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Digital driver license law by Rep. Canales now in development stage by Texas Department of Public Safety

Photograph By MORPHO TRUST TECHNOLOGY

Texans are approaching the day they will have the option to carry a virtual version of their driver license on their smartphone, as illustrated in this image, as a result of a state law by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, that is now in the development stage by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Photograph By MORPHO TRUST TECHNOLOGY

“Under my legislation, which was contained in Senate Bill 1934 and became law on September 1, 2015, the Texas Department of Public Safety was required to conduct a study concerning the use of a digital mage for identification and proof of licensure purposes,” Canales reported. “As a result, five major proposals on how to achieve this goal have been submitted for the first time to the DPS.” Canales’ idea would result in Texas developing a system where such digital driver licenses could become a reality in Texas within the next few years.

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Digital driver’s license on cell phone, with privacy protections, could be coming to Texas in next few years through Rep. Canales’ legislation

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Digital driver’s licenses, such as now set up in Iowa, could be studied for use in Texas under a bipartisan measure being considered by the Texas Legislature.

Photograph By DIGITALTRENDS.COM

Texans could one day soon have the option of carrying virtual version’s of their driver’s license on their smartphone under legislation by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, that is making its way through the state legislature. His proposal, originally contained in his House Bill 640, was attached as an amendment to Senate Bill 1934 on Monday, May 25. An amendment is a proposed change – either by adding new language and/or deleting existing language – to a bill or resolution as it moves through the legislative process. Canales was successful in adding the entire text of HB 640 to the language of Senate Bill 1934, by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, which deals with changing requirements for driver’s licenses, personal ID information. “Recently enacted legislation allowed drivers to show proof of auto insurance on their smartphones and reports indicate that other states have passed similar laws,” Canales said of his HB 640. “In an effort to continue this digital trend, my legislation requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a study concerning the use of a digital image for identification and proof of licensure purposes.” Now, through SB 1934, which is awaiting a final vote by the House of Representatives, Canales’ idea would result in Texas developing a system where such digital driver licenses could become a reality in Texas within the next few years. “Other major states are looking at this option, and my amendment to SB 1934 would give us until the fall of 2016 to come up with the pros and cons, anticipate and fix any shortcomings, and protect the privacy of individuals who prefer to have digital versions of their driver license, rather than the plastic type,” said Canales. Iowa and Delaware are the first two states to set up such a system, while this spring, as of March 10, 2015, other states are also looking at similar measures, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Under Canales’ amendment to SB 1934: The DPS would be required to conduct a study determining the feasibility of establishing a system to allow a person to use a digital image displayed on an electronic device for identification purposes or to prove that the person has a driver’s license; The DPS would evaluate risks to personal information security that such a system might create; The DPS would survey and evaluate digital identification and proof of licensure policies in other states; and The DPS would be required, not later than September 1, 2016, to submit a detailed report of its findings and recommendations to the legislature.

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Sen. Hinojosa files Hidalgo County Healthcare District measure; seeks state funding to attract and keep more doctors to border, rural areas

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Featured, from left: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Mario E. Ramírez, M.D., of Rio Grande City, who was appointed in March 1991 by Gov. Bill Clements to serve a six-year term on the University of Texas System Board of Regents, share ideas and memories in Edinburg during the Tuesday, August 26 groundbreaking ceremony of the $54 million UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine Medical Education Building.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Legislation to create a Hidalgo County Healthcare District was filed on Wednesday, February 18, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, to provide a source of local funding for The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, as well as to deliver health care to the region while lowering the tax burden on Hidalgo County residents. Senate Bill 626 legislation to create a Hidalgo County Healthcare District is s a top priority this legislative session, and Hinojosa and Lucio will work together with the Valley House delegation to ensure its passage. “The Hidalgo County Healthcare District is critical for our families in the Rio Grande Valley to provide resources to support a medical school, to cover our community’s healthcare needs for both the insured and uninsured, and to decrease the tax burden on our county taxpayers,” said Hinojosa. The McAllen-based lawmaker, whose District 20 covers most of Hidalgo County stretching northward to Nueces County, includes Edinburg, where major facilities of the UT-RGV School of Medicine are going to be built. Hinojosa said without the healthcare district, hospitals in deep South Texas, which are required by federal law to provide emergency medical care, wind up tapping into public funds in order to provide critical care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay. “Our healthcare providers provide millions of dollars in care to people who can’t afford it ever year, forcing them to pass the bill onto county taxpayers or to people with insurance through higher fees and premiums,” said Hinojosa. “The healthcare district will benefit taxpayers by bringing more federal dollars to the county and putting the uninsured into the system with a focus on prevention and early treatment.” Lucio, who represents a portion of Hidalgo County, echoed Hinojosa’s call for action. “I am pleased to joint author this bill which is critical to healthcare delivery in Hidalgo County. We have some of the highest rates of uninsured individuals and amongst the worst health care outcomes in the nation,” said Lucio, who represents Senate District 27. “Senate Bill 626 will allow Hidalgo County to improve our indigent care program as well as leverage and draw down additional federal funds to address health disparities,” the Brownsville lawmaker said. “The Hidalgo County Healthcare District will provide the ability to improve health outcomes in some of the most vulnerable communities, and the benefit to all cannot be underestimated.”

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Mayor García rallies congressional delegation to be part of Edinburg, Valley transformation

A powerful congressional delegation visiting Edinburg – and led by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes – on Wednesday, March 27, learned from Mayor Richard H. García that the people of Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley are standing on the precipice of greatness. “Edinburg has helped lead the charge for this merger (of the University of Texas-Pan American and UT-Brownsville) that will also bring us a UT medical school,” García told the gathering of political heavyweights at a welcome reception held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. “This will single-handily reshape the face of the entire Valley – educationally, medically, economically.” From left, front row: Congressman Juan Vargas (CA); Alonzo Cantú, president, Cantú Construction, and founder of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Mayor Richard H. García; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas; and Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA). Back row, from left: Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr.; Edinburg Councilmember Elías Longoria, Jr.; Congressman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and Congressman Filemón Vela, D-Brownsville. See lead story in this posting.

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Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio, featured center, on Saturday, March 23, was the keynote speaker for the South Texas Mayors’ Stakeholder Summit hosted by Mayor Richard H. García and the New Leaders Texas Foundation at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Castro, 38, is the youngest mayor of the top 50 largest American cities. He focused on the emerging statewide importance of the Rio Grande Valley, offering as proof the upcoming creation a major new university system, complete with a University of Texas System medical school, approved recently by the Texas Legislature. “I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that you are getting a medical school now. I believe there are many folks in Austin who see the future, who understand the power, both economically and electorally, of this community, who understand that if they don’t act now, then you are going to act for them later,” Castro said. “They understand that Texas is going in a new direction, one that includes everyone.” Featured, from left: Congressman Filemón Vela, D-Brownsville; Mayor Richard H. García of Edinburg; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio; Mayor Raúl G. Salinas of Laredo; Mayor Chris Boswell of Harlingen; and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

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Texas legislative Republican leaders are pushing for new laws aimed at improving government transparency and empowering taxpayers to make informed decisions about taxes and public debt. Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 14, authored by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, focus primarily on government transparency, and would provide taxpayers with vital information about government spending and debt. Senate Bill 13 and House Bill 13, authored by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and Rep. William A. “Bill” Callegari, R-Houston, focus primarily on public pensions, would require increased reporting for all public pension systems, and calls for essential actuarial information to be posted online so it is readily available and easy for taxpayers to find. Featured, from left during a February 7 press conference in Austin announcing the legislation, are: Rep. William A. “Bill” Callegari, R-Houston; Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie; Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs; and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. See story later in this posting.

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A Senate committee on Wednesday, April 10, unanimously approved legislation by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center, that will promote stronger incentives for job creation in Texas. The Senate Committee on Economic Development approved Senate Bill 1084 by Hinojosa, which relates to one of the most important job-creation tools available in state government: the Texas Enterprise Zone Program. “This legislation is about creating opportunity for Texans in economically-blighted communities through the creation of new jobs and new investment,” said Hinojosa. “The state of Texas leads the nation in job creation and consistently has a lower unemployment rate than national average. This bill will induce growth and economic development, making sure these distressed communities move forward with the state and are part of Texas’ flourishing economy.” Featured with Hinojosa addressing reporters on the Senate floor is Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. See story on Hinojosa’s SB 1084 later in this posting.

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Blood pressure, blood glucose and A1C screenings are just three of the medical tests that will be conducted during the South Texas Senior Summit on Thursday, May 2, at the Pharr Events Center, located by U.S. Highway 281. The Senior Summit, organized by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is a project spearheaded by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen. The City of Pharr is co-sponsoring the event this year. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with screenings starting at 9 a.m. Other free screenings available will be for feet, vision, vein, dental, Alzheimer, and bone density. Other services will be discussed, such as Food Bank, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Elderly Abuse, etc. In addition, attendees will be able to dance to a popular musical group during the event, have lunch, and listen to what Hinojosa and Cuellar have to say about Medicaid and Medicare. Vendors who wish to secure a booth, or residents who wish to register, may obtain more information by contacting the Hispanic RGV Chamber at 928-0060. Featured discussing plans for the free blood pressure, glucose and A1C screenings are, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President/CEO of the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and HEB pharmacists David García, Brandi McGee, Mary Briones, Eloy Piña, and René Verduzeo.

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Texas’ education policy would be dramatically improved under House Bill 5, coauthored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg (featured right). The education system has drawn statewide concerns for depending too much on high-stakes standardized testing, especially for high school students approaching their graduation. HB 5 was overwhelmingly approved, 145 – 2, by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 26. “For too long, teachers in Texas have been forced to use their considerable skills to ‘teach to the test’ – that is, prepare students to pass a growing number of standardized tests, which takes time away from providing our young people with a great classroom experience,” said Canales. “In addition, House Bill 5 would provide flexibility for teachers to help students better develop their talents and pursue their interests, so they can succeed in the workplace or in college immediately after they graduate from high school.” Canales is featured here in Edinburg with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Mario Lizcano (center), Director of Corporate Affairs for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, on Saturday, March 23, during the South Texas Mayors’ Stakeholder Summit. That event, which included several sessions on Friday, March 22, was hosted by Mayor Richard H. García of Edinburg and the New Leaders Texas Foundation at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García was among local and statewide leaders on Tuesday, March 19, to praise the Texas Legislature, and in particular, the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation, for helping bring closer the dream of a University of Texas System medical school for the Rio Grande Valley. “Impressive. Beyond expectations. They did a marvelous and amazing job,” García credited Valley state lawmakers. “We should be proud and be applauding our Valley delegation for coming together, getting it done so quickly, and with so many people on board.” UT System officials predict Gov. Rick Perry will have a bill to sign into law within a few weeks. See story later in this posting.

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San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, featured left, and Isaac García, a Texas journalist with http://www.YourValleyVoice.com, pose on Saturday, March 23, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance following Castro’s keynote remarks during the South Texas Mayors’ Stakeholder Summit, hosted by Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García. Among his many achievements, Castro is the first Hispanic ever to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. He addressed a prime-time national audience during the 2012 political party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Isaac García, whose print journalism experiences include work with the Valley Morning Star, the Edinburg Review, and the Valley Town Crier, is a trailblazer in his own right. He now produces video news reports that accompany his print work on http://www.YourValleyVoice.com, as that digital publication continues to increase its statewide, national and worldwide reach through the Internet. Castro and Isaac García represent the new generation of leaders in politics and the news media, respectively. Isaac García’s interview with Castro is available at http://www.yourvalleyvoice.com/youtube_0034b468-965c-11e2-9383-0019bb2963f4.html

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The future of the United States is in its children, and education is a must in order to succeed. Thus, the Rio Grande Valley Aggie Moms Club is hosting a Gig ‘Em Scholarship Golf Tournament on Saturday, April 27, at the Meadow Creek Golf Course in Mission to help raise money for students who wish to attend a Texas A&M campus. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to all golfers, and Hole-in-One prizes will be awarded at four of the Par 3s, along with door prizes at the awards ceremony. For Aggie non-golfers, the Aggie Moms Club is encouraging them to be a Hole Sponsor for $100, which will feature the sponsor’s name and year of graduation posted on the course during the tournament. Team sponsorships also are available for $500, which entitles team sponsors to have their names listed on the Tournament Banner. The Hole-in-One vehicle sponsors are Frank Smith Toyota, Bert Ogden Cadillac, Spikes Ford and Bert Ogden BMW. “We truly appreciate their support of our scholarship tournament,” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, Tournament Chairwoman. “We honestly feel that their presence will create an additional interest to participate in the tournament. WHOOP!” For more information on available sponsorships or to register, call 451-5255 or go to http://www.rgvaggiemoms.com. Featured, from left: Toyota Tundra from Frank Smith Toyota; Angie Stephens and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGV Aggie Moms Club; Bert Ogden Cadillac, Janet and Bob Vackar (Texas A&M graduate); Loly Aguirre, Spikes Ford; and Leo Luna, Bert Ogden BMW.

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Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, says legislation authored by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, will help prevent future misfortunes such as the one in December 2011, when rifle shots from a nearby rural property struck down two Harwell Middle School students, seriously injuring both. A House of Representatives committee has approved legislation that would allow school districts, in cooperation with local and state governments, to post signs along state or federal highways alerting Texans that a school is next to land that is used for hunting or target practice. That signage, along with the addition of an education component for hunters that spells out their personal responsibility, dangers, and legal consequences of firing bullets across the property line of a school, are key components of a bill by Muñoz. That measure, House Bill 801, was unanimously approved on Thursday, April 4, by the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety with the recommendation that it be passed by the full House of Representatives. Gutiérrez said the legislation “is proof that South Texans were going to respond immediately and effectively to this adversity, where the lives of two innocent, courageous students and their families were forever changed, and an entire community was traumatized.” According to the bill analysis of HB 801, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimated that 550 schools are located in rural areas where hunting near schools would be possible and require signage, Muñoz said. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, had one of his bills, which would require all political candidates in Texas to take and pass drug screening and testing, considered on Monday, April 15, by the Senate Committee on State Affairs. Senate Bill 612, which would disqualify any candidate who refuses to be tested for using illegal substances, comes after Lucio late last fall voluntarily submitted to, and passed, a drug screening test to serve as a role model for Texas politicians. “Senate Bill 612 requires any individual who files to run for any elected state (office) to submit to drug screening and testing. The results must be posted by the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) 45 days prior to a primary election or 45 days before the general election if there is not a primary election for the office sought by the candidate,” Lucio said in his statement of intent. “TEC can post the results only after the candidate agrees to release the results. The secretary of state will create rules and/or forms needed to waive any privacy issues dealing with medical records. The cost of the drug screening and testing will be paid for by the filing individual.” See 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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