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The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appears to have caused some confusion among members of the media and news consumers, according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. That organization is encouraging news organizations to avoid any confusion over Sotomayor’s ethnic background. Her Puerto Rican parents are not immigrants, as some journalists have reported, since island-born residents are U.S. citizens, conferred by an act of Congress in 1917. "People who move to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico are no more immigrants than those who move from Nebraska to New York," said Iván Román, NAHJ’s executive director. "Her nomination to replace Justice David H. Souter represents the possibility of the first Latino sitting on the nation’s highest court. As the debate over her qualifications develops, NAHJ would encourage the highest form of discourse." Sotomayor, 54, is featured here on May 26 with President Obama and Vice President Biden following her nomination by the president to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Congressman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, featured here, third from right, during an unrelated photograph with constituents and then-President Bush, on officially launched the Congressional Media Fairness Caucus (MFC) to counter what he says is media bias. The purpose of the MFC is not to censor or condemn, but to encourage the media to adhere to the highest standards of reporting and to provide the American people with the facts, balanced stories and fair coverage of the news, Smith contended. A study by the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs found that network news programs gave President Obama more than three times the coverage that they gave former President George W. Bush early in his presidency, Smith noted. See related story later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured here, front row, second from left, with fellow members who first came into the Texas Legislature with him about six-and-a-half years ago, on Friday, June 5, declared that legislation authorizing the establishment of a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley was his and the region’s number one legislative priority. "The Rio Grande Valley has been long underserved in access to healthcare and health care providers," said Peña. "The establishment of a medical school and health science center will not only serve to bridge that gap but it has the power to transform our economy. I applaud Sen. Eddie Lucio for his leadership, our legislative delegation and community and business leaders for all their efforts. While we can relish this achievement we have a lot of important work ahead to ensure that the facility is fully funded and world-class." See story later in this posting.

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The employees of South Texas College have been recognized by the United Way of South Texas for being the most charitable among all staffs at state agencies across the Rio Grande Valley, including outperforming other major universities and state offices. STC employees pledged more than $40,000 through the 2008 State Employees Charitable Campaign (SECC), administered by the United Way of South Texas. The college merited the SECC Lone Star Award for its effort. Featured, representing STC and UWST, are, from left, front: Gloria Ann Hernández, community relations public sector campaign for UWST; Thelma Garza, UWST president; and Diana Peña, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services for STC. Back row, from left: Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of STC; Jeff Heavin, instructor, STC Human Resources Specialist Program; and Shirley Ingram, Director of Human Resources for STC. See story later in this posting.

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Texas Monthly ignores Valley lawmakers’ successes, again puts Hispanics in negative light, says Rep. Flores

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Texas Monthly, which on Friday, June 5, released its list of the best and worst state lawmakers, has again portrayed Hispanic and border lawmakers in a negative fashion, said Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview.

"As has happened in previous years, South Texas fared poorly," The Rio Grande Guardian, an award-winning internet political newspaper which focuses on the Texas border, noted in its coverage of the Texas Monthly story, which was posted on the magazine’s online edition.

"Not one border or Hispanic legislator made the Ten Best," The Rio Grande Guardian observed.

In the final days of the legislative session, which ended on June 1, Flores successfully championed two major issues of statewide impact: he received approval for a bill that will provide up to 100 percent property tax break for tens of thousands of U.S. military veterans who are disabled as a result of their service to the country, and he passed a bill that will require the state government to work with the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration to build a VA Hospital in the Valley and in other portions of the state.

Also, Flores played a crucial role, along with other border and Hispanic lawmakers, in passing legislation in late May that will place the Tejano Monument – a planned bronze monument that will honor the past and future contributions of Texans of Mexican American descent – on the historic south lawn of the Texas Capitol.

The Valley legislative delegation also excelled in securing passage of a bill – its number one priority – that will lead to the creation of a $100+ million University of Texas Health Science Center in deep South Texas that will include a major medical school.

The list of accomplishments for border, Valley, and South Texas legislators just this session alone "could fill the pages of Texas Monthly," said Flores, the only Valley representative on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which helped write the state’s $182.3 billion budget.

He said the article is just the opinions of a few writers, with little understanding of the complicated legislative rules that govern the passage of laws, and even less time to review the actions of 181 state lawmakers.

"Readers should take the magazine’s story with a grain of salt, particularly when considering Texas Monthly’s documented history of ignoring South Texas," he added. "There is only one minority lawmaker on their Top 10 list, even though minorities represent more than 50 percent of our state’s population."

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Rep. Peña: Another successful session, highlighted by UT medical school legislation, delivered for Valley

By ORLANDO SALINAS

At the start of the 81st legislative session last January, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, declared that the establishment of a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley was his and the region’s number one legislative priority. Now with session over and with that legislation headed to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature, Peña and his fellow lawmakers can claim a huge victory for South Texas.

"The Rio Grande Valley has been long underserved in access to healthcare and health care providers," said Peña. "The establishment of a medical school and health science center will not only serve to bridge that gap but it has the power to transform our economy. I applaud Sen. Eddie Lucio for his leadership, our legislative delegation and community and business leaders for all their efforts. While we can relish this achievement we have a lot of important work ahead to ensure that the facility is fully funded and world-class."

Lucio, D-Brownsville, was the author of Senate Bill 98, which directs the UT System to begin the work needed to begin construction no later than 2015 of a UT health science center in the Valley.

Peña was a joint sponsor of SB 98 in the House of Representatives.

Aside from passage of the medical school bill, there were other important victories that overall made this session a success for South Texas.

"While we had some great success there were also some big disappointments like the failure to expand CHIP to include more kids and capping rising tuition costs at colleges and universities," said Peña. "Every session begins with great potential and I think we accomplished a great deal for our veterans. We secured a small raise for teachers, law enforcement and other state employees. Our state budget includes more money for schools, universities and important infrastructure projects, while we secured tax breaks for thousands of small businesses and volunteer fire departments. I am proud of the work that we did to pass important local and statewide legislation."

Veterans services

Veterans services and care was prominent in Peña’s legislative agenda. He authored important legislation granting tax relief to disabled veterans and another memorializing the U.S. Congress to build a veterans hospital in South Texas. While in session, Peña joined Valley veterans in another march to San Antonio to highlight the need for the construction of the hospital. With the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 5, Peña, with the aid of local veterans, successfully secured the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to be posthumously awarded to Edinburg’s Pedro Cano, a hero during World War II.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a homestead property tax exemption for disabled veterans in a constitutional amendment election in 2007. The enacting legislation fell victim to a deadline at the end of 80th Legislative Session. As this session came to an end there were fears that the clock would run out again on the legislation. Anxious legislators found a vehicle in HB 3613.

"Providing meaningful tax relief for disabled veterans is not only honorable but the right thing to do," said Peña. "On numerous occasions a contingent of veterans from the Rio Grande Valley testified, lobbied and tirelessly championed legislation for their brethren. Much of our success this session is owed to them."

In 2007, Peña was successful in securing the Texas Legislative Medal Honor for Edinburg’s Freddy González. Two years later, HCR 5 will posthumously confer Texas’ highest military honor to another Edinburg hero, Pedro Cano. The legislation was awaiting the signature of the governor.

Cano was presented the Distinguished Service Cross on April 26, 1946 in the town square as the city of Edinburg proclaimed it Pedro Cano Day. Businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the decoration of the country’s second highest military honor to the then 25-year-old Army Private. Sixty-three years later, Texas now honors his life and service to the nation.

A ceremony with the Gov. Rick Perry presenting the medal to the Cano family is expected to be held later in the year.

Boosting security on the Internet

Peña also passed other important legislation with significant local and statewide implications.

SB 689, known as the social networking bill, will compile online identifiers, email addresses and cell phone numbers of registered sex offenders. The new law will also prohibit certain dangerous sex offenders on probation or parole from accessing social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. As technology continues to evolve, state law must keep up and empower law enforcement with new tools to track, catch and prevent sexual predators from preying upon our children.

SB 254 will provide a tax exemption for gasoline and diesel fuel sold to a volunteer fire department. It would allow an eligible volunteer fire department, that had paid the motor fuel tax on the purchase of gasoline or diesel fuel, to file a claim with the Comptroller’s Office for a refund of the tax. Volunteer fire department already operating on tight budgets will be able to receive a refund of 20 cents for every gallon of fuel purchased. Peña filed the bill at the urging of the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.

Every legislative session lawmakers are required to pass one bill, the state’s biennial budget. Highlights of state’s $182.3 billion budget included an increases of $1.9 billion for public education, $1.2 billion increase for higher education, $2 billion in bonds for new roads, $450 million in bonds for cancer research and a $208 million increase to help people with mental disabilities live in community settings rather than in institutions.

"At a time when our economy is contracting and the state is facing revenue shortages we must be faithful stewards of the taxpayers’ money," said Peña. "A state as big as Texas has many divergent interests and priorities for funding. Overall I believe we did a good job in addressing some of our most pressing needs."

The budget also included a seven to eight percent pay raise for correctional workers and law enforcement officers and a one-time $800 payment for other state employees. Texas public school teachers will also receive an $800 pay raise.

"Our state budget included almost $2 billion for financially strapped school districts across the state," said Peña. "While it was not a permanent fix to some of our funding and equity issues we face, it is a step in the right direction."

Small business tax breaks

Not all legislation included spending.

An estimated 40,000 small businesses in Texas will receive a tax break as the legislature raised the franchise tax exemption from $300,000 to $1 million. The tax break was designed to provide tax relief to many small businesses across the state that faced stiff increases as a result of the reorganized business tax passed in the 80th Legislative Session. In the House Committee on Ways and Means and as a member of the committee, Peña supported the bill.

Accountability in Texas public schools was a prominent issue this session.

Lawmakers decreased the reliance on high stakes testing in elementary schools. Responding to concerns from parents, teachers and administrators third graders will no longer have to pass the TAKS in order to advance to the 4th grade. The testing requirement will still be in place at the 5th and 7th grade. Legislation passed that also scrapped minimum grade policies which required teachers give students a minimum grade of 50, 60, or 70 in assignments or tests regardless of the student’s performance.

Regarding higher education, legislators invested in a program designed to bring up more of our state’s universities to Tier-1 status. Currently Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and the private Rice University are recognized as such. California boasts nine and New York seven national elite universities. A $50 million incentive fund was established for universities to compete for matching funds for research and development.

With the close of another legislative session much more legislation failed than succeeded. Lawmakers will now have the opportunity to return to their districts and reengage with their community.

"Many pundits agree that more potential damage is averted by bad bills that fail to pass," said Peña. "This session saw its share of highly contentious and partisan legislation that took up headlines and time. With 181 legislators in the House and Senate it takes a great deal of compromise to get work done. We will have some time to take a step back and reflect on our successes and failures. I look forward to heading back home and continuing the work that lies ahead to make our community and our state the best it can be."

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Regular session ends, but special session looms

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

Legislators gaveled out on the 81st Regular Session last Monday, June 1, but certain important issues left on the table could bring them back before the next session in 2011.

Lawmakers passed several important measures in the waning days of the session.

They sent to the governor a new school accountability measure, one that emphasizes college readiness, and a new school finance plan that would add nearly $2 billion to funds and allow for an $800 teacher pay raise.

The Senate and House both approved a change to the franchise tax that would exempt businesses that make less than $1 million and another bill to fix the state’s beleaguered windstorm insurance program. But it’s what they didn’t pass that has some senators asking the governor to call them back.

"Now it’s up to the governor to call us in to a short special session to address two issues: that would be the general obligation bonds at TxDOT and the other issue is the sunset schedule," said Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. "And if he’ll do that we can get in and get our work done."

Legislation that would have preserved the Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Department of Insurance died in the House during the parliamentary stalling that took place in the final days of the session. The Senate later approved a "safety net" bill, one that would continue TxDOT and TDI for four more years, but the House couldn’t push that measure through.

On Monday, June 1, the House amended a bill to continue those two agencies for two more years, in an effort to stave off a special session. When that measure came over to the Senate, many Senators, including the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, didn’t agree with the parliamentary moves the House used to extend agency deadlines.

"It’s preposterous to say that a technical correction to the funds consolidation bill, is the safety net bill for all these agencies to not go into sunset," said Ogden. "I thought it was kind of dishonest and I thought it was kind of an insult to the quality of work we’ve done over here."

Senators might still have accepted the measure, had the House passed a bill that would have given about $2 billion in bonding authority to TxDOT. The House, however, suddenly adjourned their session on June 1 without approving the bonds, leaving some senators scratching their heads and others condemning them as irresponsible.

"The House’s actions wreck the TxDOT budget," said Ogden. "Without passing the authorization issuing those bonds they basically wrecked their budget. It’s not right."

The Senate adjourned their own session without approving the measure to extend the sunset dates on TxDOT and TDI. This, said some senators, practically guarantees a special session to deal with these important issues.

Should the governor not call a special session, TxDOT and TDI would cease to exist on September 2, 2010. Until that time, both agencies can conduct business as usual, giving the governor plenty of time to mull if and when to call a special session.

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Congressman Cuellar announces $887,560 to enhance border security in Hidalgo County

By EDDIE ZAVALA

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, announced on Friday, June 5, that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded Hidalgo County $887,560 under Operation Stonegarden, an initiative to fund the enhancement of localized law enforcement border security operations.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Operation Stonegarden (OPSG) focuses on enhancing law enforcement preparedness and operational readiness along the land borders of the United States. OPSG provides funding to designated localities to enhance cooperation and coordination among federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies to secure the United States’ land borders.

“As both a congressman representing a border district and a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I am proud to see Operation Stonegarden dollars delivered to Hidalgo County,” Cuellar said. “These funds will support the closer coordination of state and federal enforcement and will help Hidalgo County target additional resources so that our international borders remain secure.”

Also on June 5, Cuellar lauded the efforts of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for the formation of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Southwest Border Task Force, a group of 20 elected officials and diverse national security experts charged with examining the department’s efforts along the U.S.-Mexico Border and providing advice and recommendations directly to the Secretary.

Cuellar, a staunch supporter of border security, filed a bill in Congress earlier this year that called for the creation of a similar task force.

“With the on-going violence in Mexico, one of the missions of this group is to ensure that the violence does not spill over to the United States. I am pleased that Secretary Napolitano has created this task force and I look forward to continuing my work with her and sharing ideas on how best to secure our borders,” said Cuellar. “This task force will collect critical data that will help put an end to drug and weapon trafficking.”

Cuellar is a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Government Oversight & Reform Committees in the 111th Congress. Accessibility to constituents, education, health care, economic development, and national security are his priorities.

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Federal funding for area water district projects approved by U.S. House, still faces action in Senate

By TENO VILLARREAL

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, June 2, secured the passage of H.R. 1393, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Resources Conservation and Improvement Act of 2009. The bill was introduced on March 9 by Hinojosa and will now be sent to the Senate for its consideration.

“HR 1393 will authorize 19 projects that will allow border water districts to continue upgrading and modernizing our antiquated water delivery systems through the installation of water pipes and canal linings. Similar projects were authorized in the 106th and 107th Congress," said Hinojosa. "This identical bill was passed in the 109th and 110th Congress but has always stalled in the Senate. I’m hoping that the third time is the charm.”

This bill amends the Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Resources Conservation and Improvement Act of 2000 to authorize specified additional projects, including projects for water conservation and improvement in Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, Hudspeth, and El Paso counties. It will enable the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, to conduct projects that include:

  • The replacement of irrigation canals and lateral canals with buried pipelines;
  • The impervious lining of irrigation canals and lateral canals;
  • The installation of water level, flow measurement, pump control, and telemetry systems;
  • The renovation and replacement of pumping plants; and
  • Other activities that will result in water conservation or an improved water supply.

“We have already made a great deal of progress because this has been a collaborative effort” added Hinojosa. “The irrigation districts have provided matching funds. The Texas Water Development Board and Texas A&M University have paid for many of the engineering studies. Federal appropriators have provided close to $20 million for previously authorized projects. These funds are being put to good use. Numerous projects are already underway and some are almost completed.”

Hinojosa concluded, “These projects are vital to improving water management throughout the region. As South Texas moves back into a drought cycle, I urge the Senate to pass this important piece of legislation. Let us continue the progress we’ve made thus far to address the water concerns of South Texas.”

Projects and their requested funding included in this act:

  • $8,929,152 for the Hidalgo and Cameron Counties Irrigation District No. 9;
  • $8,269,576 for Cameron County Irrigation District No. 2;
  • $8,000,000 for the Delta Lake Irrigation District in Hidalgo and Willacy Counties;
  • $6,067,021 for the United Irrigation District, Hidalgo County;
  • $5,607,300 Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6;
  • $5,595,018 for Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 1;
  • $5,312,475 for Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2;
  • $4,609,000 for Texas Santa Cruz Irrigation District No. 15, Hidalgo County;
  • $4,173,950 for Harlingen Irrigation District No. 1;
  • $3,450,000 for Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 6;
  • $2,800,000 for the Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 16;
  • $2,500,000 for Adams Gardens Irrigation District No. 19, Cameron County;
  • $2,500,000 for the Donna Irrigation District;
  • $2,251,480 for the Engelman Irrigation District, Hidalgo County;
  • $1,425,219 for the Bayview Irrigation District No. 11, Cameron County;
  • $722,100 for the Brownsville Irrigation District; and
  • $500,000 for the Valley Acres Water District, Hidalgo County.

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Sen. Hutchison discussed tolling moratorium during recent meeting with U.S. 77/U.S. 281 Coalitions

By JEFF SADOSKY

In McAllen and Victoria recently, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, discussed her toll moratorium bill and property rights, as well as commerce and business priorities with area leaders.

“As our state continues to grow, our transportation infrastructure must also keep pace,” said Hutchison told area leaders during her May 28 visit. “Any solutions to the challenges facing our transportation system must uphold the property rights of Texas landowners and allow our communities to thrive. Toll roads can make a positive impact in areas where residents have approved them, but I am strongly opposed to authorizing new tolls on existing roads previously built with taxpayer money.”

Hutchison met with the US 77 and US 281 Coalitions in McAllen and local leaders in Victoria to discuss plans to expand the I-69 Corridor. In March 2008, Hutchison expressed serious concerns over the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) plan to utilize eminent domain for new routes in the construction of I-69 and how that would affect private property rights, businesses, and agricultural land. She sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration and TxDOT expressing her support to instead expand I-69 through existing roads, which would protect the property rights of landowners along the Corridor’s intended path. Three months later, TxDOT announced it would scrap plans to utilize eminent domain for new routes and pursue expansion of existing lanes instead.

In addition to discussing plans for the I-69 Corridor, Hutchison outlined her efforts to prohibit tolling on federal highways. In response to renewed calls for tolling on Texas roads, Hutchison introduced a bill on May 21 that would permanently ban adding tolls to federal highways. Sen. Hutchison has consistently opposed efforts to implement tolling on existing federally-funded roads, which motorists have already paid for through taxes.

Hutchison’s legislation would prevent states, private entities, or private-public partnerships from adding tolls on existing free federal highways, bridges, or tunnels built with federal funding. Furthermore, the bill would prohibit states from attempting to purchase highways from the federal government and place them under state ownership or lease them to foreign investors for the purpose of tolling them. The legislation does not prohibit tolls on new construction.

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San Antonio Congressman Smith launches Media Fairness Caucus to help counter "media bias"

By BRIAN BALUTA

Congressman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, on Friday, June 5, officially launched the Congressional Media Fairness Caucus (MFC), along with Congressman Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, who will serve as caucus co-chairs.

The purpose of the MFC is not to censor or condemn, but to encourage the media to adhere to the highest standards of reporting and to provide the American people with the facts, balanced stories and fair coverage of the news.

“If the American people don’t get the facts, they can’t make good decisions. And if the American people can’t make good decisions, then our republic is threatened,” said Smith. “At their best, the media are an asset to our democratic process. Unfortunately, too often the media have fallen short. Through the Media Fairness Caucus, Members of Congress will utilize their own First Amendment rights to confront media bias and to encourage American citizens to do the same.”

Through floor statements, op-eds, social networking, and other channels, members of the MFC will work to highlight media bias at the national level, promote an open dialogue between national media and elected officials, and encourage the American people to become engaged and educated consumers of media.

Smith cited the following examples of the existence of media bias:

• A UCLA study rated 18 of 20 major news outlets as more liberal than the average American voter. Just two scored as more conservative than the average voter.

• A Gallup poll found that only nine percent of Americans say they have a great deal of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news "fully, accurately, and fairly." The Gallup poll also found that more than twice as many Americans say the news media are too liberal rather than too conservative.

• A study by the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs found that network news programs gave President Obama more than three times the coverage that they gave former President George W. Bush early in his presidency.

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Go Red for Women Expo, which provides education about heart health care, set for June 19 in McAllen

By DALINDA GUILLEN

Women and those who love them are invited to attend the annual American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red For Women Expo, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, June 19 at the McAllen Convention Center.

“Hundreds of women and men will have a chance to socialize, celebrate life and recharge their inner selves for the sake of healthy hearts,” said Lisa Killion, Go Red chair and assistant administrator for marketing at South Texas Health System.

McAllen Heart Hospital, a South Texas Health System facility is the leading sponsor of the 2009 Go Red For Women Expo.

“This event will be so beneficial for the women in the McAllen area to come together and lift each other. The American Heart Association encourages all women of all ages to have the tools to lead them to a healthy lifestyle and heart,” said Monique Suárez, senior corporate director for the local American Heart Association.

The event features a luncheon with guest speakers, and breakout sessions to help women learn more about heart health, managing risk factors, the importance of exercise and diet and even how to improve their financial health. Tickets for the luncheon are $40 and available for purchase by calling the American Heart Association at (956) 984-0201.

This year’s celebrity guest is LaDonna Gatlin, a career speaker, author, vocalist and sister of the legendary Gatlin Brothers. LaDonna has helped empower men and women to find their own voice with her keynote speeches and concerts.

LaDonna is an active member of the National Speakers Association, and has earned its highest professional designation, the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional). She is also one of fewer than 200 speakers worldwide to be awarded the CPAE (Council of Peers Award for Excellence) Speaker Hall of Fame lifetime award for speaking excellence and professionalism. She has recorded 4 solo CD’s which contain some of her original songs and is a contributing author to the best-selling book series Chicken Soup for the Soul.

This year, the American Heart Association is planning on raising over $100,000 to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke – America’s #1 and #3 killers.

Money raised through the Go Red Campaign will help fund:

• Research that may discover new knowledge and new ways to prevent and treat heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular disease;

• Programs to help medical professionals apply knowledge gained from research, and programs to help the general public learn what they can do to reduce their risk; and

• Community services such as improving emergency services and teaching lifesaving skills like CPR.

In the past year, The American Heart Association has funded more than $9.5 million in research in Texas. To help the cause, call the American Heart Association office in Pharr at (956) 984-0201.

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United Way names South Texas College the most charitable state agency in Valley

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR

The employees of South Texas College have been recognized for being the most charitable among all staffs at state agencies across the Rio Grande Valley, including outperforming other major universities and state offices. STC employees pledged more than $40,000 through the 2008 State Employees Charitable Campaign (SECC), administered by the United Way of South Texas. The college merited the SECC Lone Star Award for its effort.

“I always tell people that I work with some of the kindest hearted and generous individuals,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president. “Our employees give everything they have to the community to make the Valley a better place to live and work. I am so proud of the effort of our STC family and its continued commitment to helping others who may not have the resources to help themselves.”

“It’s an honor to work alongside my fellow STC employees,” said Jeff Heavin, STC Human Resources Specialist Program instructor and STC SECC coordinator. “Through the campaign I have learned so much about the depth of human compassion and caring because of the generosity of our employees.”

The SECC for 2008 involved 22 state agencies participating from the Rio Grande Valley. In all, Valley participants raised more than $260,000 to fund local charitable organizations.

“It’s a privilege to work with STC because every year the college community steps up to the challenge to raise more money than the previous year,” said Thelma Garza, United Way of South Texas president. “The success of our local non-profit agencies depends heavily on the contributions made during the campaign. The college is a role model to other institutions. They demonstrate that giving back can reap great benefits by creating a better future for our community.”

The 2009 SECC for the Valley will kick off in August 2009. For additional information call the United Way of South Texas at 956-686-6331. For additional information about the SECC visit http://www.secctexas.org.

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New school immunization requirements, affecting students up to the seventh grade, effective August 1

By BRAD TEGELER

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recently announced changes to school immunization requirements for five vaccines that will take effect August 1. The changes primarily affect students entering kindergarten and seventh grade.

All immunizations must be completed by the first day of attendance at public and private schools. Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, is encouraging parents to be aware of the changes and make sure their children meet the new requirements by the fall. Information about the new Texas immunization requirements was sent to health care providers, schools and child-care facilities earlier this year. The new requirements are listed below:

Hepatitis A vaccine: Students entering kindergarten statewide must have had two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine: Students entering kindergarten must have had two doses of the MMR vaccine. Students in grades 1 through 12 must continue to meet the current requirement, which is two doses of a measles-containing vaccine and one dose each of mumps and rubella vaccine.

Varicella vaccine: Students entering kindergarten and seventh grade must have had two doses. Students in grades 1 though 6 and 8 through 12 must continue to meet the current requirement, which is one dose of varicella vaccine.

Tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis-containing vaccine (Tdap): Students entering seventh grade must have had one dose of Tdap vaccine. Students in seventh grade must have had a booster dose of Tdap, but only if it has been five years since their last dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine. Students in grades 8 through 12 must have had a booster dose of Tdap if it has been 10 years since their last dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine.

Menigococcal vaccine: Students entering seventh grade must have had one dose.

The full list of immunization requirements effective Aug. 1 for the 2009-2010 school year is available at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/docs/school/6-14eng.pdf.

Immunizations also are required for children in pre-kindergarten and child-care facilities. Those requirements are available at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize/docs/school/childcare

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