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A second Edinburg war hero – the late Pedro Cano – could soon join an elite group of Texas veterans who have been bestowed the state’s highest medal for valor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – under a bill introduced on Friday, April 17, by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Family members for Cano – who is featured here during ceremonies honoring him in downtown Edinburg more than 60 years ago – are among the special guests invited to participate in a special presentation on Saturday, April 25, while Peña’s measure continues through the legislative process. The April 25 gathering,  which is free and open to the public, is also being organized by the Edinburg lawmaker. It will begin at 10 a.m. on the western plaza of Edinburg City Hall. More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946 as Pedro Cano Day. On that day, businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, to the 25-year-old South Texan. Only six Texans have been bestowed the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, including its most recent recipient, the late U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González of Edinburg, who was posthumously awarded the honor in February 2008, during a public ceremony in Edinburg which featured his mother, Dolia González, and Gov. Rick Perry. See story on Pedro Cano later in this posting. 

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Amanda Lira, who attends Economedes High School, hugs her mother, Delma Lira Sánchez, during a ceremony earlier this month at the University of Texas at Austin, where Amanda was one of two South Texas high school students honored as Migrant Students of the Year. Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. The Liras were joined in this portrait by Dr. Judy C. Ashcroft, UT’s Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education, and Dr. Felipe Alanis, UT’s Associate Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education and Director of the K-16 Education Center. See story later in this posting. 

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Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco celebrates with her mother, María Castillo, after Deyania was one of two Texas high school students honored by the University of Texas at Austin as Migrant Student of the Year. Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, honored members of the Zonta Club of Brownsville on Tuesday, April 14, at the Texas Capitol with a Senate Resolution commending them for their contributions to the Brownsville community and congratulating them on their 50th anniversary. Zonta is a worldwide service organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. There are over 32,000 members in 1,255 clubs in 67 countries. Featured, from left: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Danita Utsman, Zonta District Governor; Rosalie Gutiérrez, Brownsville Zonta President; Lee Ann Greer, Zonta Vice President; Brenda Pérez, Public Relations Chairwoman; Brunilda Villarreal and Minnie Lucio (wife of Sen. Lucio), Conference Co-Chairs, and Sen. Lucio. 

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House panel preserves option to upgrade Edinburg RAHC into UT medical school, says Rep. Martínez

By DAVID A. DÍAZ   

Hopes by area leaders to bring a University of Texas medical school to Hidalgo County remain intact under legislation approved on Tuesday, April 14, by the House Higher Education Committee, says Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco. 

The measure, Senate Bill 95 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and co-authored by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, April 8. 

Less than a week later, in a calculated move to get overcome legislative deadlines that can often doom the passage of a measure, Martínez, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, agreed to drop their respective, but identical, House bill versions of SB 95. 

Instead, the three men agreed to serve as House sponsors of SB 95, which resulted in the House committee’s unanimous passage on April 14 of SB 95. 

That measure now awaits action by the House General Calendars Committee, which is charged with scheduling the bill for debate and a vote by the full House of Representatives. 

Rep. Lucio will be the lead House sponsor of SB 95. 

Martínez said SB 95 has many provisions important to South Texas, most important its directive that authorize, for the first time, the UT System Board of Regents to begin the detailed processes that will lead to expanding the three RAHCs – which are located in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville – into The University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas. 

The E-RAHC is a $20 million, 49,437 square-foot facility whose mission focuses on discovering ways to treat obesity, diabetes, cancer, and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, has the infrastructure in place to eventually expand into a 250,000-square-foot medical complex that could host the first two years of a medical school. 

Since such major upgrades of the three RAHCs may involve an estimated $100 million in financing – plus securing vital accreditations with the state and federal governments – SB 95 gives the UT System six years to get the Valley medical school’s academic and financial affairs in order. 

More accessible to upper Valley 

SB 95 allows area leaders the time to work on a strategy to expand the RAHC in Edinburg to include offering the first two years of a four-year medical school. 

For Hidalgo County and Starr county residents, providing the first two years of the planned UT medical school at the Edinburg RAHC brings the benefits of the proposed UT Health Science Center-South Texas that much closer, said Martínez. 

"Earlier this spring, Valley legislative leaders were informed that the RAHC in Edinburg, which currently focuses on advanced biomedical research, has the physical infrastructure in place so that it can be significantly enlarged in order to provide the first two years of the traditional four-year medical school education," Martínez said. "This would make the presence of a UT medical school, and the advanced academic and medical resources it would represent, even more accessible to the people of Hidalgo and Starr counties." 

In general, medical school students in the United States spend their first two years predominantly in the classroom and laboratory, and the last two years mostly in the hospital, according to http://www.faqs.org, an Internet-based educational website. Also, according to http://www.faqs.org, the classes in medical school vary from place to place, but there are some that everyone takes in their first two years, no matter where they are. The amount of lab work varies from class to class and school to school, although some classes (like gross anatomy) feature as much lab work as students have time for. 

Dr. Slaga laid out blueprint 

On Wednesday, March 4, the interim director of the Edinburg RAHC – now formally known as The Regional Academic Health Center (E-RAHC), Medical Research Division for The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in Edinburg – provided an overview on how the local facility could be converted into a medical school. 

Included in his presentation, Thomas J. Slaga, Ph.D., briefly laid out a blueprint for bringing a major medical school component to the three-time All-America City by enlarging the E-RAHC, which currently features 12 state-of-the-art laboratories with sophisticated technology. 

Slaga was addressing a public meeting of the city council-appointed Edinburg Community Health/

Medical Care Advisory Committee as part of an update and tour of the local facility. 

"I know you have seen the building from outside. Probably by this time next year, this facility will have all the labs occupied, and I estimate by next year the total number of people here will be between 80 and 100," Slaga told the medical advisory panel. "What we are trying to do is get the state to build the other part of this, which will be another 60,000 to 70,000 square-feet." 

The buildup could continue, with help from the Texas Legislature, the UT System, and other resources, including from the Edinburg Community Health/Medical Care Advisory Committee, Slaga added. 

Once the E-RAHC is enlarged by the additional 60,000 to 70,000 square-feet, the current site could still handle another 120,000 square-feet of laboratory and classroom facilities, dramatically transforming the existing facility into a 250,000 square-foot medical education complex, he said. 

"Eventually, this will be the basis for the first two years of a medical school," Slaga envisioned.

He did not provide a timetable for such expansion, since those decisions would have to be made by the UT System, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and more importantly, the Texas Legislature. 

Sen. Hinojosa endorsed E-RAHC expansion 

However, Slaga’s vision drew strong support from Martinez, along with Hinojosa. 

"The Edinburg RAHC is well-positioned to not only produce biomedical scientists, who focus on cutting-edge medical research, but also to provide, with the assistance from UT Pan American, the first two years of a medical student’s education," Hinojosa would later say. "In combination with the outstanding resources of the RAHC in Harlingen, which provides the third and fourth years of a medical student’s education – and medical residency programs – the Edinburg RAHC can expand to provide the first two years of medical education, effectively creating a full-fledged UT medical school for the Valley." 

Hinojosa was state representative in 1997 when he successfully sponsored legislation that authorized the creation and state funding of what turned out to be three Regional Academic Health Centers in the Valley. 

"The mushrooming population growth of deep South Texas, coupled with the many successes of the RAHCs, help justify the need to create the proposed health science center," said Hinojosa. 

According to the bill analysis of SB 95: 

The South Texas border region has recently made strides in the development of professional health education with the opening of the Irma Rangel Pharmacy school at Texas A&M Kingsville and the development of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC), with facilities at The University of Texas (UT)-Brownsville, UT-Pan American, and in Harlingen.   

The interest shown in these educational facilities illustrates the desire of the fast-growing population in the South Texas border region to pursue professional degree programs.   

There is a great need for healthcare providers in the South Texas region.   

Establishing the first medical school in South Texas will provide an opportunity for local university graduates to attend professional school.   

An increasing number of students are choosing to continue their education in these locations and more of these graduates are choosing to practice in South Texas.   

The establishment of The University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas will increase medical research specific to the U.S./Mexico border area, allow local residents to receive a complete medical education without having to travel to another part of the state, and would help address the current medical provider shortage in the area through new faculty and residency positions. 

Role of local advisory panel 

The Edinburg Community Health/Medical Care Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the city council on where to invest public funds for the development of medical programs and facilities.

Funding is restricted to qualified programs which deal with medical purposes. 

The advisory panel controls several million dollars which came from profits the city made in the early 1990s from the sale of the publicly-owned Edinburg hospital, which paved the way for the privately-owned Edinburg Regional Medical Center – and later, the affiliated Edinburg Children’s Hospital, the South Texas Behavioral Health Center, and the Cornerstone Regional Hospital – to come into town. 

The Edinburg Community Health/Medical Care Advisory Committee is comprised of five members, led by Councilmember Augustín "Gus" García, who serves as chair of the panel, Beverly Fridie, Ph.D., Allen Mercado, M.D., Melva Palacios, M.D., and Gilbert Mercado, III. 

The Edinburg Community Health/Medical Care Advisory Committee already played a major role several years ago in helping land the E-RAHC. 

The local panel recommended to the Edinburg City Council, and provided the money from the medical funds in controlled, key funds that were needed to secure the biomedical research facility.

In November 2002, the city presented $1 million to the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio in support of the E-RAHC. 

The UT System Board of Regents, which had earlier allocated $20 million in Permanent University Fund proceeds for the Edinburg construction, did so with the stipulation of a local contribution of operating funds. 

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Home tax breaks for disabled veterans, proposed by Rep. Flores, approved by major House committee

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

On the same day millions of Texans were filing their federal income tax returns, a measure by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, which would provide up to a 100 percent home property tax break for Texas veterans, was quickly moving through the state legislative process. 

On April 15 – the infamous Tax Day deadline for Americans to pay their federal income taxes – the state measure by Flores was sent by the House Ways and Means Committee to the House General Calendars Committee, which will soon decide when the proposed veterans tax breaks will be debated and voted upon by the full House of Representatives. 

Flores, who is a former U.S. Army veteran, said his bill would allow Texas veterans with physical or mental disabilities related to their military service to get much needed – and deserved – exemptions on the property taxes they pay on their homes. 

An exemption reduces or eliminates the payment of taxes – in this case, property taxes on the principal homestead residence of qualified military veterans in Texas.  

"Under current law, a totally disabled veteran only can receive an exemption of up to $12,000 from the property’s value," Flores explained. "However, HB 742 is designed to significantly help out qualified veterans who are completely unemployable as a result of medically-documented disabilities by freeing them from paying any property taxes on their homestead. For veterans with have partial disabilities, they, too, would qualify for tax breaks of between $5,000 and $12,000 a year on their home property taxes." 

If approved by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by the governor, the tax breaks would go into effect when local governments begin sending out their annual tax bills in the fall of 2009. 

Repaying sacrifices of veterans 

One of several witnesses who testified or showed up in favor of HB 742 when it was first heard on March 25 by the House Ways and Means Committee was Joann Galich of Arlington, who spoke of the physical and economic struggles her husband, Steve, has undergone as a result of medical disabilities linked to his tour of military service as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam. 

"He served proudly with the 1st Calvary in Vietnam, like those in (the film) Apocalypse Now," Galich said.

"He could have taken an educational deferment, like many men did, or a medical deferment, like his parents wanted him to, but he chose to serve proudly." 

But as time went by, her husband, who had finished his military service with honor,  became a successful  business owner.   

Unknown to the family at the time, that military service would wind up leading to catastrophic health problems for the Texas veteran.  At age 37, he was diagnosed with hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes. 

By age 55, Steve Galich’s health problems continued to get worse, forcing him to close down his business, a move that wound up costing the Galich’s their group health insurance coverage. 

"Our medical bills were eating us up, and our savings went quickly," Joann Galich recalled. 

Never one to seek government help from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs finally acknowledged that many Vietnam veterans, such as Galich, who had been exposed to Agent Orange – a poison used by the U.S. military to defoliate heavy jungle where enemy soldiers would hide – was presumed to have caused Galich’s diabetes. 

With that determination by the VA, friends of the family encouraged Steve Galich to apply for VA benefits for which he had earned. 

"They told him to get into the VA system. Reluctantly, he went," she said. "The VA turned out to be a Godsend. They have not only picked up his medical (health insurance), but they have given him disability, paid at 100 percent, because he was unemployable." 

Flores’ proposed law is crucial to help Texans such as the Galich family keep their home, she said. 

"Now, the state may be offering some help to keep us in our home," Joann Galich said. "Along with the high insurance rate, even without a mortgage, our housing costs are $700 a month, for taxes and insurance.  On a fixed income, that is very hard." 

Local, statewide support 

When Flores first filed his bill on January 22, his effort was praised by Emilio De Los Santos, the Veterans Services Director for Hidalgo County. 

"We are pleased that Rep. Flores has carried this extremely important initiative for veterans of this state. This bill is long overdue and we know that Kino has always taken a proactive approach to help veterans," said De Los Santos. "This bill not only will help veterans of the past, but also veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars."   

A number of major organizations also showed up in support of Flores’ bill on March 25, including: 

• Texas Council of Chapters – Military Officers Association of America;

• Texas Assn of Vietnam Veterans;

• Texas Association of Realtors;

• American GI. Forum of Texas;

• Galveston Co. Tax Office & Taxpayers;

• Texas Department of the Reserve Officers Association of the U.S.;

• Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations;

• American Legion Department of Texas; and

• Galveston County Tax Office. 

Eligible veterans must meet disability standards set out by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For eligible veterans who are not 100 percent disabled, the following home tax breaks would apply: 

• A veteran who has a disability rating of at least 10 percent to 29 percent would qualify for a $5,000 tax break each year on the assessed value of their home;  

• A veteran who has a disability rating of 30 percent to 49 percent would qualify for a $7,500 tax break each year on the assessed value of their home; 

• A veteran who has a disability rating of 50 percent to 69 percent would qualify for a $10,000 tax break each year on the assessed value of their home; and 

• A veteran who has a disability rating of 70 percent to 99 percent would qualify for a $12,000 tax break each year on the assessed value of their home. 

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Rep. Martínez’ measure would allow more Texas families to afford to buy into CHIP

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

A Valley Democratic state representative and a Central Texas Republican are moving identical proposals through the legislative process that would allow thousands of additional Texas families to buy affordable health insurance for their children.

 
House Bill 1699 by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Senate Bill 841 by Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, have both received public hearings in their respective committees, a crucial first step in the legislative process.

 
Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, has also filed identical legislation – House Bill 4662 – but as of Wednesday, April 15, that measure has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

 
Martínez said Texas children who do not have access to health care have a "domino effect" on Texas society and economy in many different ways.

 
"It is very important that our children are covered with health insurance,"  Martínez said. "Children who become sick don’t attend school, and if they cannot attend classes, they are not becoming educated. When those children have to stay home because of an illness or injury, one of their parents often has to stay at home to take care of them, and that takes them out of the workplace."  

 
According to a 2007 study by Rice University, a large number of Valley children do not have access to affordable health care coverage, he said. 

Valley has large number of uninsured children

 
"Between 33 percent and 42 percent of children in the Valley – which is about 160,000 children – do not have health care coverage, which also means many of them go without annual medical check-ups and dental care, and most of these children come from families where at least one of the parents is working full-time," he said. "The Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation, with more than 1.2 million residents, of which more than 450,000 are age 18 years and younger." 

"There is a real need to see that our children have some sort of health care coverage," he emphasized. 

With thousands of bills filed each session, many legislative measures do not ever get a committee hearing. 

The proposals by both men would allow many Texas families, who currently make too much money to qualify for the state/federal health insurance program, to qualify for, and get a discount, on the premiums paid for this popular – and crucial – health insurance program. 

CHIP is health insurance designed for families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet cannot afford to buy private health insurance, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.  CHIP enrollment fees and co-payments are based on the family’s income, the state agency notes, adding that enrollment fees are $50 or less per family for each 12 month term of eligibility and most co-payments for doctor visits and prescription drugs range from $3 to $10. 

"There are about 1.4 million Texas children without health insurance, but if these bills are passed, it would help the families of about 516,000 of these children buy into, at affordable rates, CHIP coverage for their children," said Martínez. 

Both bills would benefit those families whose net family income is above 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) for whom affordable insurance is not available, according to a bill analyses of the legislation. 

Averitt said the legislation would create a graduated scale that would permit families above the eligibility limit to buy into CHIP.  

"I think we’re going to be able to attract more children who currently don’t have health insurance into the Children’s Health Insurance Program," said Averitt. 

Martínez’ House measure was reviewed on March 19 by the House Human Services Committee. 
Averitt’s bill was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, April 2. 

South Texas lawmaker serving on the Senate Finance Committee include Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Brownsville. 

State measures follow President Obama’s actions

 
Martínez’ and Averitt’s legislative efforts come soon after President Obama, on February 4, signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), which renews and expands coverage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program nationwide from seven million children to 11 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

According to the bill analysis of Martínez’ and Averitt’s legislative proposals: 

Families are eligible for CHIP in Texas if they make 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), which is about $44,000 annual income for a family of four.   

The bills would create a graduated buy-in program for families from 200 to 300 percent of the FPL, which would cover a family of four with an annual income up to approximately $66,000. The Health and Human Services Commissioner would create the different buy-in levels, with the state contribution decreasing and the individual contribution increasing as income levels approached the 300 percent level. These levels would be tied to household income, set under the bill not to exceed 2.5 percent annual income. Families that make more than 300 percent of the FPL could still buy CHIP coverage, but they would pay the full cost of the insurance. 

The bill also includes a lock-out provision, to prevent people enrolling children in the program only when they are sick. If a parent opts out of CHIP coverage, they could not re-enroll into CHIP until a certain length of time has passed, to be determined by the HHS Commissioner. There is cap on the number of families above 300 percent FPL permitted to buy in for the first two years.  

"Because this is a brand new scenario, we didn’t want any unintended consequences to the original population," said Averitt. This cap would be 2,500 children the first year, 5,000 the second year, and then no cap in the third year and beyond. 

How CHIP was created

 
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 

Originally created in 1997, CHIP is Title XXI of the Social Security Act and is a state and federal partnership that targets uninsured children and pregnant women in families with incomes too high to qualify for most state Medicaid programs, but often too low to afford private coverage. Within federal guidelines, each state determines the design of its individual CHIP program, including eligibility parameters, benefit packages, payment levels for coverage, and administrative procedures. 

In addition to renewing the CHIP program at the national level, the new federal law makes it easier for certain groups to access CHIP health care, including uninsured children from families with higher incomes and uninsured low-income pregnant women. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) enrollment data based on state reports show that 7.4 million children were enrolled in CHIP at some point during Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2008, compared to 7.1 million for fiscal 2007.   

During FFY 2008, there were 334,616 adults covered with CHIP funds. 

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World War II hero Cano from Edinburg being considered for Texas Legislative Medal of Honor

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

A second Edinburg war hero – the late Pedro Cano – could soon join an elite group of Texas veterans who have been bestowed the state’s highest medal for valor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – under a bill introduced on Friday, April 17, by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg. 

Pending final action of the bill, on Saturday, April 25, Peña will make a special presentation to the Cano family at the western plaza of Edinburg City Hall, with that event scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. 

More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946 as Pedro Cano Day. On that day, businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, to the 25-year-old war hero.    

"Having lived in Edinburg all my life I knew of Cano Street and Cano-González Elementary, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned about the remarkable man behind the name," said Peña. "I have walked and talked on behalf of veterans services all across the state over the last few years and I’ve taken every opportunity to boast about Edinburg’s extraordinary record of heroism, sacrifice and service. Pedro Cano’s story needs to be retold." 

Only six Texans have been bestowed the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, including its most recent recipient, the late U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González of Edinburg, who was posthumously awarded the honor in February 2008, during a public ceremony in Edinburg which featured his mother, Dolia González, and Gov. Rick Perry. 

The legislation nominating González for the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, filed and approved during the legislative regular session in 2007, was authored by Peña and carried in the Senate by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. 

The legislation honoring Cano – House Concurrent Resolution 5 – is being authored by Peña, along with Rep. Allen Vaught, R-Dallas, Rep. Chris Turner, R-Arlington, Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock, and Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio. 

According to Texas Code, Subtitle C, Chapter 431: [1], The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, that designation "shall be awarded to a member of the state or federal military forces designated by concurrent resolution of the legislature who voluntarily performs a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice involving risk of life that is so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the person for gallantry and intrepidity above the person’s comrades. Awarding of the medal shall be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit. The medal may be awarded only on incontestable proof of performance of the deed. 

Pedro Cano, a native son of Mexico who as an infant was brought by his family to his new homeland of the United States, would wind up saving scores of his fellow Americans in combat with acts of heroism that earned him some of the United States’ most sacred honors for military service, including a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, and a Purple Heart. according to the House legislation. 

In 1946, a year after the end of World War II, Cano "realized his American dream" when he obtained his American citizenship. Tragically, six years later, Cano was killed in an automobile accident, but his legacy lived on, not only through his family in Edinburg, but has a street and a local elementary school bearing his name. 

The language of the resolution follows: 

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor was established to honor gallant and intrepid service by a member of the state or federal military forces, and through his courageous actions in World War II, United States Army Private Pedro Cano distinguished himself as a worthy recipient of this prestigious award; and 

WHEREAS, Born to Nicholasa González Cano and Secundino Cano on July 7, 1920, in Nuevo León, Mexico, Pedro Cano moved with his family to Texas as an infant and spent the rest of his life, except for his time in the army, in the Rio Grande Valley; and

WHEREAS, After joining the armed forces during World War II, Private Cano was deployed to Europe, where he fought with the 4th Infantry Division; in December 1944, he was advancing with his company near Schevenhutte, Germany, when they came under withering fire from German machine guns; with his comrades pinned down, Private Cano worked his way forward alone, through a hail of fire and over more than 100 yards of heavily mined terrain, until he was within 30 feet of the nearest German emplacement; firing one round with his hand-held rocket launcher, he destroyed the position and killed its two gunners and five supporting riflemen; he then moved on toward a second emplacement, which he attacked with his rifle and hand grenades, killing several more soldiers; and 

WHEREAS, With another American company nearby similarly immobilized, Private Cano crept to within 15 yards of a third emplacement, killed its two gunners with a rocket, and then destroyed yet another emplacement and killed its gunners, enabling that company to also advance; and

WHEREAS, The next day, the Americans once more encountered heavy German resistance, and Private Cano again moved forward alone with his bazooka; crossing open, fire-swept ground, he succeeded in suppressing three more machine-gun positions and killing their gunners, bringing to nearly 30 the number of German soldiers he killed during that two-day period; and

WHEREAS, Sometime later, while on patrol, Private Cano and his platoon were surprised by German soldiers, who inflicted heavy casualties; Private Cano lay motionless on the ground until the assailants closed in, then tossed a grenade into their midst, wounding or killing all of them; and

WHEREAS, It was in this engagement, or shortly afterward, that Pedro Cano sustained injuries that left him permanently disabled; in addition to a Purple Heart, he was awarded two Silver Stars and a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor; of the more than 16,100,000 individuals who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, only 5,059 were recognized with the DSC; and 

WHEREAS, Mr. Cano’s most illustrious medal arrived at his home near Edinburg in the mail, prompting area citizens to plan a formal ceremony, complete with numerous other festivities; on April 26, 1946, Pedro Cano Day, some 4,000 local residents turned out to witness General Jonathan M. Wainwright present the medal to the former private; also present on the dais were other high-ranking American and Mexican military officers, as well as civil officials and several other Rio Grande Valley military heroes; in his remarks, General Wainwright declared that he believed Pedro Cano actually deserved the highest recognition of all, the Medal of Honor; and

WHEREAS, In May 1946, Mr. Cano realized a longtime aspiration when he received his American citizenship; six years later, on June 24, 1952, he was killed in a traffic accident; survived by his wife, Herminia Garza Cano, his daughters, Dominga and Maria, and his son Susano, Pedro Cano was buried with military honors in Edinburg, where today a street and an elementary school both bear his name; and

WHEREAS, Pedro Cano repeatedly risked his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers and to help advance their mission, and for his extraordinary heroism he is most assuredly deserving of this state’s supreme military award; now, therefore, be it

         

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas hereby posthumously confer the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor on Pedro Cano in recognition of his courageous actions in World War II, and express to his family its deepest appreciation on behalf of all his fellow Texans; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Mr. Cano’s family as an expression of highest regard by the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. 

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Transportation Committee approves bill by Rep. Gonzáles  to crack down on illegal tow truck scams

By RICARDO LÓPEZ-GUERRA 

A bill by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, filed to tighten controls on rouge towing companies is one step closer to becoming state law after winning approval from the House Committee on Transportation on Tuesday, April 14. 

An identical bill is being carried in the Senate by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen.  

"I appreciate the House Committee on Transportation recognizing the importance of increasing regulation on towing companies who engage in predatory business practices," Gonzales said. 

The committee passed House Bill 2571 unanimously, and the bill now heads to the House Calendars Committee. The Calendars Committee is charged with placing legislation on the Representative’s floor calendar so the full body can vote on the bill. 

The bill  would raise fees and increase penalties for towing companies operating outside the law.  

Tow-truck operators could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a possible fine up to $2,000 and six months in jail. A towing company’s license would also be suspended for failing to adhere to court orders requiring towing companies to reimburse vehicle owners for expenses associated with unlawful tows.   

HB 2571 aims to address documented cases of towing companies using tactics to lure drivers to tow-away zones and overcharging for impounds, including numerous complaints filed against McAllen-area towing companies.   

If passed, the state would have more regulation of non-consent tows as towing companies would be required to submit a fee schedule to the state, and would be prohibited from adding fees to approved charges. Other changes would make recovering damages or a towed vehicle more consumer friendly for vehicle owners. 

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Senate approves bill by Sen. Lucio to provide educators more training to help disabled students

By DORIS SÁNCHEZ 

The Texas Senate on Thursday, April 17, joined Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, in improving the educational outlook of children with disabilities, particularly autism, by voting for his bill that will give teachers and paraprofessionals the latest and best training available.  

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Brownsville, are co-authors of the bill. 

Senate Bill 100 directs the Commissioner of Education to develop specialized institutes to provide intensive training to educators who teach students with disabilities so they can implement the latest, research-based education practices in their classrooms. These institutes are modeled after Texas’ highly successful reading academies. 

"Many of our Texas teachers are currently underprepared and overwhelmed in their efforts to educate children with disabilities who are federally mandated to spend part or all of their school day in regular classrooms," explained Lucio. "SB 100 would ensure that the content of the training is up-to-date, research-based and disability-specific so teachers can address the needs of their particular students." 

Most teachers are not receiving specialized training beyond three semester hours in college, and must rely on in-service and on-the-job training. The availability and quality of teacher training programs vary drastically across the state. 

Modeled after Texas’ highly successful reading academies, the institutes would adequately train teachers and paraprofessionals for greater classroom success all students. The training would be voluntary and carry stipends upon completion. In addition, other sources of funding, like stimulus money, can be used to implement the bill. 

"SB 100 supports all teachers who work with children with disabilities, but especially those who teach autistic kids because autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the nation," said Lucio. "One out of 150 children is diagnosed in the United States with autism, so it is critical that we implement this specialized training as soon as possible." 

"SB 100 will increase the academic achievement of all students by training teachers in the best practices of instruction and behavior management," added Lucio. "Furthermore, it will address the concerns of the parents of children with disabilities we frequently hear from who want the best education possible for their children." 

The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, is carrying the companion measure, House Bill 4666. 

Emily Wheeler, policy analyst, handles SB 100 for the Senator and can be reached at 512/463-0127. 

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Texas and Nuevo León attorney generals sign agreement to combat transnational crime

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Nuevo León Attorney General Luis Carlos Treviño Berchelmann on Friday, April 17, signed a memorandum of understanding that memorializes both states’ commitment to work cooperatively and collaboratively to combat transnational crime. 

Under the agreement executed on April 17, the Texas and Nuevo León attorneys general agreed to jointly focus on strengthening social and legal assistance to children; coordinating law enforcement communication to help address crime on both sides of the border; exchanging information and criminal intelligence about human trafficking, drug smuggling, crimes against children and financial crimes; collaborating to combat cross-border crimes against children and human trafficking; exchanging crime prevention best practices; and offer law enforcement educational exchange programs between the neighboring states. 

“Today’s agreement formalized two law enforcement agencies agreeing to work cooperatively and collaboratively to combat transnational crime,” said Abbott. “This memorandum of Understanding will foster interagency communication, training and relationships among officials on both sides of the border. I am honored to work with Attorney General Treviño Berchelmann as we both strive to protect our citizens from the criminals who seek to harm them.” 

Treviño Berchelmann added: “This memorandum of understanding will foster collaboration efforts between the governments of both states in two fundamental ways. On the one hand the information exchange will be an important tool in the combat of crime and in the enforcement of the rule of law. On the other hand, children, one of the most vulnerable groups, will receive effective protection on both sides of the border.” 

Under the agreement, the Office of the Attorney General of Texas will: 

• Continue working to protect children, including cooperative efforts to improve the legal and social support services that are available to young victims; 

• Provide investigative and prosecutorial training for law enforcement officials from Nuevo Leon, including training about the investigation and prosecution of cyber crimes against kids; and, 

• Provide a directory of key personnel to help facilitate the exchange of information. 

The Attorney General of Nuevo León will: 

• Continue working to protect children, including cooperative efforts to improve the legal and social support services that are available to young victims; 

• Provide investigative and prosecutorial training for law enforcement from Texas, including instruction about the investigation, preparation and resolution of criminal cases in Nuevo Leon; 

• Pay for travel expenses incurred by the OAG when its prosecutors and peace officers conduct law enforcement training in Nuevo Leon; and, 

• Provide a directory of key personnel to help facilitate the exchange of information between key agency personnel. 

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Senate approves bill to access federal unemployment insurance funds, despite opposition from Gov. Perry

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES 

The Senate approved a bill on Thursday, April 16, that would allow the state to access federal unemployment insurance funds as part of the federal stimulus package. Gov. Rick Perry initially declined the money, because he believed that the one time payment could lead to future insolvency, in addition to requiring changes to the state’s unemployment system in order to be eligible for funds.  

Many legislators disagreed with the governor’s decision, and the Senate approved a series of reforms to Texas’ unemployment system to draw down this money. 

The measure, Senate Bill 1569 by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, would change a person’s unemployment benefit from one that calculates payments based on the four fiscal quarters previous to the most recent one, to a calculation based on the most recent four quarters. It would also extend benefits to part-time workers who lose their jobs, and to those who quit their jobs based on compelling family reasons. The bill now heads to the House for consideration. 

On Friday, April 17, the Senate approved a bill aimed at streamlining the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid system. The bill’s author, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who also is chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the current system of state health entitlement programs is based on a "fee-for-service" model.  

Under this model, doctors are reimbursed through Medicaid and CHIP for each service performed for a patient, meaning individual payments for office visits, tests, and other health care services.  

"Under current law, payments continue even if a patient suffers serious harm from a preventable adverse event," said Nelson. "This legislation begins to refocus our resources to reward quality outcomes." 

The bill, SB 7, would direct the Department of State Health Services to develop several pilot programs to explore various strategies. These include an obesity prevention pilot program, a pilot payment program based on quality of medical outcomes, and a pilot program to increase care coordination for Medicaid and CHIP recipients. The bill would end the practice of reimbursing hospitals and doctors when treatments make the patient worse instead of better. It would also require hospitals to submit data relating to uncompensated care. 

Through Friday, April 17, the Senate has passed nearly 70 bills in regular session. These include: 

• SB 1049 by Sen. Carlos I. Uresti, D-San Antonio, which would raise the legal age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products to 19. 

• SB 1175 by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, which would make it illegal for a lawfully detained person to refuse to identify themselves to a police officer. 

• SB 1123  by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, which would change the standard of causation for a person with mesothelioma who is making a claim in court. 

The Senate reconvened on Monday, April 20 at 11 a.m.  

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JK Harris charged by Texas Attorney General with misrepresenting ability to reduce unpaid tax debts

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday, April 13, charged JK Harris & Company, LLC, its owners and two related firms with materially misrepresenting their ability to help Texans resolve their unpaid tax obligations.  

According to the state’s enforcement action, JK Harris failed to provide promised services, misrepresented its employees’ professional skills and experience, overstated its ability to reduce debts that customers owe to the Internal Revenue Service, and accepted large, prepaid fees from customers whose tax liabilities the firm knew – or should have known – it could not reduce. 

“The defendants are charged with unlawfully misrepresenting – and overstating – their ability to reduce unpaid debts that taxpayers owe to the IRS,” said Abbott. “Struggling Texans who paid large, upfront fees were told that their unpaid taxes could be resolved for pennies on the dollar. Today’s enforcement action seeks restitution for the defendants’ Texas customers and a court order enjoining the defendants’ unlawful conduct.” 

JK Harris and related companies, LLC, JKH Financial Recovery Systems LLC, and Professional Fee Financing Associates, along with the firms’ owners, John K. Harris and Charles R. Harris, Jr., are all named defendants in the state’s enforcement action. Citing Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act violations, the state is seeking an injunction, penalties, fees and restitution for the Texas-based JK Harris customers. 

The defendants’ advertising and marketing materials claimed that JK Harris could settle customers’ unpaid tax obligations for pennies on the dollar. JK Harris typically charged $2,000 to $5,000 – paid in advance – for its tax resolution services, which largely relied upon the IRS’ Offer-in-Compromise (OIC) program. 

According court documents filed by the state, the defendants charged customers without actually reviewing individual tax files to see whether individual taxpayers were eligible for relief through the OIC program – which is limited to very specific situations. The state’s investigation revealed that few of JK Harris’ customers qualified for OIC relief. Further, the defendants’ often failed to file their customers’ OIC application forms and frequently took no steps to reduce customers’ tax debts. When customers realized that JK Harris had undertaken little or no action, they frequently demanded refunds – and the defendants often failed to return the customers’ money. 

The state’s enforcement action also cites the defendants for misleading customers about JK Harris’ regional employees’ qualifications. While the defendants’ advertisements claimed that former IRS agents, Certified Public Accountants, lawyers, and other professionals were “available to meet with consumers in 325 locations in 43 states,” investigators discovered that JK Harris’ regional offices are staffed by sales personnel – who are not trained tax experts. As a result, Texas customers who believed they could actually meet with JK Harris tax resolution experts in person were misled. 

The Better Business Bureau and the Office of the Attorney General have received approximately 1,000 complaints against the company in the past 36 months. Texans considering tax resolution services should research a firm before entering into a contract or paying any fees. 

Texans who need additional information, believe they have been harmed by a tax-assistance firm’s unlawful conduct or wish to file a complaint may contact the OAG at (800) 252-8011 or do so online at http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

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Hurricane relief measure by Rep. Thompson becomes first bill this session signed into law by Gov. Perry

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, April 16, signed into law Senate Bill 769, by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, which reduces the impact to electricity customers of rebuilding and restoring utility service following hurricanes and other natural disasters, an issue the governor declared an emergency item. This bill allows utilities to issue low-cost bonds to recover restoration costs, providing utilities and customers a cost-saving alternative to their current options. 

“With every storm, we examine our recovery approaches to do better next time. This legislation is part of that process, and it will better prepare Texas to recover from Mother Nature’s next big show,” Perry said. “The bill I am signing today will help us prepare even better for the next storm and recover more quickly when it has gone.” 

Following Hurricane Ike, 99 percent of Centerpoint and Entergy customers were without power. The total cost for restoring these utility systems is projected to be $650 million for Centerpoint and $580 million for Entergy. Projected savings from using the financing mechanism provided for by the bill is $200 million or more for each company’s customers. 

SB 769 authorizes the Public Utility Commission (PUC), after a full review, to permit an electric utility to obtain timely recovery of reasonable and necessary utility system restoration costs, and permits utilities to use securitization financing for the recovery, significantly lowering costs to consumers.  

Securitization financing has been used previously, including the costs related to Hurricane Rita in 2005. SB 769 allows use of this mechanism for Hurricane Ike restoration costs, and allows the PUC to approve the financing for any future hurricane or major storm event without requiring new legislation, allowing the state to respond expeditiously to future storms. 

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UT honors Amanda Lira of Edinburg, Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco, as Migrant Student of the Year

High school students Amanda Lira of Edinburg and Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco were named Students of the Year on Monday, April 6 by the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. 

Each student received a $2,000 college scholarship funded by a gift from the Exxon Mobil Foundation. The Migrant Students of the Year were selected on the basis of obstacles overcome, overall academic achievements, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities and their performance in distance learning courses in the university’s Migrant Student Program. 

In addition to the two "Students of the Year", three additional exemplary migrant students were each awarded $2,000 college scholarships from the Exxon Mobil Foundation at the event, including a second Edinburg student.  

Jessica Ríos from Johnny G. Economedes High School in Edinburg, Pedro Fuentes from C.C. Winn High School in Eagle Pass, and Diana Gutiérrez from La Joya Senior High School are the recipients of these scholarships. 

Lira and Castillo were among 40 migrant students honored in the ballroom of the Texas Union for their exemplary achievements during the university’s annual Exemplary Migrant Student Recognition Ceremony. The event was attended by about 275 guests, including migrant students from 17 Texas school districts. This year more than 1,200 Texas migrant students are earning high school credits toward the completion of their high school graduation requirements through the program, which is administered by the K-16 Education Center within the university’s Division of Continuing and Innovative Education. 

"These students go well beyond what is expected of any student," said Dr. Felipe Alanis, associate dean of Continuing Education and director of the K-16 Education Center. "The kind of strength, courage and talent these students demonstrate every day is an inspiration to everyone around them: their fellow students, their families, their instructors and their employers. They make me very proud to play a part, however large or small, in the advancement of migrant students in Texas." 

Lira, the daughter of Francisco and Delma Sánchez, is one of seven children in her family. After her father died when Lira was three years old, Lira’s mother and family struggled to overcome their difficulties together as a family. Each year, Lira and her family migrate to Bowling Green, Ohio, where she picks cabbages and tomatoes. Despite the hardships of being a migrant student, Lira is excelling at Johnny G. Economedes High School. She will soon graduate early in her third year of high school. Among her academic achievements is earning the "E" Award in English, a place on the A/B Honor Roll and a 3.9 grade-point average, making her one of the top 10 migrant students in her class. 

Lira also is involved in a number of extracurricular activities. She plays the bass clarinet in the band and advanced to state competition with her solo ensemble. She also is a member of the National Honor Society, the "Sky’s the Limit" Migrant Club, Spanish Club, Educational Talent Search Trio and the Green Club. During her spare time, Amanda works with the Image for Conservation organization. She also has accumulated 145 hours of community service helping migrant farm workers translate and fill out forms. In fall 2009, Lira plans to attend Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where she will pursue a major in English and a minor in Spanish. She aspires to become a counselor. 

Castillo, a senior at Weslaco East High School, has traveled with her family for the past 17 years to Gregory, Mich., where she began working alongside her parents, Luis and Maria Castillo, at the age of 14 packing radishes, beets, carrots and spinach. Although she doesn’t often arrive back to Weslaco until six weeks after the school year begins, she ranks fourth in a class of 318 students. 

"Deyanira is one of the brightest, most confident and hard-working students I have ever had the opportunity to know," said Castillo’s migrant counselor. Among Castillo’s academic accomplishments are a 102.3 grade average and recognition for high scores in rigorous Advanced Placement exams. She also has earned numerous awards throughout high school, including Student of the Week for South Texas College and Student of the Month for the Rotary Club. Last year, Castillo took an educational tour of Europe she paid for herself. 

Castillo also is involved in extracurricular activities. She is a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Student Council, a member of the Drama Club and a competitor in the University Interscholastic League Math and Prose teams. In addition, she has worked at a department store since February 2007. Castillo plans to attend the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. 

"At this school, I hope to obtain a degree that will help me make my dreams come true," Castillo said. 

Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements. 

For more information, contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512/475-7847; Kevin Wier, Division of Continuing Education, 512/471-2731, or Peggy Wimberley, Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program, 512/471-6037. 

•••••• 

Texas, which is nation’s largest energy consumer, poised to become future leader in renewable energy

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR. 

This legislative session we’ve proposed almost a hundred bills that will lead Texas to create or expand projects that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by replacing them with green energy. 

The organization Texas Is Hot posts on its web site, "Energy conservation is without a doubt the easiest option to lower bills, help the environment and lessen our nation’s energy dependence. However, an October 2008 report by the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy ranked Texas 19th in the nation for programs to promote energy efficiency in homes, appliances, transportation and electric utilities. We can change this. But we must start now." 

I agree that we must start now, especially since Texas is the nation’s leading consumer of energy. 

My own Senate Bill 1419 requires electric companies to increase the electricity amount they generate with renewable resources other than "high capacity wind" to reach the goal of 4,000 megawatts, or about five percent, of total electricity capacity for the state by 2020, using solar, geothermal and smaller scale wind.  

Renewable energy is generated from natural resources, such as sunlight, tides, rain, wind, biomass and geothermal heat that can be replenished naturally. 

The 2008 Home Energy Efficiency Report by the Texas Comptroller reveals that while industry represents half of our state’s energy consumption, homes account for 14 percent of demand. 

"Most of that energy is electricity, more electricity than the average U.S. home, for which Texans are paying the price: The bills add up to 45 percent more each year than neighboring states, and 56 percent more each year than the national residential average," the report adds. 

Homeowners can become equal beneficiaries of green energy programs. And we’re heading that way. Already Texas has met the 2015 legislative target of 5,880 megawatts (MWs) from wind energy. Now we must utilize other renewable energy resources than just wind. Despite our top national ranking in solar resources, we haven’t yet developed any large-scale solar projects in this state, nor have we utilized thousands of potential megawtts of geothermal energy, which is contained in the rock and fluid inside the earth’s crust. 

South Texas has a rich supply of geothermal resources–hot steam and air trapped below the Gulf Coast – that could power an electricity plant or directly heat and cool buildings. 

On the other hand, the large agricultural crop waste that is routinely burned in South Texas could be converted into renewable biomass energy that could fuel our homes. The added benefit is that instead of pollution and haze from burning crop waste, we could create a biomass energy market for our area and beyond. 

Biomass is organic material made from plants and animals that contains stored energy from the sun. Because more trees and crops can always be grown, and waste will always exist, biomass is a strong renewable energy source. 

Another huge benefit is the creation of green jobs. For example, some Texas home-grown solar panel companies have expanded beyond their original cities, which has led technical colleges to begin training panel installers. 

We have incredible renewable resources right here in Texas with an immense potential to provide our homes, schools, businesses and churches with power. As renewables become more prevalent, the cost to expand them will drop and so will greenhouse gas emissions. 

Texas is poised to become the renewable energy leader of the country, and I, along with many of my colleagues, stand prepared to assist her in that role.  

•••••• 

South Texas College, UT-Pan American to offer Valley executives training in business management theories

By DAVID RAMOS 

“Keep it Simple Statistically,” (KISS) was the first acronym taught to a class of top level employees from Hidalgo manufacturing companies at South Texas College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing. For the first time, The University of Texas-Pan American and STC have formed a partnership to teach internationally acclaimed Six Sigma Green and Black Belt business management theories at STC’s Technology Campus in McAllen. 

Six Sigma training is one of the most important factors contributing to the modification and shaping of an organization’s culture. And many local manufactures are using the method to run leaner operations and improve overall production. 

“Six Sigma is not just training, it is a management data-driven methodology that can help Rio South Texas businesses be more competitive and improve their bottom lines,” said Henry Oh, director of UTPA’s Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC).  

“In my opinion, Six Sigma is like a doctorate among the professional certification programs. It is proven that professionals with Six Sigma training and experience make more money compared to those without it and their operations are more successful," Oh added. 

Time and quality are the two most important measures in improving any company’s production and profit performance. The “Lean Six Sigma” theory explains how to impact a company’s performance by combining the strength of today’s two most important initiatives – Lean Production and Six Sigma – into one integrated program. 

“The collaboration between STC and TMAC is a perfect formula for success, not only for the manufacturers and businesses in Rio South Texas, but also the professionals taking advantage of the Skills Development Grant,” added Oh. “In addition, the investment from the Texas Workforce Commission also received higher return on investment through the partnership.” 

An evening class, headed by TMAC Instructor Gary Steele, covers fundamental objectives of Six Sigma and the implementation of a measurement-based strategy focused on process improvement and variation reduction through the application of Six Sigma improvement projects. 

Currently, more than 20 workers from the Hidalgo area are enrolled in the course from plant managers, to engineers, to quality managers, to production line supervisors. 

“The course offers a great opportunity for maquiladora employees to obtain Six Sigma disciplines and apply the knowledge to help their companies improve,” said Ricardo Olivares, STC’s project training specialist. 

The Six Sigma training is another successful project from STC’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, which is part of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Education Research Initiative (NAAMREI). For more information about South Texas College’s IAM and its training programs contact Olivares at 956/872-6148. 

•••••• 

Gov. Perry reappoints Brownsville physician Manuel G. Guajardo to six-year term on Texas Medical Board

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, April 17, appointed seven members, including a Brownsville physician, to the Texas Medical Board for terms to expire April 13, 2015.  

The board protects and enhances the public’s health, safety and welfare by establishing and maintaining standards of excellence used in regulating the practice of medicine and ensuring quality health care for the citizens of Texas. 

Manuel G. Guajardo of Brownsville is a physician in private practice. He is a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and American Fertility Association, and a member of the Texas Medical Association. He is also a member of the Valley Zoological Society Board of Directors and the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College Foundation Board of Directors. He also serves as president and chairman of the Brownsville Doctors Hospital Board of Directors. Guajardo received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center.  He is being reappointed. 

David Baucom of Sulphur Springs is president of Baucom Insurance Services Inc. He is a member of the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, founding director of First American Mortgage Company, and a director of First American Bank. He is also a past member of the Sulphur Springs City Council, past mayor of Sulphur Springs, past president of the Sulphur River Basin Authority, and past member of the Texas Medical Board District Review Committee. Baucom served in the U.S. Army National Guard, and received a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University. He is being reappointed. 

Patrick J. Crocker of Austin is chief of emergency medicine for emergency service partners in the Emergency Department of Dell Children’s Hospital, and an assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine for the University of Texas Medical Branch. He is a member of the SETON Board of Trustees and Take Heart Austin Steering Committee, and is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He is also a member of the Travis County Medical Society and Texas Medical Association, and chair of the Austin/Travis County EMS Quality Assurance Board. Crocker served in the U.S. Army, and received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in nutrition from the University of California at Berkley, and a doctorate of osteopathy from the University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery. He replaces Larry Price of Belton. 

John D. Ellis Jr. of Houston is chairman of John Ellis and Associates. He is a past foreign trial observer for the Federal Republic of Germany and consul general for the Republic of Malta. He is a life fellow of the American, Texas and Houston Bar associations, and a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates and Houston Bar Association Board of Directors. He is also a member of the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston Development Council and Dean’s Advisory Committee, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Board of Directors, where he is also life time vice president. Ellis served in the U.S. Army and in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and graduated from The Citadel as a Distinguished Military Graduate and received a law degree from Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree in forensic science and from George Washington University. He replaces Annette Raggette of Houston. 

Allan N. Shulkin of Dallas is a pulmonary and critical care specialist in private practice. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a member of the American Thoracic Society, Dallas County Medical Society and Texas Medical Association. He is also a past member of the Dallas County Hospital District Board of Managers, and a member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Community Advisory Council and American Israel Public Affairs Committee Executive Board. Shulkin received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio. He is being reappointed.   

Wynne M. Snoots of Dallas is an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Baylor Sammons Bone Tumor Center at Baylor University Medical Center. He is a member of the American and Dallas County Medical associations, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and Texas Medical Foundation. He is also past president of the Texas Orthopedic Association. Snoots served in the U.S. Army and received two bachelor’s degrees from Texas A&M University and a medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He replaces Amanullah Khan of Dallas. 

Timothy J. Turner of Houston is principal of Tim Turner and Associates LLC. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, and a past member of the American Association of Professional Landmen, Federation of State Medical Boards, Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce and Caring for Children Foundation. He is also chairman of the Texas Statewide Health Coordinating Council Health Information Technology Advisory Committee. Turner received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He is being reappointed. 

These appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

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