McAllen; Lucio; Ramón Martínez, San Benito; Jesús Tijerina, San Benito; and Ernest Abrego, Harlingen. Later in this posting, Lucio writes about several key measures approved by the Legislature that will benefit another key constituency – military veterans.  

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The Convention Committee of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is finalizing plans for the 34th annual Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) Convention, which this year will be held at the McAllen Convention Center from July 29 through August 1.  The theme to the convention is “Growing Hispanic Business, for a Stronger Texas Economy”. Featured, front row, from left:  Sam Guzmán, TAMACC president;  Froy Garza with Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office; and Salomon Torres with Congressman Ruben Hinojosa’s office. Back row, from left: Rick Carrera, University of Texas-Pan American Small Business Development Center; Dr. John Thomas, MHCC board of directors; Mark Winchester, UTPA’s Director of the Rio South Texas Regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC Pres/CEO; Letty Flores with Gov. Rick Perry’s office; Margie Treviño, Southern Minority Supplier Development Council; and María Juárez, UTPA Director of the Small Business Development Center. See story later in this posting. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host a Power Punch @ Lunch on Wednesday, June 24 at the Depot, located at 602 W. University Drive, sponsored by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR). The business community of Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley are invited to attend the free networking luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Persons who attend are being asked to bring their business cards to distribute during the chamber’s most notable social-networking luncheon, which includes food, door prizes and fun. Area residents interested in attending should RSVP by calling 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Joanna Álvarez, DHR Assistant Director for Marketing; McAllen City Commissioner Jim Darling, who serves as DHR’s legal counsel; Mario Lizcano, DHR Director for Marketing; Marissa Castañeda, DHR’s Chief Operations Officer; and Frank Lara, Membership Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.  

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