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Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III (with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured left) will present the 2009 State of the County Address on Tuesday, February 24, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Knapp Medical Center Conference Center, located at 1401 E. 8th Street, one block west of the hospital. "This event is for us to come together to publicly evaluate where we’ve been as a community and where we are going," said Salinas. “No Boundaries” is the theme of this event, and Salinas will focus on efforts working together to improve the quality of life for all residents. Dinner will be served, and the event also includes a live auction to benefit the Hidalgo County Scholarship Program. This program was unveiled at last year’s State the County Address, and since, Hidalgo County has awarded four scholarships for up to six hours of tuition and fees to four employees and their dependents. The event is free and open to the public. However, seating is limited, so organizers are asking residents to arrive early to allow ample time for auction registration. For those who cannot attend, this event will be webcasted live on http://www.krgv.com and broadcast on digital channel 5.4.

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On Saturday, February 7, 2009, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, presented the Most Reverend Raymundo J. Peña, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, a Senate Resolution in celebration of his 75th birthday. Featured, from left: Sister Norma Pimentel; Ms. Linda McKamie, CEO, Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi Diocese; Mr. Steve Saldaña, CEO, Catholic Charities of San Antonio; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Bishop Peña; and Sen. Lucio. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, on Thursday, February 19, welcomed the members of the Association of Public Administrators from the Master of Public Administration program at The University of Texas-Pan American on the House floor commending the members for their dedication to the field of public administration. "UTPA has made great strides since the inception of the Master of Public Administration Program and I am honored to have welcomed their visit to our State Capitol," said Peña. "I look forward to working with these outstanding individuals in the near future in shaping our government." Some of those delegation members are featured here, in the Speakers Committee Room at the Capitol, from left: Víctor M. de León, Dr. Aziza Zemrani, APA Advisor; Rep. Peña; Maricela De León, APA President; Adán Nieto, APA Vice President; and Edgar Cantú. Not shown are: Dr. Tom Lynch, Executive Director, UTPA at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Dr. Cynthia Lynch MPA Professor; Sylvia Quiñones; and Esteban Sánchez. See story later in this posting.

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Southwest Workers Union plans 5:45 p.m. Tuesday rally in Edinburg to help organize ECISD workers

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Southwest Workers Union, which is based in San Antonio, will host a rally on Tuesday afternoon, February 24, prior to the scheduled regular meeting of the Edinburg school board to protest a reported decision by top school administrators, which an Edinburg union organizer claims hurts his group’s efforts to potentially represent hundreds of employees.

The rally, which begins at 5:45 p.m., will be held in front of the school board meeting room, located on the second floor of the ECISD Administration Building, 411 N. 8th Street, according to

SWU labor organizer Camilo Garza of Edinburg.

SWU wants the right to organize a union that would be open to cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, and maintenance workers. But according to Garza, an initial meeting earlier this month between him and top ECISD administrators was not productive, resulting in the scheduled protest.

"ECISD administrators have established a negative, uncooperative attitude towards workers and are denying low-income school workers’ their right to freedom of association," Garza contended. "On Monday, February 16, Southwest Workers’ Union (SWU) met with Superintendent Gilberto Garza, Jr., Assistant Superintendent Rigoberto Abrego and Attorney Jacques E. Treviño to officially introduce Southwest Workers’ Union to ECISD administration and our right to represent our members. As a result of this meeting, the administration established its position to deny auxiliary school workers their right to freedom of association."

Camilo Garza said that he and two other union representatives will introduce themselves to the entire community, not only during their protest, but also during the public comment section of the school board meeting. The Edinburg school board meeting will be broadcast on the school district’s television channel 17 for Time Warner cable subscribers.

"We are going to educate the school board members about our presence in the Edinburg school district and about our organization," Camilo Garza said. "Prior to the school board meeting, will be holding signs and passing out materials to give the public information about our organization."

According to its website, "Southwest Workers’ Union (SWU) unites workers, communities and youth in the struggle for dignity and justice. Based in San Antonio, Texas SWU is a grassroots membership based organization working for social change from the bottom up."

The website is accessible online at:

http://www.swunion.org

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Edinburg, major Valley school districts, would have to post check registers on website under legislation

By BECKY DEAN

Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, filed a bill on Tuesday, February 17, in the Texas House designed to increase transparency in school district finances. House Bill 1307 will require the 50 largest school districts in the state to post their check registers, credit cards expenditures, and fund balances on their websites.

Edinburg, Brownsville, McAllen, PSJA, and La Joya would be affected by the measure, if it is enacted into law. In 2007, the House of Representatives approved a similar version of this bill, but it died in the Senate.

The 50 largest school districts are defined by student enrollment.

Edinburg ranks number 37 as of September 2007, with a student enrollment of 28,677, according to TEA. Brownsville ranks number 18 (48,284), PSJA ranks number 36 (28,833), La Joya ranks number 43 (25,007), and McAllen ranks 45 (24,558).

The Houston school district is the largest entity which would be affected. As of September 2007 – the latest figures available from the Texas Education Agency – it had a student enrollment of 202,449.

The smallest school district, in terms of enrollment, which would be affected would be Galena Park, with a student enrollment of 21,180.

"This is an important step in allowing the public to see how their schools are spending local tax dollars," said Creighton. "Key efforts toward accountability and transparency have been made at the state level and this legislation extends those efforts to the local level."

Within the last two years most state agencies have begun posting their budgets online. The Texas Education Agency is already online with its check register and several school districts throughout the state post this information as well. About half of the 50 largest districts affected by this bill already have some type of data online.

"I wanted to begin by focusing on the larger districts that spend the most money. The top 50 districts account for half of the local education spending," said Creighton. "I hope that in the future every district in the state will make this data public."

This legislation builds on Creighton’s efforts from 2007, when he filed similar legislation.

"Over half of the state’s General Revenue Fund goes to education, so as a main budget driver, it is important to see where this money goes. This kind of transparency makes for good government and effectuates trust, and gives people more confidence in how their money is being spent," added Creighton.

(David A. Díaz contributed to this article.)

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Attorney General Abbott, Rep. Peña to join forces to crack down on organized crime with legislation

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday, February 23, joined Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who announced the introduction of legislation that will help crack down on human trafficking, weapons smuggling, money laundering, transnational gangs, drug cartels and other organized criminal enterprises.

If enacted, the legislation would give the attorney general new legal authority to seize crime syndicates illegal profits, proceeds, and property. The Texas Racketeering and Corruption Act, which will be known as TexRAC, is sponsored by Williams in the Texas Senate and Peña in the House of Representatives.

“TexRAC adds a valuable new weapon to the state’s battle against an increasingly dangerous organized crime industry,” said Abbott. “By giving the Office of the Attorney General expanded authority to seize crime syndicates’ property and illegal proceeds, TexRAC will help the state cut off the lucrative profits that fuel these illegal enterprises. Thanks to the innovative solutions offered by Sen. Williams, Sen. Van de Putte, and Rep. Peña, law enforcement will have the legal tools we need to continue cracking down on organized crime.”

TexRAC gives the Office of the Attorney General expanded authority to recover crime syndicates’ illegal profits, proceeds, and property. If enacted, the legislation would allow the Office of the Attorney General to seek court orders seizing criminals’ property and freezing their assets. To pursue a TexRAC action, the state would have to show that the defendant profited from illegal criminal activity. The underlying predicate crimes for a TexRAC action include: homicide, human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, and gambling.

“Texas faces serious acts of organized crime and counts on its law enforcement and prosecutors to keep our communities safe. Now we have the opportunity to help further disable these criminal enterprises. In South Texas alone we have witnessed first hand drug, firearms, and human trafficking. This legislation will give the Attorney General a new tool to punish those that engage in the most serious organized crime by hitting them where it hurts, their assets.”

Explaining the needs for the law, Williams said: “We want to arm law enforcement with all the available criminal and civil tools we possibly can to fight human trafficking, transnational gang activity and organized crime.”

In addition to expanding the Attorney Generals authority to recoup criminals’ assets, TexRAC creates a new second degree felony offense, Illegal Control or Conduct of an Enterprise. Second degree felonies are punishable by between two and 10 years in prison. Defendants convicted of controlling an organized criminal enterprise that harmed children would face a third degree felony, which is punishable by between two and 20 years in prison.

“Organized crime is like a weed growing in your yard; it is only when you pull out the root that the weed dies and the infestation of your yard ceases. Authorizing the pursuit of civil remedies against criminal organizations will allow the state to attack organized crime at the root.”

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Three bills by Sen. Lucio would increase participation in children’s school food programs

By DORIS SÁNCHEZ

In his ongoing efforts to address childhood obesity and nutrition, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, announced on Thursday, February 19, that he has filed three bills to increase child participation in the National School Breakfast Program (NSBP) and the Summer Food Program (SFP).

In 2005-06, although 81 percent of Texas school children qualified for free or reduced breakfast, only 28 percent participated in the Breakfast Program. Research proves that a healthy breakfast reduces the risk of childhood obesity and improves school performance.

Lucio’s Senate Bill 869 would provide universal school breakfast to students in school districts in which 60 percent or more of the children qualified for free or reduced meals. The legislation stipulates that to receive state funding, breakfast must be served during the school day, which is an important provision because studies show that participation increases by 32 percent at schools that do so.

"Although state law requires that schools provide breakfast if at least 10 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, Lucio explained that "many children do not take advantage of the program because breakfast is served before the school day and it is too difficult to arrive early, or because of the stigma associated with school meals."

Senate Bill 910 would require a school district participating in the NSBP to provide a free breakfast to elementary, middle or junior high school students who are eligible for a reduced-price breakfast. Eliminating the family co-pay for children who already qualify for reduced-price breakfast relieves a school’s administrative burden, and has successfully increased participation by up to 40 percent in other states.

Unfortunately, many Texas children who rely upon school meals either often go hungry or gain excessive weight from poor diets during the summer months because they no longer have access to healthier school meals. Texas’ SFP provides low-income children nutritional meals during the summer months at schools or alternative sites with federal reimbursement for each meal served. The Food Action Resource Center reports that in Texas, fewer than 10 percent of low-income children participate in the SFP. If the state could serve meals to 40 percent of these food lunch participants, it would receive an additional $38.4 million per year from the federal government.

To raise participation in the SFP, Lucio filed Senate Bill 867 requiring school districts to serve summer meals for 30 consecutive weekdays in districts where at least half of the students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch meals. Current law addresses only districts with at least 60 percent of students who qualify, but the change to 50 percent would more closely align Texas with federal recommendations.

SB 867 also requires a school board to issue official public notice if declining to sponsor the summer food service, which may actually alert the community to become more involved in the program and to eventually help expand it.

"Need doesn’t stop during the summer months," said Lucio. "Texas must do more to expand the number of sites that serve food in the summer months, and we must work to increase the number of weeks that our existing programs operate.

"As the economy continues to falter, more and more students must rely on school meals for their primary source of nutrition," he added. "Summer school lunch programs are a viable avenue for these children."

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Rep. Peña will again join Valley veterans on march to San Antonio to call attention to need for VA Hospital

By ORLANDO SALINAS

Veterans from the Rio Grande Valley will again march to San Antonio to call attention to the need for a Veterans Administration hospital in South Texas. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, on Friday, February 20, committed to join them once again. In 2005, a group of veterans, including Peña, trekked 250 miles from Edinburg to San Antonio to symbolize the difficult task of traveling that many endure to receive medical care.

The march to San Antonio will begin in Edinburg on March 14 from the Dustin Michael Sekula Library and is expected to last about a week. The public is urged to attend the send off which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Contributions of water, energy bars and other supplies are being accepted and can be dropped off at the Boxing Gym on the square in downtown Edinburg .

"It was an honor to walk along with these South Texas heroes in 2005," said Peña. "It has been four years and there may be question as to whether or not the body is able but my fire for the causes of our Valley veterans still burns. I will walk and talk, file bills and do anything I can to help our veterans. I am ready to join these men, women, their families and friends on another march to San Antonio."

Peña has called on the state of Texas to join with the federal government to build a medical school and VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. This legislative session he filed HB 110 authorizing the creation of a medical school in the region. The federal government could then partner with the proposed medical school and construct a fully staffed, full service hospital. Rep. Peña will also be filing legislation making it more affordable for members of the armed forces to get a college education.

"The men and women who serve in our armed forces deserve ready access to the best medical care our country can offer." said Peña. "Our federal government should use some of the stimulus funds to build a hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. The injection of tens of millions of dollars for the construction of the facility would certainly have an immediate local economic impact but more important is the long term effect of creating hundreds of high paying jobs needed to provide the medical care."

Jesús Bocanegra a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and an organizer of the march, agreed.

"There is no doubt that our country and our community recognizes the tremendous sacrifice that veterans have made but it can not stop there," said Bocanegra. "Valley Veterans deserve and need a full fledged VA hospital. I know we promised Rep. Peña a new pair of sneakers if we had to set out again. We have them ready if he is."

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Attorney General Abbott charges Edinburg fitness center with violations of ID theft prevention law

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday, February 20, charged an Edinburg fitness center with failing to adequately store and safeguard documents that contained customers’ sensitive personal information. Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, businesses are legally required to implement procedures that ensure customers’ sensitive personal information – including Social Security, Driver’s License, and financial account numbers – is protected from unlawful use or disclosure.

The defendant, Edinburg-based Cornerstone Fitness, closed its McColl Road facility in October 2007. According to the state’s investigation, the defendant hired a moving company to transport equipment, furniture, and business records to its flagship facility on Cornerstone Blvd.

Some time during the next few months, a filing cabinet was discovered in the dumpster behind the defendant’s old McColl Road location. Court documents indicate that customers’ completed Personal Training Service contracts, which include sensitive personal information, were found inside the discarded filing cabinet. The state’s investigation subsequently showed that the defendants lacked records’ retention, management, and disposal policies.

Under the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which was authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, the defendant faces civil penalties that range from $2,000 and $50,000 per violation. In addition to statutory penalties, the state’s enforcement action seeks an injunction requiring the defendant to implement a comprehensive records management policy.

Although investigators could not confirm whether any personal information was obtained or misused by identity thieves, Cornerstone Fitness customers should carefully monitor bank, credit card and similar financial statements for evidence of suspicious activity. To prevent identity theft, all Texans should obtain annual, cost-free copies of their credit reports.

Texans who wish to file a complaint may contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov, where they can also obtain information on identity theft detection and prevention.

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Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS® shares goals for 2009, dubbed "The Year of Change"

By ELVA JACKSON GARZA

The Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS® President Dick Henry on Saturday, January 21, began his term with an official State of GMAR Address and meeting held at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Approximately 100 brokers, realtors and affiliate members attended the State of GMAR address.

“The year 2009 has been unofficially named "The Year of Change". As the real estate industry and housing markets continue to adjust to the market changes and conditions, REALTORS® are committed to providing outstanding service to our consumers during these uncertain times. Our nation has been through challenging times before and I am sure that we will again rise to the top,” said Dick Henry, GMAR President.

The focus of the presentation was to offer the GMAR membership networking opportunities, timely information as the organization moves forward during 2009 and a forum for open questions. Board members provided the membership with a facility update, MLS status, public relations report and upcoming events.

As outlined in the Mission Statement of the Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS®, the organization is committed to a strict Code of Ethics that advances professionalism in the industry, serves as a resource for its members and consumers, and dedicated to protecting private property rights.

GMAR meets regularly at the McAllen Country Club or the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. For more information on joining the Greater McAllen Association of REALTORS® or their programs and services, please call 682-4119 or visit the website at http://www.gmar.org.

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Senate Week in Review: President Obama’s economic stimulus plan could send $17 billion to Texas

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Tuesday, February 17, approving nearly $800 billion in economic stimulus and federal aid to state governments. Texas’ share of this money is estimated at about $17 billion, including $5 billion more for state healthcare and almost $4 billion for public and higher education.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said on Tuesday, February 17, that though he and his staff had just begun looking through the 1,100 page bill, federal money could help the state in those areas. He did caution, however, that relying too heavily on one-time federal money could leave the state facing a deficit in future years.

"We need to be careful on how we use one time funds, so that we’re not painting ourselves into a deficit in 2011, but a number of these funds, I think, will be able to help us in these program areas," he said.

Finance Committee member Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock said on Wednesday, February 18, that some of the federal provisions could come with strings attached. Because Texas’ relative economic position is strong because of conservative fiscal policies, he said, Texas should look to maintain its fiscal independence.

"This is Texas. We’re fairly independent here, and it’s because of that independence that we are as healthy as we are today," he said. "You can rest assured that the Texas Legislature will be very careful in going through these programs so that we can ensure that we maintain independence and the Texas spirit in the way these funds are expended."

The Finance Committee last week continued its deliberations on the state budget, looking at criminal justice and public safety, among other areas.

Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety testified before the committee on Thursday, February 19, painting a picture of the budget needs for this critical agency. At the top of their list is more money for employees, including state troopers.

Texas Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky pointed out that a state trooper can make as much as 40 percent less than his or her counterpart working for a city police force. Better compensation, he said, will help DPS attract top candidates to state trooper positions. He also promoted the purchase of 450 additional marked police cruisers, at a cost to the state of $27 million.

Officials from the Legislative Budget Board also testified on Thursday, February 19, about current trends in the prison population.

They said reforms made during the last legislative session have flattened inmate population growth, and have increased paroles and reduced the number of offenders sent back to prison for violating their probation. Part of these trends are attributable to an increase in capacity at community-based intermediate sanction facilities, which hold low-level offenders.

More money for substance treatment programs has also contributed to reforms. Committee Member and Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire, D-Houston, praised the progress made since last session.

"We’ve got a lot of work left to do, we’ve got some problems, but overall I think the health of our criminal justice system is very good," he said.

Senators announced the filing of several new initiatives this week, including a measure aimed at reining in abuses at electric co-ops.

Sen. Troy Fraser, R- Horseshoe Bay, on Tuesday, February filed Senate Bill 921 Tuesday, February 17, in response to reports of board and management misuse of funds and board elections irregularities at the Pedernales Electric Co-op, which serves thousands of customers in Central Texas. SB 921 would require open meetings for all co-op board meetings, and would require co-ops to set guidelines for reimbursement, use of co-op funds and whistleblower protection. It would also allow for state auditors to look into co-op books if approved by the Legislative Audit Committee.

On Monday, February 16, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, announced a bill intended to reduce the spread of HIV through Texas. Texas has seen a 30 percent increase in HIV cases since 2003, up to 62,000 cases in 2009. African-Americans are disproportionately affected, with infection rates four times higher than that of whites or Hispanics.

SB 877 would make HIV tests part of routine checkups, with an option for patients to opt out. Ellis says increased testing is vital to checking the spread of HIV in Texas.

"Thankfully HIV is no longer a death sentence, but it is clear that early diagnosis is a key to fighting the disease and its spread," he said. "The sooner a person is made aware of their status, the sooner they will change their behavior, which will reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others."

Texas already requires HIV tests for inmates entering or leaving Texas prisons, as well as for pregnant women.

The Senate was scheduled to reconvene on Monday, February 23, at 1:30 p.m.

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Gov. Perry opposes President Obama’s economic stimulus package, but will accept money for Texas

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, February 19, wrote President Obama saying Texas will accept federal money from $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by Congress and the president, but expressed philosophical concerns that it will burden future generations of Texans.

Perry’s letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

I’m writing you today in response to stipulations set forth in H.R. 1, the $787 billion stimulus package you signed into law yesterday. As you know, I have been vocal in my opposition to this legislation because I believe there are better ways to reinvigorate our economy and believe H.R. 1 will burden future generations with unprecedented levels of debt.

Throughout the years, Texas taxpayers have sent substantially more dollars to Washington than we receive on issues ranging from transportation to border security and hurricane relief. As I have said during the debate on H.R. 1, should Congress pass stimulus legislation using Texas tax dollars, I would work to ensure that our citizens receive their fair share.

On behalf of the people of Texas, please allow this letter to certify that we will accept the funds in H.R. 1 and use them to promote economic growth and create jobs in a fiscally responsible manner that is in the best interest of Texas taxpayers. I remain opposed to using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up.

I continue to believe that the best way to stimulate the economy is the approach we are taking here in Texas. As a result of low taxes, controlled government spending and a predictable regulatory climate, nearly 80 percent of all jobs created last year in the United States were created in Texas; the vast majority of these were private sector jobs. Just last week, Texas was ranked the top exporting state in the nation for the seventh year in a row.

It was a pleasure meeting you in Philadelphia, and I appreciate your concern for the Texans displaced by Hurricane Ike. While we differ on solutions to the ongoing economic crisis facing our country, I believe we both share a desire to see our great nation endure as a beacon of freedom and economic vitality to the world.

Sincerely,

Rick Perry

Governor

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Texas Senate recognizes economic growth, medical industry, higher education advances in Edinburg

Edinburg’s ongoing economic growth, including the increasing roles of the community’s hospital and medical segments, along with advances in higher education, were recognized by the Texas Senate in a resolution on Tuesday, February 10, honoring the three-time All-America City.

The legislative measure, Senate Resolution 142, was co-authored by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville.

It was unanimously passed on February 10, when a delegation from the city was at the Texas Capitol for Edinburg Day.

The resolution follows:

SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 142

WHEREAS, Members of the Texas Senate are pleased to join with a delegation of citizens of Edinburg in celebrating Edinburg Day at the State Capitol on February 10, 2009; and

WHEREAS, Long considered the gateway to the lower Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg was originally known as Chapin when it became the Hidalgo County seat 100 years ago; it was a ranching community in its early years, then the arrival of the railroad and the introduction of irrigation in the early 20th century shifted the emphasis of the local economy to the farming of cotton, grain, and citrus; and

WHEREAS, Officially incorporated in 1919, Edinburg experienced a period of growth and prosperity fostered by the foresight of such city leaders as John Closner and W. F. Sprague; as a thriving center for agricultural marketing and processing, Edinburg experienced a building boom that included the construction of the Grandview Hospital and the Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin Elementary Schools, all of which still stand; and

WHEREAS, The educational needs of area students are capably met by the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District; encompassing 945 square miles, the district includes 27 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools, and an alternative campus; and

WHEREAS, Founded in 1927 as Edinburg Junior College, The University of Texas–Pan American remains one of the Valley’s premier institutions of higher learning; the university has recently established a master’s degree program in creative writing in order to foster a new generation of South Texas writers; and

WHEREAS, The University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg is part of a three-city, upper-division medical school system that includes an educational component in Harlingen and a postgraduate school of public health in Brownsville; and

WHEREAS, The Edinburg Children’s Hospital has a 24-hour pediatric emergency room; the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance offers a full range of medical and surgical services; and the new Women’s Hospital at Renaissance is able to handle the delivery of 8,000 babies a year; and

WHEREAS, The vibrant history and culture of the region are highlighted by the Museum of South Texas History; the facility’s recent expansion includes the Rio Grande Legacy exhibit, tracing the history of the Valley from prehistoric times to the 19th century; further expansion of the museum will include the continuation of the Rio Grande Legacy exhibit to the present day, as well as the construction of the Will Looney Legacy Park; and

WHEREAS, Other Edinburg attractions include the 40-acre wetlands of the World Birding Center, where waterfowl and native plants can be viewed from winding trails and viewing platforms; events such as the annual All-American 10K Run/Walk promote health and fitness, attracting participants from all over Texas and the world; Edinburg is also home to the Texas Cook’Em cook-off, where grill cooks compete to prepare the best steaks, chicken, spare ribs, and brisket; and

WHEREAS, Edinburg’s dynamic business climate is attracting major employers in manufacturing and the medical field, and the city’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the Rio Grande Valley and better than the state and national levels; the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has authorized substantial investment in filmmaking as part of its efforts to promote higher education, cultural enrichment, fine arts, and other positive aspects of this vibrant city; and

WHEREAS, Under the able leadership of its mayor and city commissioners, the city has experienced steady and favorable growth, and Edinburg has been recognized three times by the National Civic League as an All-America City; and

WHEREAS, In October of 2008, Edinburg celebrated its centennial as the county seat of Hidalgo County; proud of their rich history, the people of Edinburg are determined to preserve the best of the city’s past while joining together to build a future full of hope and opportunity; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Senate of the State of Texas, 81st Legislature, hereby recognize February 10, 2009, as Edinburg Day at the State Capitol and extend a warm welcome to the delegation from Edinburg.

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Edinburg recognized for its history, contributions by House of Representatives, Rep. Peña, Rep. Gonzáles

Edinburg, which this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary, was honored by the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 10, through a legislative resolution co-authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen.

The measure, House Resolution 277, was adopted unanimously by the 150-member House of Representatives.

The resolution follows:

RESOLUTION 277

WHEREAS, Members of the Texas House of Representatives are pleased to join with a delegation of citizens from Edinburg in celebrating Edinburg Day at the State Capitol on February 10, 2009; and

WHEREAS, Established in the early 20th century and originally known as Chapin, Edinburg became the seat of Hidalgo County in 1908; though ranching initially formed the basis of the town’s economy, the arrival of the railroad in 1909 and irrigation in 1915 soon led to an emphasis on the farming of cotton, grain, and citrus; in short order, the town became a thriving center for agricultural marketing and processing; and

WHEREAS, Long considered the gateway to the lower Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg is now a dynamic community of approximately 70,000 people; in October 2008, throngs of residents commemorated the town’s centennial with a spirited, weeklong celebration, which included the opening of the new city hall; and

WHEREAS, Edinburg offers a wide range of amenities that mark it as a forward-looking city; the educational needs of area students are capably met by the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, which is celebrating the 90th anniversary of its founding in 2009; encompassing 945 square miles, the district includes 27 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, 3 high schools, and an alternative campus; and

WHEREAS, Founded in 1927 as Edinburg Junior College, The University of Texas–Pan American remains one of the Valley’s premier institutions of higher learning; UTPA recently opened its Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex, and the school is moving forward with plans for the construction of a Fine Arts Center; the center is expected to bring in significant revenue to the university and the surrounding area and also to help draw corporations and industry to South Texas; and

WHEREAS, Standing adjacent to UTPA is the Medical Research Division of the Regional Academic Health Center, a part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; the Medical Research Division was dedicated in 2006 and will develop treatments for illnesses prevalent along the Texas-Mexico border; and

WHEREAS, Health care resources include the Edinburg Children’s Hospital, the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, and three facilities that all opened in 2007 – the Renaissance Behavioral Center, the Cancer Center at Renaissance, and the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance; and

WHEREAS, The vibrant history and culture of the region are highlighted by the Museum of South Texas History, where new exhibits include 64 maps of Texas dating from 1548 to 2006, as well as a centennial exhibit that explores the history of education, government, civic life, and commerce in the city over the past 10 decades; as part of its 2003 expansion, the museum installed the first two sections of a permanent exhibit titled "Rio Grande Legacy," which presents the prehistory and history of the region with bilingual text and state-of-the-art displays; currently under development next to the museum is Will Looney Legacy Park, where exhibits will show how earlier inhabitants of South Texas adapted to the environment; and

WHEREAS, In June 2008, the local Boys and Girls Club, which serves almost 20,000 children in Edinburg and nearby communities, broke ground on a new, eco-friendly clubhouse; encompassing nearly 33,000 square feet, the building will sit on a 20-acre site that will feature a track, soccer field, walking trail, and tennis and basketball courts; and

WHEREAS, Other Edinburg attractions include the 40-acre wetlands of the World Birding Center, the Texas Cook ‘Em cook-off, and the All-America City 10K Run/Walk, which draws runners from throughout Texas and Mexico; and

WHEREAS, Under the leadership of Mayor Joe Ochoa and city council members Alma Garza, Noé Garza, Agustin García, and Gene Espinoza, Edinburg continues on the trajectory of steady growth and improvement that has made it a three-time winner of the All-America City award, given by the National Civic League; and

WHEREAS, Proud of their rich history, the people of Edinburg are determined to preserve the best of the city’s past while building a future full of hope and opportunity; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 81st Texas Legislature hereby recognize February 10, 2009, as Edinburg Day at the State Capitol and extend a warm welcome to the delegation from Edinburg.

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Bishop Peña, who has led Valley Catholics since 1975, is honored by Texas Senate on 75th birthday

On Saturday, February 7, 2009, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, presented the Most Reverend Raymundo J. Peña, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, during the 81st Legislature, a Senate resolution in celebration of his 75th birthday.

The legislative measure, Senate Resolution 228, follows:

WHEREAS, The Senate of the State of Texas is pleased to pay tribute to the Most Reverend Raymundo J. Peña, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, on the grand occasion of his 75th birthday; and

WHEREAS, Well known for his warmth and generosity of spirit, this distinguished clergyman has devoted his time and energy unselfishly to the people of his diocese since 1995; and

WHEREAS, Bishop Peña was born February 19, 1934; he was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1957, in Corpus Christi, and he has served his church with wisdom and humility in various positions through the years, including auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and bishop of the Diocese of El Paso; and

WHEREAS, In May, 1995, Pope John Paul II asked Bishop Peña to move to the Diocese of Brownsville, containing one of the largest and fastest-growing Catholic populations in the United States; on August 7, 1995, Bishop Raymundo J. Peña was installed as the fifth bishop of Brownsville; and

WHEREAS, An accomplished scholar and theologian, he has ministered faithfully to the temporal and spiritual needs of innumerable people; and WHEREAS, Bishop Peña is a beloved and respected member of his community, and he is noted for his courage, his compassion, and his enthusiasm for living each day to the fullest; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Senate of the State of Texas, 81st Legislature, hereby recognize the Most Reverend Raymundo J. Peña, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, as a treasured citizen of our state and extend to him best wishes for a joyful 75th birthday; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution be prepared for him as an expression of high regard from the Texas Senate.

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UTPA Association of Public Administrators students and advisers recognized at State Capitol

By ORLANDO SALINAS

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, on Thursday, February 19, welcomed the members of the Association of Public Administrators from the Master of Public Administration program at The University of Texas-Pan American on the House floor commending the members for their dedication to the field of public administration.

"UTPA has made great strides since the inception of the Master of Public Administration Program and I am honored to have welcomed their visit to our State Capitol," said Peña. "I look forward to working with these outstanding individuals in the near future in shaping our government."

Members of the Association of Public Administrators present were: President Maricela De León; Vice President Adán Nieto; Víctor M. de León; Edgar Cantú; Esteban Sánchez; Sylvia Quiñones; Dr. Aziza Zemrani, the Association Advisor; Dr. Cynthia Lynch, MPA assistant professor;and Dr. Thomas D. Lynch, executive director of UTPA at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The group was also acknowledged on the floor of the Texas House. Peña authored House Resolution 508, recognizing the Association for their efforts and continued participation in the public sector. The resolution also highlights important projects, developments and activities that the Association has created within the UTPA community and the Rio Grande Valley.

This is the first time Peña had the opportunity to host the Association of Public Administrators from UTPA to the State Capitol. Their primary visit to the Capitol as to attend the ASPA/CPM conference, held on Friday, February 20, at Texas State University Higher Education Center in Round Rock.

The UTPA APA members had opportunities for career development and networking, and to hear such speakers as State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and former Lt. Gov. William P. Hobby at the conference.

"I would like to thank Rep. Peña for welcoming us the State Capitol and making our trip worth while and educational. It has truly been an honor." said said Dr. Zemran. "I would also like to thank The University of Texas-Pan American for sponsoring our students and making this trip possible."

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