Select Page

 

As powerful special interest groups, wealthy lobbyists, political operatives, and literally thousands of other Texans from all walks of life descend upon the Texas Legislature during the next five months, the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation will be presenting their own legislative wish list designed to improve the quality of life for its constituents. All three members of Edinburg’s state legislative delegation – including, featured here, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen – as well as Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, are ready to help promote the city’s legislative agenda, which includes more than 40 measures. "As county seat, as a center of higher and public education, and as a growing leader in health care and economic development, Edinburg has been an effective player in the legislative process," said Hinojosa. "They know how to work with their legislative delegations, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., they are well-respected by the state’s top legislative leadership, and they always come to the table well-prepared and ready to advocate for and protect their citizens’ best interests." Also featured with the two legislators during this October function in Edinburg are Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht and Mario Hinojosa, administrator for the Edinburg law office of Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. See lead story in this posting. 

••••••  

Edinburg school district South Middle School math teacher, Jennifer Alaniz-López, featured center, was the recipient of a $2,000 Classroom Energy Innovation Grant sponsored by First Choice Power. The grant called for teachers to submit proposals concerning special energy-related projects in the classroom. "Teachers have the power to engage their students’ minds and imaginations, but because of budget shortages, it is often difficult for them to implement projects that require additional funds," said Brian Hayduk, president, First Choice Power. "This grant program allows teachers to provide something special for their students, making energy an exciting topic in the classroom." Also participating in the grant presentation were Sonia Guajardo-López, representing First Choice Power, and Anthony Garza, the principal of South Middle School.     

•••••• 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, stands with UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen during a moment of silence in honor of the six people who were killed and several who were injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in the January 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Hinojosa held a press conference at UTPA on Wednesday, January 12 to address what measures Congress is taking in light of the incident. Hinojosa told a packed room inside the university’s International Trade and Technology building’s International Room that he would be meeting with the U.S. Marshals, FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies to determine what security measures can be taken to ensure that constituents and others who attend public events he holds for them will be safe. See story later in this posting.  

••••••  

Jacob De León from Memorial Funeral Home presents a sponsorship check to Letty González for Fiesta Edinburg 2011, which is being organized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. In conjunction, Fiesta Edinburg has announced that New Boyz will be the headline musical act on Friday, February 25, along with Jimmy González y Grupo Mazz on Saturday, February 26,  with Elida Reyna y Avante plus others. Featured, from left:  Edinburg Chamber of Commerce leaders Johnny Rodríguez, who is chairman of the board of directors; Elva Jackson Garza, a member of the board of directors; Letty González, the president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Jacob De León with Memorial Funeral Home; Edna Peña, the incoming chairwoman of the board of directors for the local chamber; Jason De León  with Memorial Funeral Home; and Cris Torres and Dalia Arce from Inter National Bank. Torres is also co-chair for Fiesta Edinburg and serves on the board of directors for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. More information on Fiesta Edinburg, including limited sponsorship opportunities for the event, are currently available at 956/383-4974,. See story later in this posting. 

••••••  

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, featured right, has filed two bills that address the intensification of drug violence in northern Mexico and its effects here in Texas. Lucio, who was at Edinburg City Hall on Monday, January 3 as part of the swearing-in ceremony for Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios, has filed Senate Bill 288, which would allow the state police to set up southbound checkpoints on roads leading to international bridges, and Senate Bill 289, which would outlaw the sale, use, manufacture, transportation and repair of "caltrops" – nails which are used to disable the tires of police cars in pursuit of criminals. Lucio said those two measures will be carried in the House of Representatives by Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg. The senator will be working with other Valley legislators and area leaders, including Palacios, on major measures designed to improve border security in the Valley. Featured, from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Commissioner Palacios; and Sen. Lucio. See story later in this posting. 

••••••  

Edinburg lays out comprehensive legislative agenda for action by state lawmakers in Austin

By DAVID A. DÍAZ 

As powerful special interest groups, wealthy lobbyists, political operatives, and literally thousands of other Texans from all walks of life descend upon the Texas Legislature during the next five months, the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation will be presenting their own legislative wish list designed to improve the quality of life for its constituents. 

From January 11 through May 31, the Texas Legislature will be meeting in Austin to consider up to 5,000 separate bills and resolutions, some which will have far-reaching impact, such as how the boundaries of congressional districts will be redrawn – thus increasing or diminishing an area’s access to billions of dollars a year in federal funds – to measures honoring local individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements. 

City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr., with help from the city government’s and EEDC’s department heads, prepared the preliminary legislative agenda. 

More than 40 individual pieces of legislation or legislative positions are being advocated in the city’s legislative agenda, which was reviewed by the city council on Tuesday, January 4, but still is awaiting any changes and final approval. 

Several of Edinburg’s priorities are identical in scope to issues being promoted by other Texas cities, such as preventing the Texas Legislature from imposing new responsibilities on local governments without providing state money to pay for those so-called "unfunded mandates". 

But most of the  initiatives are unique to the needs of Edinburg, including championing the importance of the University of Texas-Pan American and the UT Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg, which represent hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for the community. 

Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, whose House District 41 includes southwest Edinburg, said she will coordinate with Edinburg on their legislative priorities, including higher education. 

"Many of the UT System regents’ meetings are held here in Austin, so I or my staff will show up for those sessions when UT-Pan American and the UT-RAHC are involved," said Gonzáles. "In addition, I will work closely with the Edinburg city leadership whenever there are major issues directly affecting their city, both in the Texas Legislature and before any of the major state agencies." 

Councilmember Espinoza:

"Tell them exactly what we need." 

Councilmember Gene Espinoza said the city leadership must be prepared to have a visible presence at the Texas Capitol and with major state agencies. 

"It’s like anything else, we have to be in their face, whether they are Republican or Democrat," Espinoza said during the January 4 legislative work session. "Sometimes that is going to take more than one trip to Austin. It’s going to take working trips to go and sell ourselves, whether it is the city council or a lobbyist or city manager."  

Espinosa continued: "But if we want something, we have to almost take them by the hand and tell them exactly what we need. It just can’t be a one-time, then walk away. Some of these things are going to be very, very critical to us."  

A key to Edinburg’s successes and goals, the city’s state legislative delegation acknowledges, is the willingness of the city to shoot for the stars. 

"As county seat, as a center of higher and public education, and as a growing leader in health care and economic development, Edinburg has been an effective player in the legislative process," said Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, whose legislative district includes the three-time All-America City. "They know how to work with their legislative delegations, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., they are well-respected by the state’s top legislative leadership, and they always come to the table well-prepared and ready to advocate for and protect their citizens’ best interests." 

Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes the majority of Edinburg, said the city’s elected  leadership has always been effective in bringing its message to state leaders. 

"The City of Edinburg does a great job letting us know what is important to them and our community," said Peña. "A tough session lies ahead, and I am glad to have the working professionals at City Hall providing us with clear and concise information." 

Councilmember García: 

Preparing for hurricanes also a priority 

It may be winter, but in the Valley, that only means the six-month long hurricane season, which begins June 1, is in the not-too-distant horizon, especially after near-misses and actual strikes by the mammoth storms.  

For Edinburg, being prepared for tropical storms and hurricanes now includes seeking state and federal funding for its South Texas International Airport to help deal in advance – and in the aftermath – of weather emergencies. 

"Of great concern is our airport and drainage," said Councilmember Gus García, Jr. "We dodged a bullet last year, and have been fortunate in past years to not be ‘severely’ impacted by hurricane weather. 

"It is essential that we receive the necessary money from the state to prepare for these disasters," he added, warning that "not doing so will have a far greater impact by doing nothing today."  

Prayers in South Texas were answered last June 30, when Hurricane Alex shifted enough so that the brunt of its force was felt in the lower Valley as the eye of the Category 2 hurricane hit hardest in northeastern Mexico. 

"One only needs to visit La Blanca and the Delta area after a severe rainstorm to understand the potential for disaster that a direct hit by a category 3 or a category 4 hurricane would have on our city," Councilmember García noted. "They are already in ‘situation critical’. Unfortunately, all the flooding from the upper Valley flows to them, and the next area to feel it is Edinburg." 

Two years earlier, Edinburg and the Valley were not as fortunate, as Hurricane Dolly caused more than $1 billion in damages when it roared through South Texas, affecting every city, especially with heavy flooding.  

"Its a matter of time before it happens, its critical we get those funds now," he continued. "Everyone in the state will feel the impact if we are not ready. We have a real opportunity to prepare, there has to be money for these types of plans. If there is, it is my hope that our representatives are able to tap into it." 

As such, the city leadership will work with its state and federal legislators to identify and secure sources of money, including requesting funds from the U.S. Department of Defense and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for drainage improvements, runway extension and associated improvements. 

Other key legislative goals 

Several of the other key legislative goals being sought by the city include: 

• Request funds from the Governor’s Emergency Funds, Texas Department of Transportation for the building and maintenance of a key hanger facility. 

• Support continued funding of the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Texas Skills Development Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund; 

• Oppose legislation that would restrict the zoning authority of cities; 

• Oppose legislation that would impose on cities: mandatory water conservation measures; "tap fees" or other types of state charges on municipal water systems; or any other onerous regulations as they relate to utilities provided by a city; 

• Create a state low-cost spay/neuter program, through the Texas Department of Health. Legislation should be created mandating the state create the program, and/or subsidize the city with the costs associated with animal control, which have reached $170,000 annually in Edinburg; and 

• Change residential sprinkler law to allow local jurisdictions to determine requirements in community. 

Federal lobbying efforts succeeding 

Initially hired about a year ago by the city to lobby at the state and federal levels, law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker, LLP, which has an office in Washington, D.C., has been focusing on national legislation and federal agencies, the city manager noted. 

"They basically work on our federal issues. We don’t have a state (lobbyist)," the city manager informed City Councilmember Alma Garza after she asked why that firm did not have a representative at the January 4 legislative workshop.  

"But we are working with them closely, mostly on a lot of the (federal) funding opportunities, in particular in the areas of homeland security and FEMA (Federal Emergency Administration Agency)," the city manager continued. "A lot of these funds, we have found, come from the federal government. But they are not sent directly to the cities, they are sent by way of a state agency. As funding is made available, we see which programs these funds are being made a part, so we can apply directly for those programs. We are working closely with them (Stinson, Morrison Hecker, LLP)." 

The mayor agreed, noting the city’s increasing focus on influencing the flow of federal money to state programs which can directly benefit Edinburg. 

"I will say that about a month ago, we met with our lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and he set up some appointments for us with FEMA, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) brought us in connection with what you see here in the request for runway expansion," Mayor García noted. 

The mayor reviewed the city’s federal efforts to improve the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, which is located about a dozen miles north of downtown. 

"The lobbyist in Washington has been very, very helpful in setting up these meetings, and apparently, knows everyone and works very well," the mayor observed. "We also met with (U.S. Department of) Homeland Security for the purposes of setting up a U.S. Customs facility (at the Edinburg airport). I think that went very well. As a matter of fact, according to what we were told there, it is going to happen very soon." 

Councilmember Noé  Garza expressed dismay that federal funds that are secured for Edinburg projects sometimes wind up redirected to other purposes when they get to the state agencies, such as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which are often designated by the federal government to distribute federal funds. 

"One of the things we want to make sure is that they go to certain areas we want to work on," Noé Garza emphasized. "As you recall, the last $800,000 grant we received from Congressman (Rubén) Hinojosa (D-Mercedes), the federal government sent it to TxDOT Aviation, and TxDOT just pooled it in with all their projects." 

Edinburg has proven track record 

For Edinburg, influencing state legislative measures deemed by its elected leadership as being important to its citizens – well, as the catch phrase so aptly puts it – "This ain’t (their) first rodeo". 

For almost 15 years, under the leadership of different administrations led by former Mayor Joe Ochoa and current Mayor García, the Edinburg City Council has achieved remarkable goals for the community, particularly for a community that has not even reached a population of 100,000. 

The $25 million University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center at Edinburg, the pending $50 million remodeling of the UT-Pan American Fine Arts Complex, and the proposed $90 million for new construction at the local university are among some of the achievements and goals for the local city, and those big-ticket items don’t include an additional tens of millions of dollars in state grants and appropriations which have been secured for the expansion of U.S. Highway 281 in east Edinburg and major roadway improvements, such as expansions of Trenton, McColl, Jackson and Sugar roads. 

City of Edinburg 2011 Legislative Agenda 

The following is a list of legislative priorities for the City of Edinburg. 

Unfunded mandates 

Oppose legislation that would require expenditures by the city without a source of revenue provided by the state.  

Erosion of Municipal Powers 

1. Oppose changes to the current property and sales tax systems as well as other income producing structures that would cause the city to lose revenue or the ability to raise revenue. 

2. Support simplifying the effective tax rate calculation for notice purposes only, provided the legislation would have no effect on the underlying effective tax rate and rollback tax rate calculations themselves. 

Land-Use Regulation and Annexation 

1. Oppose legislation that would restrict the zoning authority of cities. 

2. Oppose legislation that erodes the authority of cities to annex. 

Economic Development 

Issue: The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation seeks to build a strong economy where companies can grow and prosper. 

Legislative Action: Support continue funding of the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Texas Skills Development Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. 

Support tax abatements and other economic development incentives providing maximum control and flexibility, including the economic development sales tax law. 

1. Oppose attempts to restrict the ability of cities to use 4A and 4B funds.  

2. Support the ability of cities to hold a single election to eliminate one special use tax and to adopt another.   

3. Oppose attempts to restrict the use of economic development tools such as tax abatement, tax increment reinvestment zones and Chapter 389 agreements. 

4. Support increasing the maximum loan limits for the Texas Leverage Fund loan program. 

5. Support tax abatements and other economic development incentives providing maximum control and flexibility, including the economic development sales tax law. 

6. Support clarifying legislation for the Texas Enterprise Zone Program to allow developments to receive reimbursement of sales taxes paid on construction utilizing the jobs created by lessees. 

7. Support real property tax exemptions for economic development corporations. 

8. Regional distribution of state-contracted data centers. 

Transportation 

1. Support state-funded and local-option funding choices to be utilized for transportation purposes. 

2. Support legislation that would discontinue the diversion of transportation revenues to non-transportation purposes and appropriate all revenues from highway user fees and taxes to fund transportation projects. 

3. Support legislation which grant Metropolitan Planning Organizations parallel authority (alongside with the Texas Department of Transportation) for, but not limited to, fund allocation, distribution, accounting and administration. 

4. Provide additional funding for off-system (TxDOT) transportation projects. 

Right-of-Way and Utilities 

1. Oppose legislation that would negatively impact the city’s authority over its right-of-way. 

2. Oppose legislation that would limit the city’s current ability to receive fair market compensation for use of its public rights-of-way.  

3. Support resolution of dispute between the Texas Department of Transportation and investor-owned utilities relative to the national code under which street lighting in state right-of-ways is installed. 

4. Oppose legislation limiting a city’s ability requiring utility companies to relocate their facilities (non-compensable utilities) in a timely manner. 

5. Oppose legislation that would impose on cities: mandatory water conservation measures; "tap fees" or other types of state charge on municipal water systems; or any other onerous regulations as they relate to utilities provided by a city.  

Police Department 

Issue: Legally, the city has no legal requirement to transport the mentally ill. The state has not taken the responsibility, consequently, the city has absorbed the cost of transporting these individuals to the nearest (appropriate) MHMR facility, which in most cases is (in) San Antonio. 

Legislative Action: The city proposed to create legislation that would require the state to reimburse local governments for transporting mentally-ill patients to the nearest MHMR facility. 

Issue: The Animal Control Department will become a more efficient and productive department by reducing the number of animals taken to the Humane Society. the department will provide the city with an animal control system that will reduce the number of unwanted animals and protect the health and safety of the public. The City of Edinburg has seen a steady rise in stray animals; costs associated with sending animals to the animal shelter has reached about $170,000 a year. The city’s cost for processing these animals in $56 per animal. 

Legislative Action: The City of Edinburg proposes creating a state low-cost spay/neuter program, through the Department of Health. Legislation should be created mandating the state create the program, and/or subsidize the city with the costs associated with animal control. 

Airport 

Issue: The state of Texas has designate the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg as part of its emergency preparedness staging area. In order to support post-landfall operations and the use of lift aircraft by the U.S. Department of Defense, upgrading the airfield is necessary. 

Legislative Action: Request funds from the Governor’s Emergency Funds, Texas Department of Transportation for the building and maintenance of a key hanger facility. Request funds from the U.S. Department of Defense and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for drainage improvements, runway extension and associated improvements. 

Issue: As part of its improvement strategies, the City of Edinburg submitted an Appropriations Request Form Fiscal Year 2011 to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s office and U.S. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa’s office in the amount of $8 million. The projected earmark is for the construction to widen and extend the existing 75 foot wide by 5,000 feet long runway to 100 feet wide and 7,800 feet long asphalt runway with parallel taxi-way for the airport. 

Fire Department 

Issue: The City of Edinburg is a growing and prospering community and the Volunteer Fire Department needs to keep up with an educated department. 

Legislative Action:  

1. Support the modification of the fire hydrant bill to minimize liability to private water corporations. 

2. Support the current State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Association Certification Program for volunteer firefighters. 

3. Support Texas Forest Service from being removed or abolished. They are currently under sunset review. 

4. Support to change residential sprinkler law to allow local jurisdiction to determine requirements in community. 

5. Maintain current or additional funding for Texas Commission on Fire Protection, State Fire Marshall and Texas Forest Services. No five percent cut in funding. 

Parks and Recreation 

Issue: Parks improve the quality of life in the city and funding recreation areas has been challenging, especially with statewide need. 

Legislative Action: Support funding allocated for the Texas Recreation Parks Account Grant Program. Supprt legislation that would create a (state) constitutional dedication of sporting goods sales tax revenue for use for state and local parks. 

1. Aggressively oppose any additional cuts to the local Parks fund and seek restoration of the fund to its approved capacity of the 80th legislative session. 

2. Support legislation that creates a constitutional dedication of sporting goods sales tax revenue for use for state and local parks. 

3. Ensure that no legislative appropriation riders are allows that set aside Texas Recreation and Parks Account (TRPA) moneys for specific projects or locales. TRAPS maintains that all candidate grant projects should be subject to the established competitive grant process. 

City Secretary 

Issue: The city gets voter registration lists from the county with a general address and no specific coding if the voter lives within the city’s boundaries. The County Elections Department is failing to update voter registrations on a timely basis, thereby creating conflict and confusion where residents vote. The city is doing its part by providing the county with the latest address information for voters. A year later, the county has still not updated the correct information and the city sees an increase in provisional voters. 

Legislative Action: According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the laws stipulates counties are responsible and should provide current and updated voter registration listing. The city recommends amending the code to enforce this law. 

Issue: Death certificates. The Texas Electronic Registration, a new system that the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics has implemented in order to update manual books. Funeral directors are now required to use this new system to file and acquire a death certificate for a cost of $21 for the first certificate and $4 for more than one. This new system bypasses the city. 

University of Texas-Pan American 

The City of Edinburg supports the University of Texas-Pan American’s legislative appropriation request for the 2011-2012 biennium. 

University of Texas Health Science Center (San Antonio) 

Legislative Agenda: The City of Edinburg supports the University of Texas Health Science Center’s legislative appropriation request for the 2011-2012 biennium. The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio runs the Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg and in Harlingen. 

Library  

Issue: The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) provides services to libraries, researchers and state government including the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library and the City of Edinburg. 

Legislative Action: Protect TSLAC’s budget. (See Article I of the General Appropriations Act). 

Issue: TexShare Online Information provides world-class online research materials available to all the state’s universities and communities through their public libraries.  TexShare is not only needed to provide accurate information to all city and county residents in topics of research it will also allow for resources to support training for police officers, first responders and countless other learners. 

Legislative Action: Appropriate $4.012 million for TexShare Online Information as requested in the TSLAC’s exceptional items request.   

Issue: Support the Loan Star Libraries Grant- this grant program awards funds to public libraries to support communities. Through this annual grant the Sekula Memorial Library has been able to buy books, audio visual materials, furniture and even computers all in an effort to best serve our community. 

Legislative action: Appropriate an additional $4 million for the Loan Star Libraries as requested in the TSLAC’s exceptional items request. 

•••••• 

Comptroller Combs announces $72.2 billion available in state funds for upcoming two-year budget; Sen. Hinojosa says that estimate represents more than a $15 billion shortfall

By R.J. DeSilva 

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Monday, January 10, released the state’s Biennial Revenue Estimate showing the state is projected to have $72.2 billion available for general-purpose spending during the 2012-13 biennium. 

That figure prompted the following assessment from Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who  serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and member of the Legislative Budget Board. 

"The biennial revenue estimates we received from Comptroller Susan Combs this morning don’t translate into good news for Texans," said Hinojosa. "We face a budget shortfall that exceeds $15 billion and a projected 2.9 percent decline in state collections that will make it a challenge to adequately invest in our children’s education, health care, and other services that are crucial for the state’s economic recovery." 

The state’s general revenue collections from sources such as taxes, fees and other income is estimated to be $77.3 billion for the 2012-13 biennium, of which more than $800 million would be set aside as part of future transfers to the Rainy Day Fund, leaving approximately $76.5 billion in net general revenue.  

Offsetting that revenue is a projected negative $4.3 billion ending balance for the current biennium, leaving the Legislature the estimated $72.2 billion for general purpose spending for the next biennium. 

"This legislative session will be daunting, but we will work hard to assure that the quality of state services don’t suffer as a result of our budget challenges," said Hinojosa. "Neglecting these issues will only limit our economic prosperity and the future success of all Texans." 

Lawmakers will address reducing the negative ending balance for the current biennium when they convene for the legislative session. 

“The recent recession has had its impact on the state revenue outlook as major revenue sources such as the sales tax generated less money in the last couple of years,” Combs said. “While we have turned the corner to an economic recovery, the revenue estimate I’m releasing today is for moderate growth.” 

Economic growth in the state is projected to reflect a growing population and revival of business activity. The Texas economy, in inflation-adjusted terms, is projected to increase by 2.6 percent in fiscal 2011 compared to the previous year, and by 2.8 percent in fiscal 2012 and 3.4 percent in fiscal 2013. 

Texas had lost about 431,300 jobs from the time of the state’s employment peak in the summer of 2008 to the bottoming of employment in the fall of 2009. But since then, the state has added back more than 220,000 jobs, and is on track to gain back all lost jobs by the second half of fiscal 2012. 

The state’s largest tax revenue source is the sales tax, which accounts for more than half the state’s general revenue. It is expected to generate approximately $42.9 billion in the 2012-13 biennium, an increase of about $3 billion, or 8 percent, from the current biennium. 

Among other large tax revenue sources, the motor vehicle sales tax is expected to generate about $5.8 billion in 2012-13, an 8.8 percent increase from the current biennium. Natural gas production tax revenue is expected to increase by more than 10 percent to $1.5 billion the next biennium. The oil production tax is projected to generate about $1.9 billion, about a 4 percent decline. The state’s total franchise tax revenue is estimated at $8.8 billion for 2012-13, about an 11 percent increase. 

“The state’s economy is growing, but we have not yet reached a stage of sustained and broad-based robust growth,” Combs said. “I would urge lawmakers to continue their historical practice of careful budget deliberations.” 

At the end of the current biennium, the state’s Rainy Day Fund will have a balance of about $8.2 billion. At the end of the 2012-13 biennium the balance would be approximately $9.4 billion, absent any appropriation that might be made by the 82nd Legislature. 

State revenue for all purposes is estimated at $177.8 billion for the biennium, which would include approximately $100.5 billion in federal receipts and other income. 

The full Biennial Revenue Estimate ll is available on the Comptroller’s Web site at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxbud/bre2012

Daniela Santoni contributed to this article. 

•••••• 

Congressman Hinojosa addresses Arizona shooting during meeting at UT-Pan American

By JENNIFER BERGHOM  

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, January 12, addressed faculty and staff of The University of Texas-Pan American, as well as other members of the community, about the recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona congresswoman and colleague of Hinojosa, among several others. 

Hinojosa told a packed room inside the University’s International Trade and Technology building’s International Room that he would be meeting with the U.S. Marshals, FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies to determine what security measures can be taken to ensure that constituents and others who attend public events he holds for them will be safe.  

Likewise, federal law enforcement agencies are discussing ways to step up security for lawmakers, he said. 

He also told those who attended the Wednesday morning press conference that more information regarding security measures would be known in about a month or so. 

"I have a serious commitment to help the people I represent … at the same time in our post 9/11 world increased security and inconveniences like airport screenings are now a way of life. We need to find a way to balance the need for security with our need to keep a responsive democracy," Hinojosa said. 

The congressman also told the crowd about Giffords, who he calls a friend, and the six people who died from the incident. 

Giffords, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, which comprises moderate Democratic members of Congress, serves with Hinojosa on the Congressional Border Caucus and just a few days before the shooting the two discussed whether legislation requesting more protection along the border should call for more Army Reservists or Border Patrol agents. Though they didn’t always agree on every issue, Giffords was never confrontational during disputes and often voted with the rest of her Democratic peers on education issues, Hinojosa said. 

Hinojosa said Giffords told her fellow lawmakers she was looking forward to returning to Arizona and meeting with constituents. 

Ironically, Hinojosa added, Giffords has supported gun ownership rights allowed under the Second Amendment. 

"To have someone come right up to her and try to assassinate her, you can see it impacted all members of Congress," Hinojosa said as he tried to contain his emotions during the press conference. "An attack on one is an attack on all of us." 

Hinojosa said he and his wife learned of the shootings while watching TV that Saturday afternoon and described that day and those following the incident as a rollercoaster of emotions. 

"I know there is a disagreement about whether the hatred and the disrespect that has entered not only political debates but all areas of life cause people to commit acts of violence. Whether it does or not I truly believe that we all need to return to more civil ways of expressing ourselves," Hinojosa said. 

"As the new speaker John Boehner says we can disagree without being disagreeable. I may not agree with the new speaker on a lot of issues, but I do think he is right about this position he stated on Monday. People who disagree with us are not evil demons planning to destroy the world. They are people just like you and I, people with families with hopes and dreams, who love this country as much as we do. I think we can honor the memory of those we lost in Tucson by toning down our words and by restoring respect and civility," he said. 

Hinojosa and UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen led the group in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the shootings. 

Afterward, the congressman answered questions from those in attendance. 

Nelsen said the University invited Hinojosa to come to campus and update the community on what is being done to ensure their safety and that of their elected leaders. 

"This is the time to be civil, this is the time to come together, this is the time for UT Pan Am and the Valley to show the rest of the world how we do it right and how we are family and that we can be together," Nelsen said. 

•••••• 

Sen. Lucio’s legislative agenda includes measures addressing Mexican drug cartels

By BEN WRIGHT 

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, has filed two bills that address the intensification of drug violence in northern Mexico and its effects here in Texas. 

"The drug war in Mexico affects Texas families, which is why it is our business to act," Lucio said. "These bills will give the DPS new tools with which to combat cartel activity in Texas, while also making life harder for the cartels in Mexico." 

Senate Bill 288 and Senate Bill 289 are companions to House Bill 48 and House Bill 47 respectively, filed by Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg. During the legislative interim, Peña was chair of the House Select Committee on Emergency Preparedness. The committee recently filed its interim report with the Speaker of the House. Both bills are recommendations of the committee report. 

"I salute the excellent work that Chairman Peña and the committee have produced during the interim," said Lucio. "Their work will make Texas and particularly the Texas border a safer place." 

SB 288 would enable the DPS to establish southbound checkpoints on roads leading to international bridges. The DPS would use these checkpoints to counter the alarming growth in smuggling from the United States to Mexico. The Rio Grande Guardian recently quoted a federal source stating that Mexico’s drug cartels collect more than $23 billion in illicit drug proceeds every year – much of it being smuggled back into Mexico as bulk cash shipments. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that about 90 percent of the weapons used in crimes in Mexico are smuggled from the United States (40% from Texas alone). 

"We need to be honest about our role in the drug war and courageous in our response," Lucio said. "American demand for drugs means profits for cartels. If we stem the flow of guns and money to Mexico, we can help bring peace back to our sister nation." 

SB 289 would outlaw the sale, use, manufacture, transportation and repair of "caltrops."  

Caltrops are tire deflation devices that are used by criminals in order evade capture by law enforcement personnel. Though rudimentary, the devices, shaped like three dimensional stars, rip through a vehicle’s tires which can cause serious injuries to peace officers in pursuit of an offender. They have been used by criminals who are attempting to flee to Mexico after committing crimes in Texas. 

•••••• 

Rep. Hilderbran files legislation that would require voters to show photo identification 

By ISAAC ALBARADO 

Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, on Thursday, January 13, filed legislation to protect the integrity of the state’s election system by requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. 

“Voter identification requirements will fulfill the intent of the voter registration system by ensuring that only eligible individuals are participating in elections,” Hilderbran said. “Deceptive voting practices aren’t hypothetical. Voter fraud is occurring in our state, and Texans have called on the legislature to provide stronger safeguards for our elections.” 

Under House Bill 250, voters would need to show a current driver’s license or photo identification card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, an unexpired military ID card, a U.S. passport, or a U.S. citizenship certificate. 

Hilderbran said his legislation will allow Texans to obtain state-issued photo ID cards for voting purposes at no cost. 

“We can no longer allow voter fraud to plague our state, but at the same time we don’t want to create a system where anyone is disenfranchised,” Hilderbran said. 

The bill will also allow individuals not carrying photo identification to cast a provisional ballot. Voters must then provide proof of their identity within six days in order to have their vote counted. 

The measure also calls for a voter identification education program that would require the Texas Secretary of State and the voter registrar of each county that maintains a website to provide notice of the photo identification requirements. The secretary of state would come up with the language to be used on those county websites. 

•••••• 

Lawmakers recommend major changes to agencies dealing with transportation, oil and natural gas, and juvenile justice

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission approved a number of changes to major state agencies on Wednesday, January 12, sending the recommendations for consideration to the full House and Senate.  

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, serves on the 12-member commission, which has five senators and five state representatives. 

Each state agency must go through the Sunset process every 12 years, so members of both legislative chambers review agency operations and functions and make modifications. Sunset recommendations approved included the Juvenile Probation Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation, Public Utilities Commission and the Railroad Commission. 

Perhaps the most significant change approved was the abolishment of the Juvenile Probation Commission and the Texas Youth Commission. The Sunset Commission recommended that these agencies be combined into one agency, called the Juvenile Justice Commission, which would be reviewed again by the commission in 2016. Members of Sunset also approved changes to the Texas Department of Transportation, voting 7 to 5 to move from five commissioners to one, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The commission also voted to require quarterly reports from TxDOT to the Legislature and would dedicate fees collected from outdoor advertisers to a fund to beautify Texas roads and highways. 

The commission approved a recommendation to change the name of the Texas Railroad Commission to the Texas Oil and Gas Commission, and change from three elected commissioners to one. Members also approved a recommendation to prevent seated commissioners from accepting political donations for another campaign until the final year of their term as commissioner. This is aimed at preventing conflicts of interests where commissioners would receive contributions from parties under their regulatory authority. 

All of the recommendations approved Wednesday, January 12, by the Sunset Commission must first be voted on by both chambers of the Legislature and signed by the governor before they could go into effect. 

In 1977, the Texas Legislature created the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. The 12-member commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years.  

The commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities.  

The commission seeks public input through hearings on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are automatically abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them. 

Also on Wednesday, January 12, Sen. Florence Shapiro, D-Plano, announced the filing of a bill that would criminalize the possession, sale and use of "synthetic marijuana." There is currently no state law that prevents the sale and use of chemicals that mimic THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. 

Shapiro said these chemicals are actually more harmful than marijuana and should be made illegal.  

"I am very concerned about where we are going if we do not ban this product," she said. "It is very clear to all of us that a statewide ban remains necessary, as well as the best solution to this growing problem."  

Her bill, Senate Bill 331, would penalize the possession and sale of these chemicals the same as amphetamines, Ecstacy and other drugs, making the penalties actually more severe than possession of just marijuana. Sixteen states and more than 50 Texas cities have criminalized synthetic marijuana. 

•••••• 

UT-Pan American Day, featuring Mariachi Aztlán, set for January 27 at Texas Capitol

The University of Texas-Pan American will be bringing a little South Texas flair to the State Capitol on Thursday, January 27, when UT Pan American Day is celebrated in the historic Rotunda. 

Sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, with assistance from the rest of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation, UT Pan American Day at the Capitol will celebrate all that is great about the university, including its award-winning Mariachi Aztlán, which will be the center of attention in the Rotunda from noon to 1 p.m. 

“The idea to have a day at the Capitol was proposed by President (Robert S.) Nelsen, who wants to introduce UT Pan American to the entire legislature and share our story,” said Janice Odom, vice president for university advancement. “The legislature will have just convened, and we want to be there to let them know all about the extraordinary things going on here.” 

UT Pan American Day at the Capitol is the perfect opportunity for the Austin community and UT Pan Am alumni in the Austin-San Antonio area to check out the university’s student musical group that this year has not only played at the White House, but also has won a grand championship title and performed with the Houston Grand Opera, all in a few short months. 

“Even though the holidays will be behind us, we will be giving the gift of South Texas music to Austin by providing them the opportunity to hear our magnificent student group,” Odom said. 

In addition, the UT Pan American Foundation Board of Trustees will hold its winter board meeting in Austin January 28 to coincide with the Capitol event, in which some of the board members are expected to participate. 

The agenda for UT Pan American Day at the Capitol Thursday, January 27, includes the following: 

• Noon – 1 p.m. – Mariachi Aztlán, which will be the center of attention in the Rotunda from noon to 1 p.m. will showcase its musical talents in the Capitol Rotunda. 

• 1:15 – 1:30 p.m. – Photo op for UT Pan Am delegation, Valley legislators, alumni, and supporters on the Capitol steps. 

• 1:45 – 3:45 p.m. – UT Pan Am delegation, including students, administrators, alumni and Foundation trustees, will fan out for visits throughout the Capitol. 

According to Mark Sáenz, assistant to the vice president for business affairs and UTPA’s government relations coordinator, the day will offer members of the UT Pan American Student Government Association, alumni and UT Pan Am Foundation an opportunity to visit with all legislative members and let them know about the University and its impact on the region and state. 

All UT Pan Am alumni in the area are invited to join the festivities and support their alma mater.

“We hope to see our UTPA supporters out there in Austin to help us celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of our University,” Sáenz said. 

For more information on UT Pan American Day at the Capitol, contact the Division of University Advancement at (956) 665-3663.  

••••••  

Sen. Hinojosa secures $75,000 state grant to help out disabled Texans in Coastal Bend 

By DANIELA SANTONI 

The Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities Agency granted $75,000 in funding to the Area Agency on Aging of the Coastal Bend (AAA) to create the Coastal Bend Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has announced. 

Hinojosa’s senatorial district includes Corpus Christi and Nueces County. 

This funding gives aging individuals and people with cognitive and physical disabilities access to long term services and support. explained Hinojosa, who also serves as Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.  

"This is a win-win for the families in the Coastal Bend and I congratulate the Area Agency on Aging for their efforts," the South Texas legislator said. "The AAA will now be able to create the Coastal Bend Aging and Disabilities Resource Center with the $75,000 grant, which will help streamline access to services and support programs. This will allow our communities to make informed choices for the future of our loved ones.  

Hinojosa estimated that several thousand new individuals will receive information and assistance, plus area professionals will receive further training with the state support.  

"The Coastal Bend Aging and Disabilities Resource Center is a great example of the kind of partnerships that must be fostered to give our constituents access to the best possible programs. It’s a perfect example of great public service," said Hinojosa. 

The Area Agency on Aging of the Coastal Bend (AAA), a program division of Coastal Bend Council of Governments (CBCOG), housed within the CBCOG, was created by virtue of Resolution No. 234 on February 22, 1974 and is one of 28 Area Agencies on Aging in Texas.  

In accepting this authority, the Area Agency on Aging of the Coastal Bend assumes responsibility for the development and administration of a comprehensive and coordinated network of support services for older persons, operating under Title III of the Older American Act and Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services for Coastal Bend residents who are: 

• 60 years of age or older;

   • Caregivers of individuals age 60 and over; or

   • Medicare beneficiaries of any age. (Services limited to information and advocacy for Medicare

beneficiaries under 60 years of age) 

The purpose of the Area Agency on Aging of the Coastal Bend is to plan and coordinate comprehensive, community based programs which responds to those older persons in the Coastal Bend Region with the greatest social and economic needs, especially the frail, low income and minorities, enabling them to remain independent and healthy as long as possible. 

••••••  

Laredo Mayor Salinas takes his city’s legislative agenda to Washington, D.C.

By XÓCHITL MORA GARCÍA 

Laredo Mayor Raul G. Salinas traveled to Washington, D.C. over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday to join more than 250 of the nation’s mayors for the 79th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.    

Salinas had been asked by Elizabeth B. Kautz, mayor of Burnsville, Minnesota, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who serves as vice present of the organization, to assume a leadership role on the Conference of Mayors’ Homeland Security Committee and Immigration Reform Task Force. Salinas crafted the Conference of Mayor’s policy statement on immigration with Villaraigosa, highlighting the role Laredo plays in Homeland Security.  

In addition to his leadership obligations, Salinas was scheduled to participate in meetings with congressional and Obama Administration leaders to address the federal agenda’s impact on job creation and economic growth in Laredo. That agenda included a special Mayors-Only Strategy Sessionon the subject. Salinas also was scheduled to meet with Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen and his congressional staff on Wednesday, January 19, to outline the City of Laredo’s legislative agenda.  

Additionally, Salinas will leave the conference early on Thursday, January 20, to travel to Tucson, Arizona at the request of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin. Believing that most solutions are local in nature, Bersin is assembling U.S. and Mexican mayors from border cities to strategize how best local government can share intelligence, solutions and jointly meet the challenges facing communities on each side of the border.   

“While I would love to stay in Washington, especially since the mayors will have an audience with President Obama on Friday, Commissioner Bersin has made it clear that Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are the model for cross border cooperation, and he feels that without City of Nuevo Laredo Mayor Benjamín Gálvez-Galván and my presence, the effort will not achieve the running start we all seek.  We all need to work together on these challenges,” said Salinas.   

While in Tucson, Salinas expressed a desire to lay a wreath in memory of the victims of the Saturday, January 8 shooting rampage that killed six individuals, and injured 13 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.  

While in Washington, Salinas would be staying with his daughter as a means to avoid costly hotel bills. 

••••••  

Congressman Cuellar files legislation that would require a balanced federal budget

By LESLEY LÓPEZ   

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Tuesday, January 11, announced that he has filed his first bill of the 112th Congress, HJ Res. 10, which  calls for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget.  

This bill requires Congress to produce a balanced budget every fiscal year and requires the President to submit a balanced budget in his or her annual transmission to Congress. It also protects Social Security benefits, ensuring that our most vulnerable are not subject to a reduction in their guaranteed benefits when they need them the most. 

“Families in South Texas make tough decisions every day about their budgets. Congress should learn a lesson from them about how to live within its means,” said Cuellar. “Reducing the national debt is not only critical for our community’s economic recovery — it’s critical for future generations of Americans. This bill sets the tone for the important work on fiscal responsibility I aim to accomplish in the 112th Congress.”  

Forty-nine states currently require an annual balanced budget, and an amendment to the Constitution will finally hold the federal government to the same, commonsense standard. 

“We cannot afford to short-change young Americans and future generations – who will undoubtedly face higher taxes and cuts to federal investments in priorities such as education, transportation and national security – if the budget fails to be managed,” said Cuellar. 

Earlier in January, Cuellar’s bipartisan legislation to increase government efficiency, H.R. 2142, was signed into law by the President. The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 is a landmark move toward increasing transparency and accountability by requiring federal agencies to establish performance goals that can be measured and reported to Congress and taxpayers.   

In 2010, Cuellar helped pass statutory Pay-As-You-Go legislation to reestablish spending rules for Congress to rein in federal spending, draw down the nation’s debt and restore the fiscal discipline of the 1990s when deficits were turned into record-setting surpluses. PAYGO rules last expired in the House in late 2002. 

••••••   

Rep. Solomons files bill that would ban  unfunded mandates on local governments 

By BONNIE BRUCE   

A bill would prohibit the Texas Legislature from passing mandates on local governments without providing for funding was filed in Austin on Monday, January 10, by Rep. Bert R. Solomons, R-Carrollton. 

The measure, House Joint Resolution 56, was filed on January 10, 2011.  

On Wednesday, January 12, Solomons was flanked by members of county and city governments as well as community colleges during a morning press conference at the Capitol. 

He discussed the importance of a constitutional amendment he has filed to limit the Texas Legislature’s authority to pass legislation which would require mandates of local governments without providing a funding source. The legislation, House Joint Resolution 56, defines a local government as a county, a city, a hospital district, a community college district, or a special district created by the action of a county, city, hospital district, or community college.  

"All across the state and the nation, for that matter, citizens are telling governments they want them to live within their means and to not pass along unfunded mandates. People are fed up with the federal government mandating Texas to provide services that were not endorsed by its citizens or funded by the federal government. Gov. Perry campaigned on it,"  said Solomons. "Well, we shouldn’t be doing the same thing to our local governments."  

As early as 2004, all but one of the 254 counties in Texas passed resolutions asking the Legislature to address the issue of unfunded mandates and even back then, 30 states had some kind of limits on unfunded mandates.  

Unfunded mandates dramatically impact a local government’s budget. It removes the discretion local governments have to manage their own budgets, and can impact their bond ratings, limiting their ability to finance local projects. For many counties and cities who are at the statutory maximum tax rate, unfunded mandates give local governments no option but to cut services for their constituents.  

For those who are not capped out, unfunded mandates force tax increases that the state officials then decry.  

Dr. Richard Rhodes, President of the El Paso Community College and Chair of the Texas Association of Community Colleges stated that "Now, state funding of community colleges is down to 25 percent, leaving students and taxpayers to pay the rest."  

"Although fiscal notes provide us with information about the local fiscal impact, they do not hold us accountable," said Solomons. "Texas legislators talk about not passing unfunded mandates, but sometimes things don’t work out the way people talk. If a local government gets sued for not being able to afford to implement an unfunded mandate from the state, HJR 56 provides them with a defense. In practical terms, if a person tries to tell a local government that they must increase spending because of a bill passed after January 1, 2012, then the local government can point to this constitutional provision and decide not to increase spending for that purpose."  

••••••  

Attorney General Abbott calls on Congress to increase security measures along border  

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday, January 14, called on congressional leaders to fully investigate the Thursday, January 13 shooting along the south Texas border. Gunmen in Mexico fired across the border at U.S. road workers in rural West Texas, in what local law enforcement considers to be an attempt by drug smugglers to scare the workers away so that their smuggling operations in the U.S. could continue.  

Abbott’s demand for a federal investigation comes after at least four incidents where bullets from

Mexico have crossed the border, putting at risk the safety and security of Texas residents.  

In his letter addressed to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Peter King, R-New York, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Abbott highlighted his concerns. 

"Six months ago, I warned President Obama about the life-threatening danger of bullets flying across the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas. At that time, El Paso’s City Hall had just been struck by gunfire from the Mexican side of the border," Abbott wrote to the congressional leaders. "In August of last year, more stray bullets from inside Mexico struck school buildings at the University of Texas at El Paso. And in November of last year, the University of Texas at Brownsville – where bullets from Mexico have struck school buildings – was forced to cancel classes due to a bloody battle between the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels that raged for hours only steps across the border in Matamoros.  

Abbott said he is urging the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee to "examine how cross-border violence is threatening border communities, and determine what the federal government can do to protect border residents." 

As attorney general, Abbott said he is prepared to appear before those two congressional committees to brief national leaders on those problems and how that are affecting the state. 

•••••• 

Gov. Perry appoints Cynthia "Cindy" León of Mission to Texas Public Safety Commission

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed A. Cynthia "Cindy" León of Mission to the Texas Public Safety Commission for a term to expire Jan. 1, 2016. The commission is responsible for formulating and overseeing policies for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s chief law enforcement agency. 

León is a retired regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She is a life member of the Naval Reserve Association, Navy League, U.S. Naval Institute and the Reserve Officers Association. She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum and Leadership Texas, and past chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio Federal Executive Boards. She served as a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves. 

León received a bachelor’s degree from Austin College and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

León is married to Hollis Rutledge, a South Texas governmental affairs expert with state and national credentials who is also the former longtime chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party. 

•••••• 

Memorial Funeral Home among sponsors for Fiesta Edinburg, which is set for February 25

By EVANA VLECK 

Fiesta Edinburg has announced that New Boyz will be the headline musical act for Fiesta Edinburg on Friday, February 25,  along with Jimmy González y Grupo Mazz on Saturday, February 26,  with Elida Reyna y Avante plus others.  

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing the annual event, anticipates a large crowd and big community support.  The weekend event will have the traditional parade and Heart of America Carnival. In addition, the festivities will feature a partnership with the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center and Texas Parks and Wildlife for the RGV Coastal Expo, which also are taking place during the final weekend in February at the Edinburg Municipal Park. 

One of the pavilions during Fiesta Hidalgo will host the “fun and ease of education”.  This area will host various attractions including face painting, dancers, musical groups, as well as poetry readings. Partnering with the University of Texas-Pan American and the Dustin Michael Sekula Library has enabled Fiesta Edinburg to grow bigger, attracting a larger crowd.   

New Boyz are the young rappers that led to the jerk movement, they did a hit song You’re a Jerk

New Boyz started in 2009 as an underground phenomenon of youth from high desert in southern California, but only a few months they have been rising stars at the national level in this short period of time. 

Seventeen-year-old Ben J and Legacy has gone from local shows in the high school gym to performing on the red carpet at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards, and currently  book an impressive lineup of concerts across the country.   

This will skip surprising success of their track You’re a Jerk, a hypnotic dance floor-fillers as the New York Times called "pretty much perfect". Although it began as a favorite on MySpace, it has been certified against it not only became the most requested track on the influential LA radio station Power 106, but it’s taken over playlists around the country during the first week on sale on iTunes, You’re a Jerk sold more than 53,000 copies. 

A special thanks goes out to our supporting sponsors: Elsa State Bank, Linebarger Goggan, Blair and Sampson, Temple Inland, Southern Mechanical, HEB, Memorial Funeral Home, First National Bank, EEDC, UTPA Foundation, Security First Credit Union, Magic Valley Electric Coop, IBC Bank, Play on Wheels, Martin Farm & Ranch Supply and the City of Edinburg.   

For more information on Fiesta Edinburg please call 956/383-4974, limited sponsorship opportunities are currently available. 

•••••• 

Hidalgo County’s McAllen tax office substation relocates to Pharr, provides more services  

By CARI LAMBREHCT 

Hidalgo County Tax Assessor Collector Armando Barrera Jr. has announced that the McAllen Tax Office Substation has relocated to Pharr and as of Tuesday, January 18.    

The substation moved from 300 E. Hackberry in McAllen to the new Precinct 2 Administration Offices in Pharr, located at 301 W. Hall Acres (phone: 784-3555). 

The Pharr substation is expanded services to the public and include property tax collection services in addition to motor vehicle titling and registration. The former location in McAllen only provided motor vehicle services.  

The Pharr substation will be open during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m.  

•••••• 

Mission couple sentenced by federal judge for conspiring to harbor undocumented workers

By ANGELA DODGE 

Tereso Murrillo Olivo, 55, and Nancy Olivo, 44, of Mission, have been sentenced for conspiring to harbor aliens, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno announced on Monday, January 10. 

U.S. District Court Judge Randy Crane on January 10 sentenced Tereso to 15 months incarceration without parole to be followed by a two-year-term of supervised release. His wife, Nancy Olivo, was sentenced to time served and a two-year-term of supervised release which includes a six-month-term of home confinement. 

In April 2010, agents received information that El Centenario Bar, a bar Tereso and Nancy Olivo owned and operated in Mission, was employing undocumented aliens as barmaids. On September 9, 2010, agents arrived at the couples’ residence where they found three illegal aliens residing. The investigation later determined these aliens as well as others worked at the bar owned by the defendants.   

On October 22, 2010, the Olivos appeared before Crane and entered their pleas of guilty to one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens. At the January 10 sentencing hearing, Crane held the defendants accountable for illegally harboring a total of six aliens. 

Tereso Olivo has been in custody without bond where he will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future where he will serve his sentence. 

The investigation leading to the charges against the Olivos was conducted through a joint effort between Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations and Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission. Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Ann Leo prosecuted the case. 

••••••  

Former U.S. border agent from Brownsville sentenced for human smuggling and bribery

By ANGELA DODGE  

Former CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer Rudy Trace Soliz III, 44, has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for human smuggling and bribery, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno announced on Tuesday, January 11. Soliz was convicted August 4, 2010, following his guilty plea to transporting a certain undocumented immigrant within the United States for private financial gain and for accepting a bribe in his capacity as a government official. 

The evidence at sentencing proved Soliz had allowed an uncharged female conspirator to bring in and transport undocumented immigrants into the United States for commercial advantage and financial gain. Soliz admitted he allowed the female conspirator to transport and bring in undocumented immigrants through his vehicle inspection lane contrary to law in exchange for sexual favors. As a public official, that is, an officer with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Soliz corruptly demanded, sought, received and accepted the sexual favors, to influence an official act – to allow undocumented immigrants to enter and be transported within the United States. The evidence indicated he allowed a total of eight undocumented immigrants to be brought into and transported within the United States. 

Soliz’ sentence includes upward adjustments or increases in his calculated sentencing guideline range because he was a public official in a high level or sensitive position, received more than one bribe, was and used his position as a public official to facilitate the illegal entry into United States of a person. 

Soliz was permitted to self surrender to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future where he will serve his sentence. 

The case was investigated by Brownsville FBI agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General and Customs and  Border Protection – Office Of Internal Affairs. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ángel Castro. 

Share This

Share this post with your friends!