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State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, was at Edinburg City Hall on Friday, January 11, for a ceremonial swearing-in as the new state representative for House District 40, which includes most of Edinburg, Elsa, northern Pharr and the University of Texas-Pan American. Other elected officials, family members, and supporters joined Canales for the 11:45 A.M. event, held in the Edinburg City Council chamber, including, from left: Rachel Borchard, his mother; Erica Canales, his wife; and Hidalgo County District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, who administered the oath of office. Mayor Richard García, Mayor Pro Tem Agustín “Gus” García, Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, Precinct 4 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios, Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Sharyland, and Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa were among the elected leaders who participated in the event.

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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured left, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, center, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, will be working together with other Valley legislators to try to secure state funding for a full-fledge Veterans Administration Hospital for the Rio Grande Valley. In 2011, Valley lawmakers introduced legislation to allow the governor to use money from the cash-rich Texas Enterprise Fund to help make a Valley VA Hospital a reality. “We need to run with it again, push it through the legislative process, and try to get more of our colleagues to recognize the need, not only for our region, but for veterans in general in providing medical services to them,” said Muñoz. He agreed with the strategy by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, to have the identical bill to be filed in the Senate soon after the House bill is introduced, rather than wait until the House of Representatives takes action on the issue, which occurred in 2011. “We can move it through both chambers, hopefully earlier on, and start garnishing support from the Senate and the House, and try to make use of the legislative resources and press coverage of this vital issue to promote its need,” Muñoz explained. See story later in this posting.

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Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner, featured left, on Thursday, January 3, administered the oath of office to U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Cuellar, who is beginning his fifth two-year term in Congress, is the only Texan who is serving on the House Appropriations Committee. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County District Clerk Office, led by Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa, on Wednesday, December 26, presented a check in the amount of $3,250 to the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen as part of their Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign to benefit local charitable organizations. The Boys & Girls Club of McAllen began in 1966, through efforts led by Othal E. Brand Sr., in a high school gym with a budget of $200 and 400 boys. Today, they are one of, if not the fastest growing clubs in the nation. With five Traditional Sites, five Afterschool Alliance Sites, and six 21st Century Sites and an annual operating budget of $3 million, the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen has grown to meet the needs of more than 10,000 members. Over the past 45 years, the Boys & Girls Club has been there to encourage, support and stimulate thousands of young people whose other choices were the loneliness of an empty house, or the risk associated with unsupervised activity. Find out more about the organization at http://www.bgcmcallen.org/who/us.aspx/ Featured, from left: María Elva Garza; Annelle Sánchez; District Clerk Laura Hinojosa; Irineo Razo; Zayra Narváez; Armando Cantú; Normalynda Zepeda; Krystal Rodríguez; Alessandra Galván; María Barrera; Aída Villarreal; and Jassia De La Paz.

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Want to enjoy an evening of fun while marketing your company? Sign up for the RGV Hispanic Chambers “Corporate Super Bowl” to be held on Wednesday, January 30, at the Flamingo Bowl in McAllen. The $250 entry fee is for a five-member team and includes the use of a bowling ball, shoes, coupons for food, pitcher of beer, soft drinks, and team t-shirt with the company name on it and a team photo. Only 40 teams will be accepted. Team trophies will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Individual trophies will also be awarded to the female and male top bowler. Teams will bowl two games with the top six teams going on the finals. The “Corporate Super Bowl” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. To sign up or for more information on the Super Bowl call the RGVHCC office at 928-0060. Featured making final arrangements are, first row, from left: Nick Boland and Paulina Rodríguez. Featured, back row, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, Ronnie Díaz, Ronnie Bernal and Rick Cavazos.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, featured second row, center, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, featured behind Zaffirini, joined other senators on Tuesday, January 8, in taking their oaths of office in the chamber of the Senate at the State Capitol. Zaffirini and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen (not pictured), are encouraging their constituents to communicate with them during the five-month regular session, which ends on May 31. See stories by Zaffirini and Hinojosa later in this posting.

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Edinburg’s city, county and state leaders are reporting positive trends in the local retail economies, with the latest data from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts showing Edinburg posted an almost 12 percent improvement in its retail economy in November 2012 as compared with November 2011. Featured, from left: Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Sharyland; Mayor Pro Tem Agustín “Gus” García; Mayor Richard García; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Councilmember J.R. Betancourt; Precinct 4 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; and Hidalgo County District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, shown here on Friday, January 11, following the swearing-in of Canales, the new state representative for House District 40, which includes Edinburg, Elsa, northern Pharr, and the University of Texas Pan American. See story later in this posting.

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With the Texas Legislature having returned to work on Tuesday, January 8, for its five-month regular session, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. is encouraging South Texas political and economic development leaders to help influence passage of major new laws and policies designed to improve the manufacturing industry in the Valley and statewide. One of the key issues that has been brought to light is that manufacturing positions are available, but prospective employees do not have the education, training and skills needed for many of those high-tech jobs. “Many businesses do not have the ability to provide comprehensive retraining for applicants who excelled in their former professions, but who lost their jobs to a changing economy, and now must learn entirely new skills for the excellent jobs that are now available,” said Muñoz. “Our committee looked at how state government, community colleges and technical institutions, and the private sector can work better together to reshape the tremendous talent we have into a new workforce for the 21st century.” See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is the third member of his South Texas family to serve in the Texas House of Representatives. His father and sister have also been state representatives from north of Hidalgo County. Featured here, following the Edinburg lawmaker’s first day at the Capitol on Tuesday, January 8, are, from left: G.G. Betancourt, daughter of Edinburg City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt and Renée Rodríguez Betancourt; the Canales family, including daughter Juliana; wife Erica, who is from Edinburg; son Terry Andres; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; his father, former Rep. Terry Canales; and Rep. Canales’ sister, former Rep. Gabriela Canales; on Tuesday, January 8, at his desk in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives.

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Proposed UT medical school, expanded health care coverage, education, top list of legislative priorities for Edinburg City Council, EEDC

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The establishment of a $100 million University of Texas medical school to serve the Rio Grande Valley and the merger of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into a new university highlight the 2013 state legislative agenda for the Edinburg City Council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The action by the Edinburg City Council, taken on Wednesday, January 2, follows a decision by the University of Texas System Board of Regents on Thursday, December 6.

According to the UT System:

UT regents have unanimously approved an initiative to authorize Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa to work with the Texas Legislature to establish a new university that includes the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas-Pan American and the future South Texas School of Medicine.

The plan would result in a single institution that spans the entire Rio Grande Valley, with a presence in each of the major metropolitan areas of Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen and McAllen.

The board also approved the allocation of $100 million over the next 10 years to accelerate the pace of transitioning the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen to a school of medicine.

Edinburg’s legislative agenda also calls for the expansion of Medicaid, which is a state and federal partnership that provide health care coverage for people with lower incomes, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and some women and children.

Medicaid is different from Medicare, which is the federal government’s health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant.

“The City of Edinburg observes the promotion of residents’ health and welfare as one of its primary charges,” said Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the EEDC’s five-member governing board. “Access to health care continues to be at the forefront of our legislative priorities list.”

Jobs, transportation, and infrastructure improvements that benefit Edinburg are also featured in the 2013 legislative agenda approved by the Edinburg City Council.

Those measures will be taken by the city’s state’s legislative delegation to the Texas Legislature, which begins its five-month regular session at the Texas Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, January 8.

Although the Texas Legislature impacts almost all aspects of daily life – from major funding for public education to providing border security – the improvements to the quality of life in Edinburg by the proposed UT medical school and the proposed merger of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville will take the lion’s share of attention for local interests.

“Our concern increases as many of our physicians approach retirement, and recruitment of doctors to the region provides more difficult than ever due to high poverty rates and Medicare and Medicaid cuts,” the mayor noted. “Multiple studies have shown that medical students tend to practice in the areas in which they graduated. If South Texas is to attain a proper ratio of healthcare practitioners to patients, is absolutely necessary that the region have access to a medical school.”

The city’s legislative agenda, which will be distributed to the 181-member Texas Legislature (31 senators, 150 state representatives), notes that despite the fact that the Rio Grande Valley, one of the fastest-growing regions in Texas with more than 1.3 million residents, still lacks a medical school that will ensure access the healthcare practitioners in the future.

The UT System in early December hosted a Town Hall meeting at UT-Pan American to explain the legislation that would create the medical school and the merger of UTPA and UT-Brownsville.

Also according to the UT System:

“This is a bold plan that, if accomplished, will put our Rio Grande Valley campuses on equal footing with other UT institutions,” said Regents Chairman Gene Powell. “This is an opportunity to create a new emerging research university that has the potential to become a Tier One university in the next decade. It creates incredible opportunities to capitalize on the bicultural heritage of the Rio Grande Valley and build a university for the Americas.”

UT Brownsville and UT Pan American are not eligible for revenue from the Permanent University Fund, a public endowment created by the Texas Constitution. A new university would be eligible for PUF funding – a major catalyst for building a world-class research university, complete with a school of medicine.

As an emerging research university, the new institution would also be eligible for more funding sources such as the National Research University Fund, the Texas Research Incentive Plan and matching UT System money.

The new university’s overall size and portfolio would be similar to other existing UT emerging research universities with a student population of 28,000, research expenditures of $11 million, an endowment of $70.5 million and a total operating budget of $419 million.

Jon Hockenyos, founder and president of the economic analysis and public policy consulting firm TXP, estimated that the new university and school of medicine would likely account for 7,000 new jobs in the Rio Grande Valley – 10,000 if economic development impact of the new university is factored in.

“The ability to access and manage knowledge is really the key to success for the modern economy,” Hockenyos said. “I think this could very well be, if not the largest, one of the largest economic development opportunities for the Rio Grande Valley.”

The new university would also be one of the two largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the nation, both for total Hispanics enrolled and number of bachelor’s degrees awarded.

Cigarroa, who gave a presentation to the board outlining the request to move forward, said there are challenges and opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley and taking advantage of UT campuses with a bi-national presence on the border of Mexico in one of the fastest-growing regions in Texas has been part of his vision since becoming chancellor in 2009.

“We have to think globally, not regionally,” Cigarroa said. “We have an opportunity to make the Rio Grande Valley a center for bicultural programs in economics, business, medicine, biomedical sciences, energy, environmental studies, Latin American studies and a host of other areas.

“If we focus our attention on this crucial region of Texas, we can create new jobs, attract new federal and private funding, launch new facilities construction and, most importantly, provide higher education and training – and a stronger future – for this generation and generations to come.”

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Martínez’ legislation would allow any major university system to build law school in Valley

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Although The University of Texas System is more than welcome to build a public law school in the Rio Grande Valley, legislation filed on Monday, January 7, by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, makes it clear that UT is not the only fish in the ocean.

House Bill 363, if passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry this spring, would allow any university system to build a public law school in deep South Texas.

“That provision would open the door for some of the other major players in Texas higher education, such as the Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and University of Houston systems, to build their legislative presence – which translates into more state funding for their respective institutions – in the rapidly-growing Rio Grande Valley, with its population of more than 1.3 million,” Martínez explained.

Martínez, who is the Dean of the Hidalgo County House Delegation, said he extended the law school option to other university systems because so much is riding on a major proposal by the UT System, which will also require approval by the Legislature this spring, to build a $100 million medical school in deep South Texas.

“UT is a great higher education system, but so are the Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and University of Houston systems, and we want the UT System to be able to pool all its political and financial resources in order to make the Valley medical school a reality,” said Martínez. “If, after my legislation is approved, UT wants to also build the law school, that would be outstanding, but not if it takes money and political momentum away from the proposed UT medical school in the Valley.”

The UT, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and University of Houston systems all have public law schools.

But for deep South Texas, the closest law schools to the Rio Grande Valley are in San Antonio (approximately 260 miles way), Austin (approximately 305 miles away), and Houston (approximately 340 miles away). St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio is a private law school.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which is a state agency with great influence over public higher education in the Lone Star State, the cost, over five years, of beginning a brand new law school is $80.4 million.

In October 2010, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, under orders from the Texas Legislature, issued a 46-page analysis, entitled The Feasibility of Establishing a Public Law School in Texas, Including the Texas-Mexico Border Region.

The report found that Texas does not need any new law schools.

But Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who supports efforts to bring a law school to the Valley, disagrees, noting that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board does not have the final say on the matter. The Texas Legislature has the final authority, he notes.

Equally important, the state, especially the wealthy UT System, has an obligation to provide minorities and women equal access to higher educational resources, such as a public law school, Canales emphasizes.

“The current system of public legal education in Texas continues to fail women and minorities, who just are not able to get into our existing public law schools,” Canales said. “In addition, Texas Tech University School of Law is located in Lubbock County, which has about 285,000 residents, compared with Hidalgo County, which has almost 800,000 residents. We certainly deserve our own law school.

“According to its own findings, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board stated that Hispanic students are the most dramatically under-represented group in the state’s public and independent law schools,” Canales reflected, quoting the report. “While census projections have Hispanics at 37 percent of the population, only 16 percent of law school graduates and 7 percent of the Texas State Bar’s membership is Hispanic.”

Martínez’ HB 363 is very similar to House Bill 67 by Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, which states that the UT System would be the only university system which could build a law school in the Valley.

Both HB 363 and HB 67, which was pre-filed on Monday, November 12, leave it up to the board of regents to determine the location of any new law school.

Under Martinez’ proposal, the governing board of a university system would have to request that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board prepare a feasibility study to determine the actions the system would have to take in order to obtain accreditation of the law school.

That requirement is also contained in Lucio’s HB 67.

Also under both Martinez’ and Lucio’s bills, no state funding for a Rio Grande Valley law school could be provided until September 1, 2019.

Other key information from the report, The Feasibility of Establishing a Public Law School in Texas, Including the Texas-Mexico Border Region, includes that when the number of law school students is compared to the total population of a given region, the Gulf Coast region (Houston) has the highest ratios and the South Texas region has the lowest ratios.

The report additionally concluded that women and African American lawyers are also under-represented in Texas. Women account for 32 percent of the Texas State Bar’s membership, yet they comprise 49.9 percent of the Texas population and 41.2 percent of Texas law school graduates.

African Americans are 12 percent of the 2008 Texas population, and they make up 12 percent of the law school graduates and 4 percent of the Texas State Bar’s membership.

Regarding the costs to build and operate a law school, Canales says Texas would benefit economically from bringing a law school to the Valley, just as it would by expanding professional schools in medicine, pharmacy, and other health-related professional fields.

Efforts to bring a state-supported law school to deep South Texas began in earnest as early as 1997, when then-Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, secured funding for an innovative program that would have allowed students at UT-Pan American to take law school classes, through the use of video technology, being conducted at the Texas Tech University School of Law.

However, those plans were dashed when Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, blocked the implementation of the program, fearing it would devalue the prestige of the Texas Tech University School of Law, which is located in his legislative district.

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Rep. Canales off to strong start with measures to improve economic development, ethical standards, and justice system in Texas

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Even before he took his oath-of-office on Tuesday, January 8, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, had already prepared and filed four pieces of key legislation designed to generate more economic development money for local cities and counties without requiring any higher taxes, hold state lawmakers, legislative staff, and powerful state bureaucrats to higher ethical standards, and improve the state’s justice system.

“Even though I had not been sworn into office, I wanted to demonstrate to my constituents that I will work hard to improve the lives of the citizens of Hidalgo County and all Texans,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes Edinburg, Elsa, northern Pharr and the University of Texas-Pan American

Canales was joined at the Capitol for his swearing-in by family and friends. Joining him on the House floor as he took his oath of office was his wife, Erica, and their two children, Juliana and Terry Andres.

Other key family members who witnessed the swearing-in ceremony included Rep. Canales’ father, Terry A. Canales, and his sister, Gabriela Canales, both former state representatives. Also in attendance were Rep. Canales’ mother, Rachel Borchard, and her husband, Richard Borchard. Mr. Borchard is a former Nueces County Judge.

Going back to 2011, when he began his successful campaign for the Texas Legislature, Canales said he has been meeting with local business and community leaders to address issues important to House District 40, especially those measures that would help bring more jobs to Hidalgo County and increase state funding for public education.

Canales, an Edinburg attorney, said he would be filing, co-authoring, and co-sponsoring other measures in the coming weeks designed to help people from all walks of life, including plans to create a new university system and medical school for the Valley which would create thousands of new jobs, and to improve higher education and health care in deep South Texas.

Already introduced into the legislation process are the following measures:

• House Bill 348, which would require all state lawmakers, legislative staff, and state agency leaders to take ethics training. “This measure would be fundamental to ensuring that Texans have faith in our system of government, and can feel confident that their state government is operated in a correct and honest way,” said Canales.

• House Bill 349, which would allow for electronic filing for criminal cases in Hidalgo County. This will save Hidalgo County money and move it into the 21st century, becoming a model criminal court system for other counties to follow.

• House Bill 350, which would make evidence more accessible to attorneys in order to improve the justice system.

• House Bill 351, which would allow state and local governments to generate more money for economic development programs from the hotel occupancy tax without raising the tax rate.

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Rep. Muñoz coordinating with key Valley economic development leaders in shaping legislation to improve manufacturing in Texas

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

With the Texas Legislature having returned to work on Tuesday, January 8, for its five-month regular session, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. is encouraging South Texas political and economic development leaders to help influence passage of major new laws and policies designed to improve the manufacturing industry in the Valley and statewide.

One of the key issues that has been brought to light is that manufacturing positions are available, but prospective employees do not have the education, training and skills needed for many of those high-tech jobs.

“Many businesses do not have the ability to provide comprehensive retraining for applicants who excelled in their former professions, but who lost their jobs to a changing economy, and now must learn entirely new skills for the excellent jobs that are now available,” said Muñoz. “Our committee looked at how state government, community colleges and technical institutions, and the private sector can work better together to reshape the tremendous talent we have into a new workforce for the 21st century.”

Muñoz, D-Mission, was the lone Valley member to serve on the Texas Legislature’s Interim Committee on Manufacturing, whose recommendations for the manufacturing industry are being transformed into proposed laws for action this spring by state lawmakers.

According to Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who appointed Muñoz to the legislative committee, manufacturing is a $192 billion industry in Texas, accounting for 15 percent of the Gross State Product. More than 800,000 Texans work in manufacturing, and on average, they earn significantly more than workers in other sectors.

Muñoz, who recently participated in a series of public hearings held by that legislative panel in Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston, wants South Texans to continue playing major roles in coming up with ways to boost the manufacturing industry statewide, but especially in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

“I am encouraging your participation in this process by forwarding your experience and expertise on these issues to highlight the infrastructure, workforce development, and capacity with regard to manufacturing in South Texas,” Muñoz wrote the leaders of the major economic development corporations in the Valley. “I am dependent on your input to articulate and market our area to this committee and the 83rd Legislature. Any documentation of our current capabilities, our plans for the immediate and intermediate future, and the needs you have of your government and/or other partners would be much appreciated.”

Muñoz said Valley higher education institutions, such as South Texas College, are key assets for the development of a strong economy.

“The manufacturing needs and meeting the demands for high-skilled jobs are not only something facing the Valley, but it is a challenge statewide,” he noted. “South Texas College has been at the forefront reaching out, making sure that they work collaboratively with our business organizations to make sure we fill that void, and promote the technical and manufacturing jobs. This is the wave of the future with our students, beginning in the middle-school and high-school levels.”

In 2011, Straus directed every House committee to make recommendations for significantly improving the state’s manufacturing capability. The Interim Committee on Manufacturing compiled and summarized those findings and is making its own recommendations about how to encourage manufacturing in the state. The committee also determined how those recommendations interplay with other committees’ work on business growth and retention in Texas.

“I look forward to a mutually beneficial dialogue on these issues and to having a positive impact on the work of this important committee,” Muñoz stated in his letter to area economic development leaders. “We have the opportunity to influence the recommendations that will be found in its final report to the 83rd Legislature. But I need your help to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, served as Chairman of the Interim Committee on Manufacturing, and Rep. Eddie Rodríguez, D-Austin, was Vice Chairman.

In addition to Muñoz, Murphy, and Rodríguez, the other members of the committee were: Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston; Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson; Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock; Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs; Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville; Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin; Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio; Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana; Rep. Marisa Márquez, D-El Paso; Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; and Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas.

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Son of Hidalgo County sheriff, son of Hidalgo police chief, indicted by federal government

By ANGELA DODGE

A federal grand jury on Wednesday, January 9, returned a six-count indictment against Jonathan Treviño, Alexis Rigoberto Espinoza, Fabian Rodríguez and Gerardo Mendoza-Duran, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. ?A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Treviño is a son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño.

Espinoza is son of City of Hidalgo Police Chief Rudy Espinoza.

The indictment includes one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, which charges all four men, as well as five substantive counts of attempting to aid and abet the possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.

Espinoza and Duran are charged with four of the substantive counts, while Treviño and Rodríguez were indicted on one of those charges.

Trevino, 28, Espinoza, 29, Rodríguez, 28, and Mendoza-Duran, 30, were previously charged by criminal complaint last month and subsequently arrested following a multi-agency investigation conducted in 2012.

The indictment alleges Treviño and Espinoza, former officers with the Mission Police Department, along with Rodríguez and Duran, former deputies with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, attempted to utilize their positions as law enforcement personnel in order to assist drug traffickers with the distribution of cocaine.

On several occasions in October and November 2012, the defendants allegedly provided protective escorts for suspected loads of cocaine as they traveled throughout Hidalgo County.

If convicted, the four face a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison, along with a potential fine up to $10 million.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement–Office of Professional Responsibility, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Texas Rangers and Department of Justice–Office of the Inspector General.

Assistant United States Attorneys Ánibal Alanis and James Sturgis are prosecuting the case.

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Cinemark to take over stalled Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Edinburg, will feature first-run cinema eatery concept, including beer, premium wines, and margaritas

By JAMES MEREDITH

Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CNK), one of the largest motion picture exhibitors in the world, on Friday, January 11, announced plans to launch two new 6-screen movie theatres in Edinburg and El Paso.

Cinemark will take over the stalled Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Edinburg, which was planned and built but never opened for business due to financial problems that forced the developer to abandon plans for Alama Drafthouse Cinema several years ago.

The Cinemark Movie Bistro–Edinburg will be part of B-Y Property’s Trenton Crossroads Plaza development located on the northwest corner of Trenton Road and Rhonda Street in Edinburg,

The Cinemark Movie Bistro–Sunland Park will be part of Simon Property’s Sunland Park Mall development located at 750 Sunland Park Drive in El Paso.

Both projects are scheduled to open in the summer of 2013.

The two theatres will introduce patrons to Cinemark’s first-run cinema eatery concept, branded Cinemark Movie Bistro. Each complex will boast a state-of-the-art entertainment environment offering digital projection, RealD 3D capability, and enhanced sound systems. Additionally, the new Cinemark Movie Bistros will feature an expanded menu with high-quality food offerings such as fresh wraps, hot sandwiches, burgers, gourmet pizzas, alongside favorites like freshly popped popcorn, hot dogs, and popular candy brands. As for beverages, customers have the opportunity to select from microbrewed beers, premium wines, margaritas, and of course, Coca-Cola fountain beverages.

"Customers have enjoyed Cinemark’s theatres in these markets for over 20 years," said Tim Warner, Cinemark’s Chief Executive Officer. "El Paso and Edinburg are the perfect locations to launch the new Cinemark Movie Bistro concept. We will be constructing two state-of-the-art facilities that will quickly become recognized as preferred entertainment environments to eat, drink, relax and enjoy a good movie."

"We are pleased to extend our strong partnership with Cinemark, one of the nation’s premier motion picture exhibitors," said Greg Zimmerman, Senior Vice President at Simon Property Group. "Their first class operations will provide a quality movie-going experience for the west side of El Paso and an added attraction for the already strong line up at Sunland Park Mall."

"We are thrilled that Cinemark chose Edinburg as the site of their first dinner theater. They are a well-respected operator, and we look forward to having them open a first class operation," commented Johnny Cisneros of Cadence Commercial Real Estate.

Cinemark is a leading domestic and international motion picture exhibitor, operating 461 theatres with 5,207 screens in 39 U.S. states, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and 10 other Latin American countries as of September 30, 2012. For more information, go to investors.cinemark.com.

Simon Property Group, Inc. (NYSE:SPG) is an S&P 100 company and the largest real estate company in the world. The Company currently owns or has an interest in 329 retail real estate properties in North America and Asia comprising 243 million square feet. We are headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and employ approximately 5,500 people in the U.S. For more information, visit the Simon Property Group website at http://www.simon.com.

B-Y Properties is a real estate developer founded in 1999 and headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. The aim of the company is to redevelop projects primarily in Hispanic markets with a specific focus on South Texas. Total square feet managed and owned is approaching three million. For more information, contact cadencecommercial@gmail.com

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Edinburg’s retail economy for November 2012 up almost 12 percent over November 2011

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s retail economy in November 2012 showed a double-digit improvement over the same period in 2011, with the latest local monthly sales tax figure – which reflects the strength of the economy – up almost 12 percent over November 2011.

In addition, year-to-date, Edinburg’s retail economy was up almost 4.7 percent in 2012 as compared with January through November 2011, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The November 2012 showing represents the fourth consecutive month of improvements for the local retail economy, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

The sales tax figures represent November 2012 sales reported by monthly tax filers.

The local sales taxes are used statewide by local governments to help fund their operating budgets. In the case of Edinburg, a portion of the local sales tax revenue is used by the EEDC to help pay for vital economic development projects.

For the month of November 2012, Edinburg generated $1,368,779.86 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,222,236.29 for the month of November 2011, resulting in an 11.98 percent improvement.

For the month of October 2012, Edinburg generated $1,270,843.10 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,174,004.11 for the month of October 2011, resulting in an 8.24 percent improvement.

For the month of September 2012, Edinburg generated $1,454,322.51 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,244,342.59 for the month of September 2011, resulting in a 16.87 percent improvement.

For the month of August 2012, Edinburg generated $1,372,003.87 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,293,859.44 for the month of August 2011.

From January 2012 through November 2012, Edinburg’s retail economy has generated $17,794,117.07 in local sales taxes, compared with $17,003,214.94 during the same period last year, representing an improvement of more than 4.6 percent.

The monthly and year-to-date figures represent combined money from Edinburg’s 1.5 cents local sales tax and the half-cent economic development sales tax, which is administered by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Under the reporting system used by the state comptroller’s office, local and state sales taxes generated on retail sales in November were collected by the state in December. During January, the state sent back the local sales tax portion – called a rebate – to the cities in which the retail sales were made.

The state comptroller’s office reported that the following amounts of local sales tax revenue have been raised between January 1 and November 30, 2012:

• McAllen: $64,362,333.09;
• Edinburg: $17,794,117.07;
• Mission: $15,710,367.40;
• Pharr: $14,167,486.71; and
• Weslaco: $11,550,932.76.

All cities in Hidalgo County have generated a combined total of $147,023,691.22 from January through November 2012, a more than 7.7 percent improvement over the same period in 2011, which totaled $136,417,787.

Brownsville, the Valley’s most populous city, saw its retail economy generate $35,904,151.32 in local sales tax from January through November 2012, while Harlingen reported $22,260,396.19 raised in local sales taxes during that same 11-month period, according to the comptroller’s office.

The State Sales and Use Tax is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services, according to the comptroller’s office. Texas cities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts have the option of imposing an additional local sales tax for a combined total of state and local taxes of 8 1/4% (.0825)

For details of the November 2012 local sales tax figures for all cities, counties, transit systems, and special purpose taxing districts, located the Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports at the comptroller’s website, log on to:

http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Sen. Hinojosa urges unity on key issues, pledges to fight against cuts in education and infrastructure during legislative session

By JENNIFER SÁENZ

As Texas lawmakers assembled in the State Capitol on Tuesday, January 8, to commemorate the first day of the 83rd Legislative Session. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa , D-McAllen, representing Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, and Nueces Counties, sent out a message to his constituents.

"I look forward to visiting with constituents from District 20 in my office today, where I will host an informal inauguration day reception. I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to learn about the issues we will deal with in the coming days. I would also like to remind everyone that the doors of my capitol and district offices are always open,” Hinojosa said.

"I am motivated to be back in the Capitol, but I know the next 140 days will be difficult. Our communities face challenging issues and the solutions are not always transparent,” he continued. “However, I can assure you that my staff and I will work tirelessly to resolve these difficult questions and bring forth viable solutions that will benefit our Texas workers, families, and schools."

He urged cooperation among constituents for the good of everyone.

“Now more than ever we need to work together. We need to prevent cuts to education and essential healthcare services, invest in our youth and workforce through education and skills training, create more jobs, and invest in the infrastructure we need to pave the way for future success. I promise to you that I will fight for the best interests of our Texas families and will foster bipartisan collaboration to bring about the best possible solutions,” Hinojosa pledged.

"It is an honor for me to serve you as your State Senator and I will continue to do so by constructing policies that will make Texas a better place for my constituents and all of Texas.” he concluded.

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Congressman Cuellar begins fifth term, is only Texan on the House Appropriations Committee

By LORRIANE CARRASCO

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, January 3, was sworn into a fifth term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He was elected to Congress in 2004 and was first sworn into office in January 2005.

“First and foremost, I thank God for giving me the opportunity to return to our nation’s capitol and continue working for the things that matter most to the 28th Congressional District of Texas,” said Cuellar. “There are many important pending issues that we are going to have to tackle this Congress, but I am a firm believer that by working together with members of both parties, we will work in the best interest of those we represent and complete our tasks at hand.”

Cuellar is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Vice-Chairman of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

The main purpose of the Committee on Appropriations is to oversee the federal budget, review proposed expenditures and craft the legislation that outlines annual spending for government agencies. For Cuellar, as a fiscally conservative member of Congress, having been assigned to this committee speaks of his continuous efforts to maintain a balanced budget and reduce the nation’s deficit when allocating federal funds.

Cuellar is the only Democratic member from Texas on the Appropriations Committee.

The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee’s purpose is to select fellow members for committee assignments and to advise party leaders on policy. The committee is also charged with promoting the Democratic Caucus message.

“I look forward to continue working with my fellow members in the committee and the rest of the House Democrats,” said Cuellar, who is also a Senior Whip. “This leadership position will give me the opportunity to carry on with my commitment of advocating for the middle class, small businesses, and our seniors.”

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Frio County leadership seeks expanded business opportunities in the Eagle Ford as the largest energy exploration

By SALLY VELÁSQUEZ

Capital spending in the Eagle Ford is excelling in all levels benefiting local, state economies, motivating the Frio County Commissioners Court in Pearsal to consider taking action to seek avenues to accommodate added economic development strategies as an affected community in the Eagle Ford shale region.

On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, the Frio County Commissioners Court heard from Dr. Thomas Tunstall, Research Director for University of San Antonio’s Institute for Economic Development and author of several Eagle Ford studies. Tunstall demonstrated to county and community leaders the economic indicators calling for a community-wide growth plan and critical infrastructure improvements to support business expansion.

The regional proximity of Frio County in the shale play and along Interstate Highway 35 as a major commerce corridor are two key factors to support added business developments projects derived from energy industry related investments. By 2016, the Eagle Ford’s capital investment is anticipated to reach $100 billion, making its value as the world’s largest exploration according to Wood Mackenzie Upstream Research.

“We recognize our regional location offers convenience and accessibility for unlimited commercial and retail potential. This play is once in a lifetime economic opportunity to redesign our region. As a result, we must immediately redefine and immediately implement business development strategies,” said Frio County Judge Carlos García. “Our county land-use areas are being developed with supporting evidence of $30 billion as projected by 2013, Eagle Ford’s industry investment.”

According Callahan McMahon, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie Upstream Research, “One-third of all upstream dollars spent in the U.S. in 2013 will be allocated to developing the Eagle Ford.”

Surrounding South Texas counties are in the top index of total number in rig counts causing immediate demand and development of small and large-scale business expansion.

“As a result of being a community in the shale play, we had to change our traditional daily county governing practices to becoming business focused and redefined our leadership style to effectively engage with this industry,” said García.

Community leaders will continue to focus on fostering relationships with energy partners and solicit from state and federal government leaders to allow improved infrastructure with an active role in seeking policy and funding mechanisms.

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