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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured left, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, center, field questions from a Capitol reporter relating to the Senate and House passage of legislation that would bring a UT medical school to the Valley. The legislation, approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 19, would also merge the University of Texas-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into what would become the second largest Hispanic-enrolled university in the nation. The measure would have a significant social and economic impact on deep South Texas, the two lawmakers said. “The possibilities are endless – more jobs, lower poverty levels, higher educational levels, more healthcare services, more doctors, more access to those doctors and more resources to serve the unique and critical needs of the people of the Valley,” said Hinojosa. Canales agreed. “The shackles that restrain the Valley from taking its place as the most dominant force in the Texas economy are the chains of educational disparity,” said Canales. “For generations, South Texas has not fallen behind, it has been left behind. The creation of this new university system and medical school will not only rectify the inequities of decades of not having access to the Permanent University Fund, but release us into a better world of economic and educational successes.” See lead story in this posting.

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Mayor Pro Tem Augustín “Gus” García, Jr. and the rest of his colleagues on the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, March 19, approved a city resolution supporting state legislation that would bring a University of Texas medical school to the Rio Grande Valley. The UT medical school would be part of a new South Texas university system that would be comprised of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville. Such legislation would, for the first time, provide the two universities and the planned medical school access to the multi-billion dollar Permanent University Fund, which pays for major construction projects at the state’s leading universities and medical schools. “The rapid population growth of the Valley is one of the reasons for concerted efforts to improve the region’s access to higher education and health care, according to a bill analysis of the measure,” he noted. See story later in this posting.

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Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, the first Mexican-American woman to run for Texas governor was in Washington, D.C. in mid-March to bolster support among the Republican Party for immigration reform and meet with members of Congress to address border security concerns in deep South Texas. “Next to Gov. Rick Perry’s refusal to expand Medicaid and accept federal funding for nearly all new medical expenses, immigration reform is the next major issue that will drive a wedge between the decisive Hispanic vote and the GOP for 2016,” said Martínez, a Republican candidate for Texas governor in 2014. She was in Washington, D.C. to speak with members of Congress about increased funding in Texas for federal road improvements to support an expected boom in produce imports from Mexico. She is also calling for a new strategy to assist in drug cartel violence along the Texas-Mexico border. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Friday, March 8, filed legislation to require Texas to protect the integrity of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the food stamp program), which serves more than four million qualified Texans, especially children. The South Texas leader also condemned Fox Television Network political commentator Bill O’Reilly, who claimed during his February 27 episode of his national television broadcast, The O’Reilly Factor, that SNAP fraud “is all over the place down on the border.” Canales called O’Reilly’s depiction of the U.S. border with Mexico and SNAP recipients “insulting, incorrect, and ignorant. This is not so much a fraud issue as it is an internal accounting issue.” Canales noted that, according to a June 2012 Texas Tribune article (Hunger Study: One in Four Texas Children at Risk), SNAP in 2010 provided benefits to 3.6 million Texans, among them nearly two million children, or one in four Texas children. “Mr. O’Reilly is wrong about the people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Canales said. “We work hard for a living, we are successful, we are law-abiding citizens, and we take care of those in need. Now that’s the truth about border Texans.” See story later in this posting.

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The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, February 21, took the financial steps needed to provide $5.1 billion in state funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), nursing homes, and public education for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, according to Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. The largest portion of the funding – $4.5 billion – goes for the vital health care services, with $630 million to be used to fund the Foundation School Program through August 31, 2013. The measure, House Bill 10, was drafted and passed by the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, February 11, then sent to the full House, which approved it 10 days later, said Muñoz, who serves on the powerful state-budget writing legislative panel. “Medicaid is a critical component of the health care delivery system in the Valley. Just as cuts made to the program last session were devastating to many of our friends and neighbors, this funding will help a multitude of people in need of services,” added Muñoz. The emergency appropriation was needed because the Texas Legislature in 2011 only set aside enough money for the state’s funding portion of Medicaid, CHIP, and nursing home services to last through the beginning of this spring. Featured with Muñoz in this portrait is Justice Dori Contreras Garza of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals. See story later in this posting.

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A bill that would create a state commission to identify the causes of wrongful convictions and determine ways to reduce future miscarriages of justice has been jointly-authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. The legislation, authored by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, was heard by Canales and his colleagues on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, March 5. The measure, as is standard procedure in the legislative process, is pending a final vote by committee members at a later date. “Unfortunately, people being incarcerated for crimes they did not commit is a worldwide reality. It is our obligation as legislators to do everything in our power to minimize the probability of wrongful convictions in Texas,” said Canales, an attorney. “Not only is there a heavy price tag that comes with incarcerating an individual, there is no monetary value in existence that can compensate someone who has been deprived of their liberty by wrongful incarceration.” The legislation would establish the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, creating a nine-member commission to review cases in which an innocent person was convicted and then exonerated. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County would be the first in Texas to allow attorneys in all criminal cases to file pleadings and documents electronically – known as e-filing – under legislation considered on Monday, March 11 by the House Committee on the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa, featured earlier in Edinburg with Mayor Richard H. García, testified in support of Canales’ bill before the legislative panel. HB 349 is designed to improve the delivery of justice in Hidalgo County, reduce costs to county taxpayers, attorneys and litigants, and take advantage of the latest technological advances in the state’s legal system. “Courts have long been burdened with processing paper, a problem that continues to grow exponentially and largely unabated,” said Canales. “After more than 165 years of processing traditional filing, Texas Court Clerks are awash in the state’s judicial paper trail. Electronic filing offers a means to stem the paper tide.” If approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, Canales’ House Bill 349 would go into effect on September 1, 2015. See story later in this posting.

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, February 27, stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to speak in support of voter rights.  Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices heard an oral argument in the case of Shelby County v. Holder concerning Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This provision requires covered jurisdictions to submit any proposed changes in voting procedures and election rules to either the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C. before any changes can be put into effect. The Shelby County v. Holder lawsuit was filed in April 2010 by Shelby County, Alabama, a largely white suburb of Birmingham. The suit seeks to have Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional. See story later in this posting.

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McAllen City Commissioner Jim Darling, featured with Marissa Castañeda, Chief Operations Officer for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, will become mayor of McAllen a few days after the May 11 elections in that city since he was the only candidate by March 1 to file to succeed retiring Mayor Richard Cortéz. Darling, who attended the Wednesday, February 20, State of the City Address in Edinburg by Mayor Richard H. García, also serves as general counsel for DHR. García told a packed house at Edinburg’s City Auditorium that he and Darling, like Cortéz, support alliances between South Texas communities to benefit the entire region, such as current state legislative efforts to bring a University of Texas medical school to deep South Texas. “Speaking of mayors, Jim Darling is here with us today,” García noted during his presentation. “We talk about education. He is a perfect example of education, experience, and years of service as legal counsel for the City of McAllen, handling the legal affairs for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, and serving as city commissioner for McAllen,” García reflected, addressing Darling. “All of these things I just mentioned make him the perfect person to assume the leadership of that position. Mayor Cortéz saw an excellent opportunity and a perfect replacement for him in Jim Darling, whose background mirrors his own. I look very much forward to working with you for the next four years.”

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South Texas College leaders on Tuesday, February 26, announced their intention to seek a bond and maintenance tax election, valued at about $159 million, that will include new facilities at their campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City. Rose Benavidez, Chair of the STC Board of Trustees, said the community college will engage in an extensive public outreach program between now and Election Day to inform voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties about the expansion plans. She did note that the election would not involve authorizing the construction of any new campuses outside of McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City. She did say if approved by voters, the bond and maintenance tax election would – as an example – increase the annual STC property tax by about $30 on a home whose taxable value is $100,000. Homeowners who are 65 years of age and older, and homeowners who have a permanent disability at the time of the election would not pay any higher taxes if voters approve the measure. Featured following the announcement that evening accepting The Leah Meyer Austin Award, a national recognition for community colleges, are from left: Dr. Shirley A. Reed, President, South Texas College; Jesse Villarreal, Member, District 6, STC Board of Trustees; Graciela Farias, Secretary, District 2, STC Board of Trustees; Rose Benavidez, Chair, District 1, STC Board of Trustees; Paul R. Rodríguez, Member, District 3, STC Board of Trustees; and Roy De León, Vice Chair, District 7, STC Board of Trustees.

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Organizing the annual State of the City Address by Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, which was held on Wednesday, February 20, takes considerable coordination and expertise, as hundreds of residents attend the event at the City Auditorium. Among the city professionals who helped make the event a success this year were, front row, from left: Adelita G. Ozuna, Administrative Assistant to the City Manager; Mónica Pérez, Administrative Aide II, Utilities Department; Priscilla Bernal, Senior Secretary I, City Manager’s Office; Mari Cruz Tovar, Administrative Aide, Edinburg Fire Department; City Secretary Myra L. Ayala Garza; and Clarice Y. Balderas, Administrative Aide, City Secretary’s Office. Back row, from left: Mirelda Garza, Administrative Aide, Utilities Department; Karina Lozano, Fire Marshall Secretary II, Fire Department; Sarah Rodríguez, Senior Secretary I, Police Department; and Timoteo Sena, Senior Secretary II, City Secretary’s Office.

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Residents and people from across the world will now have easier access to information about key business activities, job opportunities, local governmental actions, academic advances, major conferences, large social gatherings, and legislative affairs with the launching of a mobile app by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. “The Edinburg EDC has unveiled a new, free mobile app that highlights events, news, entertainment, and more,” said Letty Reyes, EEDC Project Manager. “The EEDC mobile app and blog are great examples of the work our office is doing to embrace technology and create a more effective and efficient reach into the community.” See story later in this posting.

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Mayor Richard H. García on Wednesday, February 20, shared credit with his colleagues on the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors for what he termed “explosive growth” in the community. The progress has been influenced by successful business and quality-of-life policies implemented by the two governing boards, in conjunction with EEDC and city staff. As part of his “State of the City Address” before a full house at the Edinburg Auditorium, García provided details on many recent accomplishments, including hinting at a major new advancement underway at La Sienna, a master-planned community located in north Edinburg. “Very soon, La Sienna will have a retail development that this entire metroplex has only dreamed about in the past. Stay tuned,” the mayor publicly announced. Featured with him in this portrait are EEDC staff and two fellow EEDC Board of Directors members, from left: Laura Lee Vela, Administrative Assistant; Leticia Reyes, Project Manager; Cynthia Contreras Gutiérrez, Legal Counsel; Fred Palacios, Secretary-Treasurer, EEDC Board of Directors; Mayor Richard H. García, President, EEDC Board of Directors; Jaime Rodríguez, Member, EEDC Board of Directors; Nelda T. Ramírez, Executive Director; and Dalila Razo, Business Manager.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, featured left during a recent meeting in Austin of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, has helped rally Valley wide support for legislation that would merge UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, and include a state-of-the-art UT medical school for the Valley. “As community leaders, we know that progress is never easy and seldom comes without some sacrifice or compromise. While UT-Pan American will be restructured, our community is prepared to make this compromise to gain access to a medical school, an enhanced healthcare infrastructure, and the Permanent University Fund,” García emphasized. “These fundamental changes will ensure that South Texas can meet and exceed its future needs.” Featured, from left: Mayor Richard H. García of Edinburg; Mayor San Juanita Sánchez of San Juan; and Mayor Chris Boswell of Harlingen. See lead story in this posting.

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House of Representatives passes measure to bring UT medical school to Valley, create new university with merger of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, says Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday, March 19, reached another major milestone when the House of Representatives unanimously approved House Bill 1000, which would merge the University of Texas-Pan American with UT-Brownsville, a proposed system that would include the creation of a UT medical school.

An identical measure, Senate Bill 24, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, March 13.

Under the legislative process, whichever bill – Senate Bill 24 or House Bill 1000 – that first receives final approval from the full Texas Legislature and by the governor will be the measure that goes into law.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, an author of HB 1000, emphasized the importance of both measures to the well-being of the more than 1.3 million residents of the Rio Grande Valley.

“The shackles that restrain the Valley from taking its place as the most dominant force in the Texas economy are the chains of educational disparity,” said Canales. “For generations, South Texas has not fallen behind, it has been left behind. The creation of this new university system and medical school will not only rectify the inequities of decades of not having access to the Permanent University Fund, but release us into a better world of economic and educational successes.”

Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, is the lead author of HB 1000.

“We need this super university, we need this medical school, and we need to give everyone a chance to grow and prosper in South Texas like they do in the rest of the state,” said Oliveira, who was surrounded by the Valley state legislative delegation at the front podium in the House chambers.

In addition to Canales, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, are authors of the legislation.

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City, are among the leading coauthors of HB 1000.

The companion (identical) measure, Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-Edinburg, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, March 13.

“The possibilities are endless – more jobs, lower poverty levels, higher educational levels, more healthcare services, more doctors, more access to those doctors and more resources to serve the unique and critical needs of the people of the Valley,” said Hinojosa.

The name of the new university, which would be decided in the coming months by the UT System Board of Regents, would apply to all campuses, Oliveira noted.

Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, who has been leading a delegation of Valley leaders in support of both measures, reflected on the impact the legislation would have on his hometown and South Texas.

“With a projected enrollment of almost 28,000 students, the new university would rank as one of the two largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the nation,” said García. “It would be exceptionally well-positioned to capitalize on the area’s bicultural heritage, rapid population growth, and strategic border location, creating widespread economic benefits, addressing the Rio Grande Valley’ s critical need for health care, and strengthening the state’s ability to compete in an increasingly global economy.”

Detailed background on HB 1000

The House Research Organization, which is the research-arm of the Texas House of Representatives, provided this analysis of HB 1000:

The new university would include:

• An academic campus in Cameron County;

• An academic campus in Hidalgo County;

• An academic center in Starr County;

• The facilities currently operated by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC); and

• The medical school and other programs authorized for a University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas by SB 98 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville (81st Legislature, regular session).

The UT board of regents would equitably allocate the primary facilities and operations of the university among Cameron, Hidalgo, and Starr counties. The new medical school’s medical and research programs would have a substantial presence in Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

The new university could award bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and medical degrees. The university would not be allowed to create a department, school, or degree program without the prior approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board except for those previously approved for UT-Pan American or UT-Brownsville or authorized by law.

Abolishing UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville

HB 1000 would abolish the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas

at Brownsville. The UT board of regents would determine the actual date to abolish the schools and would establish procedures to wind up each institution’s remaining business.

The new university would hire as many of the faculty and staff of the abolished schools as was practical. A student already admitted to or enrolled in one of the abolished schools would be entitled to admission to the new university.

Creation of a new university

HB 1000 would create a new university in South Texas within the University of Texas System. It would provide for the UT System to abolish two universities: the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American.

The new university would include a medical school, a Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development and a Texas Academy for Mathematics and Science. If more than two-thirds of each chamber were to pass the bill, the new university would be eligible for appropriations from the Permanent University Fund (PUF).

The new university would be a general academic teaching institution under the governance of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System. The UT board of regents would name the new university.

Medical school advisory group

HB 1000 would create a temporary medical school advisory group that would assist the UT board of regents in designing and establishing the new university’s medical school. The

advisory group would help with site selection, design, and development of the medical school and would solicit input from stakeholder groups.

The UT board regents would select the advisory group members. The group would be dissolved once it reported findings to the UT board of regents and the regents determined the purposes of the group had been achieved.

Supporters of the legislation said:

HB 1000 would consolidate UT-Brownsville, UT-Pan American, and the Regional Academic Health Center into a single institution, make the institution eligible for a superior method of funding, and attach a new medical school.

This reorganization would create efficiencies and bring educational and economic opportunities to the Rio Grande Valley that do not now exist there. A new comprehensive research university is necessary to address the needs of the rapidly growing Valley population, which is already educationally and medically underserved.

The new university would be an economic engine in its own right and, by training students, would lay the groundwork for other businesses and industries to flourish. It would give South Texans needed educational opportunities to fill and create the high-paying jobs of tomorrow.

The medical school would attract additional health care providers to a medically underserved region.

Access to Permanent University Fund (PUF)

With the passage by a two-thirds vote in the Senate and the House of Representatives, HB 1000 would make the new university eligible for support from the Permanent University Fund (PUF) and less reliant on state general revenue.

The PUF is an endowment fund that supports certain universities in the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems through investments made with state oil and gas royalties. Moving support for the university to the PUF from the general revenue-funded Higher Education Fund (HEF) would free tens of millions dollars for other HEF-supported institutions.

Universities already supported by the PUF have not objected to the new university being added, as the value of the PUF has grown dramatically because of record income from its oil and gas holdings. Although the percentage share of the pie would be reduced, the value of each slice has grown so significantly that already-participating universities still would see increases in the value of their shares. The university’s PUF share would come from the UT system’s share, leaving the Texas A&M system’s share unaffected.

The new university’s increased size and budget would bring it closer to emerging research university status, eventually allowing it to compete for additional UT system and state matching funds. The university initially would have 28,000 students, research expenditures of more than $11 million, and an endowment of $70.5 million.

HB 1000 would lead to savings on overhead and administration that could be spent on expansion, research, or new programs. Initial studies predict that consolidating the existing universities could save $6 million in administrative costs. According to the Legislative Budget Board, HB 1000 would not have a significant fiscal impact on the state budget.

The medical school attached to the new university would not disrupt the medical education system in Texas. The medical school is already authorized by statute and would be developed even without HB 1000. The Higher Education Coordinating Board already has accounted for it and incorporated it into its plans for higher education in Texas. Sufficient residency slots would be available for graduates of the medical school. At least 150 new residency slots are expected to be created in the Rio Grande Valley region as a result of local efforts and existing demand.

While Texas Southmost College District currently has a partnership agreement with UT-Brownsville to transition students to the university, HB 1000 should not stipulate a relationship between the new university and the district beyond current agreements. This would allow the relationship between the new university and the college district to develop as the not-yet-appointed leaders of the university see fit.

HB 1000 would give the new university statutory authority to administer the existing Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development and the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science so they could be continued at the new university.

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UT medical school, UTPA/UTB merger measures clear House of Representatives and Senate following regional support led by Edinburg Mayor García

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Testimony plus related lobbying by South Texans led by Mayor Richard H. García of Edinburg have helped result in the Texas Senate and House of Representatives in March approving separate but identical measures that would merge the University of Texas-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, plus create a UT medical school as part of the proposed system.

The actions, taken by the Senate on Wednesday, March 13, and the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 19, were influenced by a delegation led by Mayor García, Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, McAllen Mayor-elect Jim Darling, and Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell.

The Edinburg mayor, during testimony on Wednesday, March 6 before the Senate Higher Education Committee, focused on the united support from the Valley’s elected leadership for all aspects of the legislation.

“We are prepared as a region to work together in support of a medical school for South Texas. We are working hard and looking forward to acquiring a medical school that will help the Rio Grande Valley continue to grow while allowing us to meet the needs of every resident,” said Mayor García.

The UTPA/UTB merger/UT medical school plans are included in two identical proposals – Senate Bill 24 and House Bill 1000 – that are being hailed as landmark legislation. If approved later this spring by the full Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, the legislation would help transform the Rio Grande Valley into a powerful center for economic development, health care, and education.

“We are now one step closer to a new South Texas university and medical school that would result in the transformation of the Rio Grande Valley through education,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “The possibilities are endless – more jobs, lower poverty levels, higher educational levels, more healthcare services, more doctors, more access to those doctors and more resources to serve the unique and critical needs of the people of the Valley.”

Hinojosa is the principal author of SB 24, which features Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, as authors of the Senate measure.

Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, is the principal author of the companion (identical) measure, HB 1000, which also includes Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, as authors.

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, are among the leading coauthors of HB 1000.

Valley unites for greater good

The Edinburg leader noted that his hometown, along with the rest of the Valley’s cities, have successfully set aside economic and political rivalries for the greater good of the more than 1.3 million residents in deep South Texas.

He believes that Edinburg has much to gain with the legislation.

“Since 1927, the University of Texas-Pan American has been evolving into a stronger and more vibrant institution. With such a robust history, some spectators from around the state have asked me why I and the community I serve are such proponents of legislation that would effectively restructure our proud university into a new institution,” the mayor acknowledged. “Our answer is always the same: progress.”

He focused on the impact of creating the new university system, particularly how it will, for the first time, provide UTPA and UTB, along with the planned UT medical school, access to the multi-billion dollar Permanent University Fund (PUF) for major construction projects.

“As community leaders, we know that progress is never easy and seldom comes without some sacrifice or compromise. While UT-Pan American will be restructured, our community is prepared to make this compromise to gain access to a medical school, an enhanced healthcare infrastructure, and the Permanent University Fund,” Mayor García emphasized. “These fundamental changes will ensure that South Texas can meet and exceed its future needs.”

SB 1000 and SB 24 were filed on Monday, February 4, less than a week after Gov. Rick Perry in his State of the State address called for the Texas Legislature to pass either of those two bills giving South Texas access to Permanent University Funds (PUF).

“Presently, UTPA endures great challenges in meeting the needs of a growing student populous. Cut off from access to the Permanent University Fund, UTPA has been limited in developing its campus and program infrastructure,” Mayor García said. “This legislation would remove that barrier and ensure that our region and our state stay the course of continued educational excellence.”

PUF are revenue generated from oil and gas activities on 2.1 million acres of public lands spread across 19 West Texas counties. This land was dedicated to the UT System by the state of Texas in the latter part of the 19th century. Over the years, these activities have directly generated more than $3.65 billion held as an endowment trust for The University of Texas System and Texas A&M University System.

Out of the 15 institutions in the UT System, only UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville do not have access to the PUF, which can be used to pay for major construction projects through the issuance of long-term debt.

Edinburg leading center for medical care

The mayor said Edinburg, which has become a leading center of medical care and medical education through its expanding system of privately-owned major hospitals, has already attracted the attention of several of the nation’s leading health providers, “including Harvard University’s Joslin Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, The Cancer Therapy Research Center, Vanderbilt University and many others who now have a physical clinic, presence, or ongoing program in our great city.”

Over the last 20 years, South Texas “has forged a substantial medical infrastructure,” he said.

“Edinburg alone is now home to nine hospitals, which, along with other regional hospitals, would serve as a hub for medical residents at a new South Texas School of Medicine. Today, our region is not only equipped for a medical school; it is prepared to invest in one,” he continued.

Mayor García offered a preview on ongoing efforts to combine local financial resources that are vital to all medical schools.

“To help with the long-term development and fiscal viability of the medical school in South Texas, our community leaders are working diligently to design private, municipal, and/or county investments that will raise local funding for the creation and operation of a full four year medical school,” the mayor said. “It is our hope to have a funding announcement in the near future.”

Valley facing doctor shortage in future

Mayor García reported the Valley’s major hospital systems are supporting the creation of a UT medical school.

“Just this year, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg announced their commitment, with The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, to create over 50 new residency slots in the fields of Internal Medicine, General Surgery, Family Medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology,” he reported. “DHR is also working to commence rotations and programs for Neurosurgical, Urological, Maternal Fetal Medicine and Oncology fellowships.”

Despite the region’s strong medical infrastructure and educational programs, the Valley is experiencing a physician shortage, the mayor observed.

“Studies show that the Valley has 110 doctors for every 100,000 people, which is half the national rate and below the state average,” he said. “Existing physicians are aging and retiring. At Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, 38 percent of physicians will approach retirement in the next 5 to 10 years.”

The physician shortage has a direct effect on South Texans, he cautioned.

“For years Valley leaders have worked to address healthcare disparities, including high rates of diabetes and obesity. We are working to pave the way for better access to crucial healthcare services. We know that a large percentage of physicians end up practicing in the same region where they studied and completed their residencies,” Mayor García said. “By acquiring a school of medicine, we want to provide excellent medical educational opportunities to our students, and we want to give our residents a commitment that they will have improved access to quality healthcare.”

In December, the Board of Regents unanimously authorized Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa to work with the Legislature to establish the new, PUF-eligible super university for the Valley. The result would be 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 decade to accelerate the pace of transitioning the Regional Academic Health Centers in the Valley to a school of medicine.

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Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, Republican candidate for Texas governor in 2014, testifies on Capitol Hill for immigration reform, warns GOP to reach out to women and minorities

By LUPE CHÁVEZ, JR.

Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, the first Mexican-American woman to run for Texas governor, was in Washington, D.C. in mid-March to bolster support among the Republican Party for immigration reform and meet with members of Congress to address border security concerns in deep South Texas.

“Next to Gov. Rick Perry’s refusal to expand Medicaid and accept federal funding for nearly all new medical expenses, immigration reform is the next major issue that will drive a wedge between the decisive Hispanic vote and the GOP for 2016,” said Martínez, a Republican candidate for Texas governor in 2014.

Martínez was in Washington, D.C. to speak with members of Congress about increased funding in Texas for federal road improvements to support an expected boom in produce imports from Mexico.  She is also calling for a new strategy to assist in drug cartel violence along the Texas-Mexico border.

“Yet another major media outlet in Mexico has gone dark in response to cartel violence reporting,” said Martínez. “America can no longer remain silent as terrorists control all major roadways leading to our ports of entry.”

Martínez also attended the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington that week to meet with other GOP members to help support her campaign to bring new leadership and diversity to the party.

“Political pundits, experts, consultants and correspondents have read the writing on the wall for the GOP: Diversify or lose the Hispanic vote entirely for the next 50 years,” Martínez said. “Our party can’t survive that long without reaching out to women and Hispanic voters like me.”

The American Conservative Union is America’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization and was founded in 1964. The ACU has hosted CPAC in the Nation’s Capital since 1974. To learn more about the Conservative Political Action Conferences, please visit conservative.org/.

Founded in 1964, the American Conservative Union (ACU) is the oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization in the nation. For almost fifty years, ACU has served as an umbrella organization harnessing the collective strength of conservative organizations fighting for Americans who are concerned with liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and strong national defense. ACU defines conservatism, grows conservatism, and wins for conservatism.

••••••

Rep. Canales files bill to protect integrity of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; lawmaker then condemns Bill O’Reilly’s false charges against Texans on border with Mexico

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Friday, March 8, filed legislation to require Texas to further protect the integrity of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the food stamp program), which serves more than four million qualified Texans, especially children.

The South Texas leader also condemned Fox Television Network political commentator Bill O’Reilly, who claimed during his February 27 episode of his national television broadcast, The O’Reilly Factor, that SNAP fraud “is all over the place down on the border.”

His legislation, House Bill 3631, requires the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (which administers SNAP and related cash assistance programs in the state) to withdraw all SNAP benefits that have not been spent after 90 days. It would also prevent a person from accumulating more than three months’ worth of SNAP benefits on their Lone Star Card.

“Let me make it clear: SNAP is tremendously important for all Texans because it helps our most vulnerable citizens, especially households with children, elderly and the disabled,” Canales noted. “In addition, every year, SNAP pumps billions of dollars in federal money into our state and local economies. My legislation is designed to help protect the integrity of these important programs by making sure our state government correctly provides these benefits to Texans who are truly in need.”

SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP is the largest program in the hunger safety net.

Monthly SNAP benefits in Texas are credited into the state’s successful Lone Star Card, which is a plastic card that is used like a debit card, according to HHSC. Each month, approved monthly benefits are placed in the card’s account.

Monthly benefits that are not used in one month stay in the Lone Star Card, and are added to the balance when the next month’s scheduled SNAP benefits are deposited into the recipient’s Lone Star Card.

Canales’ legislation was a response to a local news investigation in mid-February, which featured a Lone Star Card receipt that showed a balance of more than $7,000.

“It’s unclear how widespread the problem of high-balance SNAP accounts is,” he said. “Nevertheless, the idea that funds can roll over indefinitely is not a sound accounting principle and is not in the best interest of the SNAP program. We simply must improve the state government’s management and accounting practices of this vital program, and my legislation is one way to help make sure our tax funds are used properly.”

The state lawmaker added, “This is not so much a fraud issue as it is an internal accounting issue.”

The House District 40 state representative said he was dismayed with comments by O’Reilly, who featured highlights of the KGBT-TV news story on the $7,000 Lone Star Card balance.

O’Reilly claimed that money generated from illegal drug sales – which is never reported as income to the government – allows dishonest individuals to build large cash surpluses in their Lone Star Card while possessing material wealth that should disqualify them from the anti-poverty program.

“While I was working at WFAA in Dallas, I did an investigative report on the border about this exact thing. They have mansions, Mercedes (Benzs), five, six cars. Do you know where they are making the money, getting the money? Drugs,” O’Reilly contended. “The drug traffickers don’t declare, obviously, occupation: cocaine dealer. It’s all cash, so drug dealers and other people in that business making a lot of money don’t declare it, so the government sends them food stamps and other assistance. That’s all over the place down on the border.”

Canales called O’Reilly’s depiction of the U.S. border with Mexico and SNAP recipients “insulting, incorrect, and ignorant.”

“Mr. O’Reilly is wrong about the people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Canales said. “We work hard for a living, we are successful, we are law-abiding citizens, and we take care of those in need. Now that’s the truth about border Texans.”

Canales noted that, according to a June 2012 Texas Tribune article (“Hunger Study: One in Four Texas Children At Risk“), SNAP in 2010 provided benefits to 3.6 million Texans, among them nearly two million children, or one in four Texas children.

An updated report by StateHealthFacts.org, a healthcare data project of the Kaiser Foundation, states that 4.1 million Texans received SNAP benefits as of October 2012 (www.statehealthfacts.org/profileind.jsp?cat=1&rgn=45&sub=7).

According to the Texas Commission on Health and Human Service, SNAP benefits are given to a single person or family who meets the program’s requirements. HHSC sends a renewal application to a family getting SNAP before the end of each benefit period. Most benefit periods last for six months but some can be as short as one month or as long as three years.

For most adults between the ages of 18 and 50 who do not have a child in the home, SNAP benefits are limited to three months in a three-year period. The benefit period can be longer if the adult works at least 20 hours a week or is in a job or training program.

Some people may not have to work to get benefits, such as those who have a disability or are pregnant.

••••••

Texas House of Representatives approves funding plan for Medicaid, CHIP, nursing homes, public education, says Rep. Muñoz

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, February 21, took the financial steps needed to provide $5.1 billion in state funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), nursing homes, and public education for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, according to Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

The largest portion of the funding – $4.5 billion – goes for the vital health care services, with $630 million to be used to fund the Foundation School Program through August 31, 2013

HB 10 goes to the Senate for its action

The measure, House Bill 10, was drafted and passed by the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, February 11, then sent to the full House, which approved it 10 days later, said Muñoz, who serves on the powerful state-budget writing legislative panel.

The most important job of the Texas Legislature is to approve the two-year state budget, and Texas’ state budget is decided by the work of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.

“I am very proud of the action we took today to fund the Medicaid program by $4.5 billion.  The funding will keep Medicaid dollars flowing for the remainder of the current budget cycle, as we continue to work on funding for the next budget cycle that begins on September 1 of this year,” said Muñoz.

When combined with the $6.6 billion in federal matching funds that the recent budget action triggered, the actual Medicaid shortfall that will be funded for the current biennium adds up to $11.5 billion.

“Medicaid is a critical component of the health care delivery system in the Valley. Just as cuts made to the program last session were devastating to many of our friends and neighbors, this funding will help a multitude of people in need of services,” added Muñoz. “The emergency appropriation was needed because the Texas Legislature in 2011 only set aside enough money for the state’s funding portion of Medicaid, CHIP, and nursing home services to last through the beginning of this spring.”

Medicaid is a state and federal partnership, according to HealthCare.gov., that  provides health insurance for people with lower incomes, older people, people with disabilities, and some families and children.

CHIP is health insurance for children designed for families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet cannot afford to buy private health insurance. To qualify for CHIP, a child must be under age 19, a Texas resident and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.

According to the House Research Organization, which is the research arm of the Texas House of Representative, HB 10 includes $4.5 billion for the key health services, broken down accordingly:

• $3.4 billion goes to the Health and Human Services Commission to provide the state funding portion of Medicaid;

• $74.7 million goes to the Health and Human Services Commission to pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP; and

• $1 billion goes to the Department of Aging and Disability Services for payments to nursing facilities for long-term care services.

“Without our committee’s action several weeks earlier, Medicaid would have to stop paying physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and a host of other health-care providers by mid-March. I am very pleased we are in a position to avoid such drastic action to help protect Medicaid and CHIP,” said Muñoz. “As we await final approval from the full Legislature, my colleagues and I on the House Appropriations Committee will continue to develop the funding strategies for Medicaid, education, transportation and the rest of the next two-year state budget, which goes into effect on September 1.”

Muñoz also will work to help begin restoring some of the $5.4 billion in budget cuts to public education approved in 2011 by the Texas Legislature.

As part of the budget maneuvering in the spring of 2011, the Legislature had approved a state budget that only paid for the first 18 months of the state’s share of Medicaid, CHIP and nursing home services. This forced state lawmakers at the beginning of this legislative session to deal with finding the money this spring to cover the $4.5 billion shortfall for these vital programs.

In 2011, Muñoz voted against the legislative plan that wound up cutting billions from the state budget. Muñoz had favored tapping into the so-called Texas Rainy Day Fund to reduce the amount of budget cuts to health care, including Medicaid, and public education.

Currently, the Texas Rainy Day Fund – which is an emergency savings account for the state – has more than $8 billion, and is expected to grow.

“Two years ago, the Texas economy was still reeling from the severe national recession, which reduced the amount of state money, much of it generated through a variety of state consumption taxes, which is used to pay for all state programs, especially education and health care,” he explained. “The Texas economy has improved since then, so I will work diligently with my colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee to begin reversing the damaging impact of those multi-billion dollar budget cuts, which I had opposed.”

House Bill 10 was designed to gain swift approval by the House and Senate, which would allow it to be sent to the governor and certified by the comptroller in time to meet an approaching deadline for payments to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. HHSC estimates that funds for these payments could run dry by mid-March without supplemental funds.

••••••

Edinburg’s latest retail, employment figures more positive signs of prosperous economy

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

In his State of the City presentation on February 20, Mayor Richard García announced that the city’s retail economy in the past year was 16.4 percent better than the previous year – the best annual figure in a decade.

Now, the newest findings by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts show that Edinburg continues to prosper.

Plus, Edinburg and McAllen tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the Rio Grande Valley for the month of January, according to the latest data by another state agency, the Texas Workforce Commission.

“This is explosive growth in our city,” García says of the retail economy, low unemployment rate, and residential and commercial construction growth. “This is an enormous amount of activity in the City of Edinburg – done without increasing taxes.”

For the month of January, the local sales tax figure – which reflects the strength of the local retail economy – was up almost eight percent over the same month in 2012, according to the state comptroller.

For January, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,264,487.44 in local sales taxes, an improvement of 7.92 percentover January 2012, which registered $1,171,618.48 in local sales taxes.

The sales tax figure represents January sales reported by monthly tax filers as well as sales by businesses that report tax on a quarterly or annual basis.

The unemployment rate for Edinburg continues to remain in single digits, while other South Texas cities struggle with higher and even double-digit jobless figures.

For January, Edinburg unemployment rate was 7.6 percent – the same as McAllen’s.

By comparison, Mission (8.8 percent), Harlingen (9 percent), Pharr (9.9 percent), Brownsville (11.1 percent), and Weslaco (11.5 percent) had higher unemployment rates in January than Edinburg and McAllen, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

More retail activities and job creation advances are on the way, adds the mayor, who also serves as president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors.

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

“Utilizing research from industry experts highlighting traffic counts, roof tops, and spending capacity, Edinburg is now home to The Shoppes at Edinburg, with 500,000 square feet currently occupied by national retailers,” García said of key characteristics of the city that brought one of South Texas’ premier retail shopping venues to the community. “Phase Two of its planned expansion will grow The Shoppes to 1.2 million square feet.”

Among other major economic development projects set for substantial action in 2013, according to the mayor, are:

• The Cinemark Movie Bistro will open this summer on the corner of Trenton and Jackson roads, at the location of the former Alamo Draft House complex, which never opened because of the national economic recession. The Cinemark Movie Bistro is “a first of its kind not only in the Valley, but in the country,” García reported. The 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 Bistro 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.

• The Burns Brothers, who have developed La Sienna, a master planned community, “very soon will have a retail development this entire metroplex has only dreamed about in the past. Stay tuned for the announcement,” the mayor said.

• Holt Caterpillar, the Valley’s authorized Caterpillar heavy equipment dealer, is under construction with a state-of-the-art showroom. “With more than 100,000 vehicles traveling on U.S. Highway 281, Holt has chosen the perfect location to increase visibility and expand services,” García explained. “This is Holt’s second facility in Edinburg, and it will be the largest in South Texas, featuring a showroom, parts department, repair shop, and company offices.”

• In the coming weeks, the latest achievement for the Bert Ogden auto business, a new $4.66 million Infiniti dealership, located on Alberta Road, will hold its formal grand opening ceremony. “(Owners) Bob and Janet Vacker now have five dealerships in Edinburg, the city where Bert Ogden began,” García recalled. “Between 2010 and 2012, these dealerships generated more than $707,000 in property taxes for the city, school district, and county. Bert Ogden’s sales revenue was more than $200 million.”

• Edinburg’s Produce Park continues to grow as a Mexican superhighway, recently opened, provides a direct route from Mexico through Edinburg to the rest of the United States. Located on FM 2812, immediately east of the interstate-level U.S. Highway 281, the Rio Grande Produce Park will eventually transform an 87-acre tract of land into a privately-owned, $100 million, state-of-the-art produce distribution complex that will be used to safely store and transfer agricultural imports coming from Mexico to the rest of the U.S. Plans for Rio Grande Produce Park, unveiled by developer José Luis González – who also is the leader for his Chicago-based Don Hugo Produce, Inc. – call for 800 jobs to eventually anchor the major agricultural distribution center, which should boast about one million square feet of refrigerated-storage facilities.

• The Residence at Edinburg, a $9+ million, 194-unit, high-end apartment complex broke  ground in May 2012 near Edinburg Regional Medical Center. “It’s location means that many of our health professionals who work at our vital hospital corridors have access to even more outstanding housing choices, and the amenities offered by The Residence of Edinburg put it on the level of the best apartment complexes in South Texas,” said García.

• Coronado Ventures, also known as Edinburg Power, LLC, made public its commitment to Edinburg for the construction of a 700-megawatt electricity generating facility. “The $650 million construction of this natural gas-powered plant will infuse $1.4 billion into the local economy, and at full capacity, will generate enough electricity for 350,000 homes,” the mayor said.

• Construction is slated to begin soon for a new U.S. Customs facility at the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, “putting us on the map for international traffic,” Garcia said.

• Santana Textiles, a South American textile company, is building a $180 million denim-manufacturing plan in Edinburg, which eventually will create 800 new jobs and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. “They have informed us of a much-anticipated summer 2013 full production scheduled,” García said. “Construction is complete, equipment installed and pilot runs are in place.”

The mayor shared the credit with the entire community, but had special praise for his colleagues on the Edinburg City Council.

“I wish to recognize and extend a sincere note of gratitude to my fellow council members,” he said. “They are unsung heroes who do everything I do, also gratis,” García said. “It is truly an exhilarating experience to serve with a group of degree professionals from diverse backgrounds: accountants, bankers, business owners, developers, and administrators.

“Together, we agree, on occasion disagree,” García continued. “But we always lock elbows and catapult our city to new horizons.”

••••••

EEDC launches mobile app to reach out to huge audiences and promote worldwide Edinburg’s successes and opportunities

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Residents and people from across the world will now have easier access to information about  key business activities, job opportunities, local governmental actions, academic advances, major conferences, large social gatherings, and legislative affairs with the launching of a mobile app by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

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

“The Edinburg EDC has unveiled a new, free mobile app that highlights events, news, entertainment, and more,” said Letty Reyes, EEDC Project Manager. “The EEDC mobile app and blog are great examples of the work our office is doing to embrace technology and create a more effective and efficient reach into the community.”

The EEDC mobile app can be downloaded at no charge, on any Apple/iOS device (iPhone, iPod, iPad) or Android smartphone. Go to the app store on any Apple or Android device and download the free mobile app. It’s as simple as searching for “EdinburgEDC” and tapping the install button. In addition, once downloaded, utilize the “Tell a Friend” feature to let family and friends know about this mobile app that will help keep them up-to-date about their community.

“More than just a day or a night out for residents, special events are a driver for economic development and we should be exploring every option to ensure they are enjoyed by as many people as possible,” Reyes said. “People can use our interactive mobile app to view upcoming events, tap to call, get directions or email us, view the staff directory, read our blog, receive important updates and so much more.”

The EEDC mobile app is the latest example of Edinburg’s cutting-edge efforts to inform the public and promote the residents, businesses, goals and achievements of the community to the rest of the state and nation – a strategy to foster continuing economic development for all constituents, said Mayor Richard H. García.

García is president of the five-member EEDC Board of Directors.

“For a growing and huge number of people, digital information from the Internet is being accessed through mobile devices, such as cell phones, according to The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism,” the mayor observed. “This is a major market with whom we always need to be in constant contact. Through our new EEDC mobile app, we are making it very easy for potentially thousands of people to always and conveniently know about the great achievements and opportunities in our tremendous city.”

The EEDC “is definitely going in the right direction and continues to be ahead of the curve in this regard,” said Travis French, founder and CEO of Amplify media + marketing of McAllen, which created the EEDC app. “There is definitely a strong correlation between this and the excellent growth taking place in Edinburg.”

“It’s refreshing to see an organization, especially a division of the government, taking strides to help further improve communication to their citizens,” added French. “The use of mobile apps has exploded over the past few years, allowing the flow of data and information to be readily available via multiple channels.”

The migration of audiences toward digital news advanced to a new level in 2011 and early 2012, the era of mobile and multidigital devices, The Pew Report found.

More than three-quarters of U.S. adults own laptop or desktop computers, a number that has been stable for some years. Now, in addition, 44% of adults own a smart phone, and the number of tablet owners grew by about 50% since the summer of 2011, to 18% of Americans over age 18.

French (http://www.AmplifyMM.com) said those statistics are constantly increasing as the revolution in telecommunications goes forward, with smart phones, tablet computers, and e-Readers, in addition to new technology products and innovations released every year.

According to Wikipedia:

• A smart phone is a mobile phone built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability connectivity than a feature phone;

• A tablet computer, or simply tablet, is a one-piece mobile computer;

• An e-reader, also called an e-book device or e-book reader, is a mobile electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital e-books and periodicals.

Other data that shows the importance and growth of mobile telecommunications devices include the following highlights:

Tablets

· 33% of US adults now own a tablet or eReader (Leaning, Brittany, Hubspot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog, Jan 6, 2013); and

· 85% of US tablet owners use their tablet while watching TV (BI Report: How Mobile is waging battle for the multi-screen living room, Jan 2013)

Mobile

• 1 in 3 mobile search queries have local intent (Google Training Video);

• 15% of iPhone Apps are local (Google Training Video);

• Almost 80% of all new handset acquisition are smartphones (MobiLens, Aug 2012);

• 92% of phone users use SMS (MobiLens, Aug 2011);

• 23% of total website visits in December 2012 were derived from mobile devices (BIMobile Traffic Quadrupled in Last Two YearsWalker Sand Communications, Jan 2013);

• Three out of four smartphone users have contacted a business they found on their phone (Source: Google/Ipsos, The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users, April 2011.);

• Mobile coupons receive 10xs higher redemption rates than print coupons (M.Rucker, SnapGiant, July 2012);

• 16% of smartphone users made a purchase because of a marketing message received on their phone (M.Rucker, SnapGiant, July 2012);

• 9 out of 10 mobile searches lead to action. Over half lead to purchase. (M.Rucker, SnapGiant, July 2012);

• 74% of smartphone users use their phone to help with shopping. (M.Rucker, SnapGiant, July 2012);

• 70% of mobile searches lead to action within one hour. (M.Rucker, SnapGiant, July 2012); and

• Mobile now accounts for 12% of Americans’ media consumption time, triple its share in 2009 (Business InsiderMOBILE USAGE: How Consumers are using their Phones, and what it Means, Jan 2013).

Apps

• Smartphone owners now spend 127 minutes per day in mobile apps.

About Amplify media + marketing

(http://www.AmplifyMM.com)

Amplify media + marketing is a full service marketing agency, focusing primarily on small to medium sized business’ marketing strategy development. With a unique style to achieving success for clients and their industry leading approach to marketing strategy and implementation, Amplify is able to provide a strong return on investment and further fuel the growth for their clients.

About Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC)

(http://www.EdinburgEDC.com) (http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com)

As part of their strategies to foster economic development and job growth, the EEDC plays a key role in assisting companies to expand, while helping to attract new business and industry to Edinburg.

The EEDC provides the following services:

• Site selection assistance;

• Real estate database of properties and buildings;

• Business seminars;

• Job training assistance;

• Data Information Center;

• Coordination of state and local assistance; and

• Access to business start-up resources.

In addition, the EEDC can arrange custom tours, schedule meetings with community leaders, arrange introductions to necessary business contracts, and serve as an advocate with state and local governmental entities.

••••••

Hidalgo County could be first in Texas to allow e-filing in all criminal cases under measure supported by District Clerk Hinojosa

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Hidalgo County would be the first in Texas to allow attorneys in all criminal cases to file pleadings and documents electronically – known as e-filing ­– under legislation considered on Monday, March 11 by the House Committee on the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

If approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, Canales’ House Bill 349 would go into effect on September 1, 2015.

HB 349 is designed to improve the delivery of justice in Hidalgo County, reduce costs to county taxpayers, attorneys and litigants, and take advantage of the latest technological advances in the state’s legal system.

“Courts have long been burdened with processing paper, a problem that continues to grow exponentially and largely unabated,” said Canales. “After more than 165 years of processing traditional filing, Texas Court Clerks are awash in the state’s judicial paper trail. Electronic filing offers a means to stem the paper tide.”

The House District 40 Democrat noted a passage from Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson’s “State of the Judiciary Speech” on March 6, in which the Republican leader impressed the need to move to electronic filing.

“Our courts operate much like they did in 1891 with paper, stamps on paper, cabinets for paper, staples, storage, shredding of paper,” Canales quoted Jefferson.

Canales agreed with Jefferson’s concerns that “one of the more intractable barriers to justice is antiquity.”

During his speech before state lawmakers on March 6, Jefferson also noted “with e-filing, document storage expenses for court clerks decrease. Staff that formerly spent time sorting and file-stamping paper can be assigned to higher-skilled tasks. Important court documents are less likely to be damaged or lost.  Attorneys can file their pleadings across the state without the need to master various filing systems.  And litigants can more quickly access documents online.”

Canales said his measure is endorsed by Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, Hidalgo County Clerk Arturo Guajardo, Jr., and Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa.

Hinojosa, daughter of U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, testified before the House panel in support of Canales’ legislation.

Hinojosa has developed expertise in e-filing for the courts system as a member of the Texas Judicial Council, which studies methods to simplify judicial procedures, expedite court business, and better administer justice.

She noted that the Texas Supreme Court has already ordered the full implementation of electronic filing for all civil cases in Hidalgo County by January 2014, so the infrastructure is already being set up to allow for e-filing for all criminal cases.

“There shouldn’t be any fiscal impact (costs),” she testified. “We will be ready to go in January 2014 with civil e-filing, which is the mandate of the Texas Supreme Court. I believe Hidalgo County will be ready for criminal e-filing by the date set by Rep. Canales (September 2015).”

Canales added there would be some start-up cost, but ultimately the new system will save money for the county government.

There would be no cost to the county government to use the e-filing system for civil or criminal cases, and there would be no cost to litigants who are too poor to pay for the service, he added.

Also under his legislation, Hidalgo County could still allow traditional paper filing as well.

But, Canales predicted, the future is at hand.

“As Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said, ‘The era of big paper is over,” Canales said.

••••••

Rep. Oliveira files space launch legislation: restricts summer, holiday and summer weekend launches 

By ANTHONY GRAY

Legislation was filed Wednesday, March 6, in the Texas House of Representatives to further the SpaceX project that may potentially be located near Brownsville’s Boca Chica beach.

House Bill 2623 by Rep. René Oliveira allows Cameron County to temporarily close an area of the beach for launches and space flight activities with approval of the General Land Office. While SpaceX has not made a final decision to relocate to the area, Oliveira filed the bill to make certain the necessary legislative measures are in place to move the project forward.

“This is an important tool to bring the company to Cameron County, but it also protects citizens’ access to the beach in times of peak summer use” said Oliveira, chairman of the House Committee on Business and Industry who met with SpaceX founder Elon Musk Friday in Austin.

“We have a unique economic development opportunity based on our unique location on the Gulf Coast. Our intentions to help make the project a reality are crystal clear,” the state lawmaker added.

The bill specifies that a county must have the approval of the state’s General Land Office before a launch may be made. The bill also prohibits the closure of a beach during the Saturday or Sunday preceding Memorial Day; Memorial Day; July 4; a Saturday after Memorial Day but before Labor Day; and, a Sunday after Memorial Day but before Labor Day.

The GLO, however, could approve a launch during those dates under special circumstances. In order to launch on one of those dates, the launch must be justified as one of special nature based on technical requirements, adverse business consequences of not launching on a particular date, or regulatory requirements.

Any special launch date would require county and GLO approval, and would require 14-day notice of intent.

“The project has received overwhelming community support and support from state leaders. We want to make it happen, but we also want to make sure that the people of Texas have access to their beaches,” said Oliveira.

The proposed SpaceX project must still undergo federal scrutiny through the Federal Aviation Administration as well environmental impact studies. If the FAA does not approve SpaceX’s launch site, the beaches cannot be closed.

Beaches may only be closed for a launch at an FAA approved site. If the FAA denies the site, the bill will have no effect. The FAA will address launch site environmental issues in its Environmental Impact Study.

••••••

Sen. Cornyn votes for Congressional approval of The Violence against Women Act, which includes his measure to protect rape victims

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Thursday, February 28, issued the following statement after Congress passed The Violence Against Women Act, which includes Cornyn’s Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) bill to reduce the national rape kit backlog:

“For far too long, an unacceptable national backlog of untested rape kits has compounded the pain for too many victims of sexual assault. I am pleased that Congress has passed this legislation that takes a significant step toward reducing that backlog and bringing swifter justice for millions of victims.”

The SAFER Act will audit and reduce the backlog of untested rape kits sitting in the possession of law enforcement agencies across the country, which experts have pegged as high as 400,000.

Endorsed by key national victims’ rights groups, this deficit-neutral bill will provide funding for state and local governments to conduct audits of untested DNA evidence and create a national reporting system to help track and prioritize untested rape kits.

Background on SAFER:

• Provides state and local governments with funding to conduct a one-year audit of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession;

• Creates a national reporting system to help track these audits, prioritize the analysis of untested rape kits and better target existing Debbie Smith Act appropriations;

• Amends current law to require that at least 75% of Debbie Smith Act funds be spent directly on either analyzing untested DNA evidence or increasing the capacity of labs;

• Allows the Department of Justice to publish a report on advisory protocols and practices used in cases that include untested sexual assault evidence, and allows SAFER Act grantees to use existing funds to implement those guidelines; and

• Prohibits grantees from holding funds in offshore accounts and using funds for conferences and lobbying, and limits the amount of funds that may be used for administrative costs.

Leading organizations in support of the Cornyn measure were:

• Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN);

• Fraternal Order of Police (FOP);

• National Organization for Women (NOW);

• Concerned Women for America (CWA);

• National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV);

• National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV);

• National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA);

• Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA); and

• Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV).

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State commission to investigate wrongful convictions, promote justice in Texas, proposed by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A bill that would create a state commission to identify the causes of wrongful convictions and determine ways to reduce future miscarriages of justice has been jointly-authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

The legislation was heard by Canales and his colleagues on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, March 5. The measure, as is standard procedure in the legislative process, is pending a final vote by committee members at a later date.

“Unfortunately, people being incarcerated for crimes they did not commit is a worldwide reality. It is our obligation as legislators to do everything in our power to minimize the probability of wrongful convictions in Texas,” said Canales, an attorney. “Not only is there a heavy price tag that comes with incarcerating an individual, there is no monetary value in existence that can compensate someone who has been deprived of their liberty by wrongful incarceration.”

Currently, there is no systematic review or referral of misconduct identified in finalized habeas cases either to the State Bar of Texas, the Judicial Conduct Commission, or to any other agency with potential enforcement authority, according to Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, the author of House Bill 166.

HB 166 would establish the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, creating a nine-member commission to review cases in which an innocent person was convicted and then exonerated.

The purpose is to identify the causes of wrongful convictions and determine ways to minimize these erroneous outcomes in the future.

Additionally, the commission would be authorized to review writs of habeas corpus after final adjudication and refer matters of misconduct to the appropriate oversight agencies for review and action.

McClendon emphasizes the importance of establishing such a commission.

“When we convict someone based on invalid evidence, or misconduct of some kind, we are wasting public funds on the prosecution and incarceration of a person who is not responsible for the crime,” McClendon said. “This has happened too often in Texas for too long, and it is time we identify and examine the reasons why this continues to occur. We must take effective actions to repair this flaw in our criminal justice system. Public safety demands it.”

In addition to Canales, Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas, Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Rep. Joseph Moody, D-El Paso, are joint authors of McClendon’s HB 166. Leach and Moody also serve with Canales on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

“The testimony before the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee was so powerful that I was at times brought to tears by the testimony of individuals who had spent anywhere from 10 to more than 25 years in jail for crimes they didn’t commit,” Canales added. “It is imperative that we learn from their tribulations and do our best to prevent it from happening again.”

During the 2009 Legislative Session, McClendon authored House Bill 498, which established the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel in recognition of Tim Cole, a Texan and an Army veteran.

Cole served 13 years of a 25-year sentence for a rape based upon false eyewitness identification, and died in prison of complications from asthma. Years later, another man confessed his responsibility, having delayed in hopes of avoiding prosecution.

The Texas Task Force for Indigent Defense adopted the Tim Cole Advisory Panel report and many of the recommendations have been enacted into law. Judge Charles Baird of Travis County entered a court order in 2009 exonerating Cole, and Gov. Rick Perry later authorized a posthumous pardon for Tim Cole.

Several states have established commissions to investigate wrongful convictions, including Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and California.

According to the bill analysis of HB 166:

The bill would amend the code of Criminal Procedure by creating the Timothy Cole Exoneration Commission. The nine-member commission, appointed by the governor, would make thorough review or investigation of all cases in which innocent persons are convicted and exonerated.

The bill would establish guidelines, requirements, and responsibilities for the commission and would subject the commission to review under the Texas Sunset Act. Under the provisions of the bill the commission would be required to conduct a public hearing at least once annually and be required to compile a detailed annual report of its findings and recommendations.

The bill would also allow the commission to enter into contracts for research and professional services as necessary.  The commission would submit the reports to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to the Legislature not later than December 1 of each even-numbered year, or not later than the 60th day after the issuance of the report, whichever occurs first.

Under the provisions of the bill, members of the commission would receive no compensation for commission services but would be entitled to reimbursement by the commission for the member’s actual and necessary expenses incurred in performing commission duties, subject to the availability of funds from General Revenue that may be appropriated to the commission by the state.

The commission may apply for and accept gifts, grants and donations from organizations described in the bill and the commission shall be assisted by the Legislative Budget Board, the University of Texas at Austin, and any other state agencies able to assist the commission.

The Legislative Budget Board has reported that the bill would not result in a significant fiscal impact to the State or in a significant increase on the workload or demand for resources and services of the agencies required to provide assistance.

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Congressman Hinojosa supports Voting Rights Act as U.S. Supreme Court takes up issue

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, February 27, stood on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Progressive Caucus to speak in support of voter rights.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices heard an oral argument in the case of Shelby County v. Holder concerning Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This provision requires covered jurisdictions to submit any proposed changes in voting procedures and election rules to either the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C. before any changes can be put into effect. The Shelby County v. Holder lawsuit was filed in April 2010 by Shelby County, Alabama, a largely white suburb of Birmingham. The suit seeks to have Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional.

“This could have a significant affect for Latino voters in Texas and other states across our country,” said Hinojosa. “We are now witnessing unprecedented attacks on the right to vote and now more than ever, we must also fight to maintain its legacy and integrity. More than 42 percent of the Latino population is eligible to vote, yet many face obstacles to cast their ballot in certain states. In fact, during the last election cycle, voter ID laws, barriers to registration and reduced early voting were all tactics used to suppress minority voters.”

In Texas, the voter ID law and the most recent legislative and congressional redistricting plans were the most recent examples where the courts have found violations of Section 5 of the VRA because of their discriminatory effect on minority voters.

“Those of us who remember the signing of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson know how crucial this law is to minority voters,” said Hinojosa. “It restored justice, equality, and fairness to our country’s most sacred right: the right to vote no matter your race, color, or language minority status. It is my hope that today’s arguments on the Shelby County v. Holder case will serve to reaffirm our country’s dedication to racial equality. It is essential that every single voter in America is able to enjoy the cherished right to vote.”

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Congressman Hinojosa files bill to authorize 17 water delivery projects in Rio Grande Valley

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, February 27, filed the Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Resources Conservation and Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 832), a bill that would authorize 17 water delivery improvement projects in deep South Texas.

“Texas is suffering from the effects of one of the most devastating droughts in its history, and this is why we must take action on protecting our water supply in the Lower Rio Grande Valley,” said Hinojosa. “This bill builds on projects which were supported by me and authorized by Congress over the years. These projects have provided significant water savings for the Lower Rio Grande Valley over time. We live in a unique area that is ever growing and evolving in population and in its topography. We must ensure our residents have up-to-date equipment to maintain sufficient water flow.”

The bill would begin improvements to the water delivery system by upgrading and modernizing their antiquated water delivery systems through the installation of water pipes and canal linings. It would enable the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, to conduct projects that include:

• Replacement of irrigation canals and lateral canals with buried pipelines;

• Impervious lining of irrigation canals and lateral canals;

• Installation of water level, flow measurement, pump control, and telemetry systems;

• Renovation and replacement of pumping plants; and

• Other activities that will result in water conservation or an improved water supply

“We must pass into law H.R. 832 in order to invest in the critically important water infrastructure projects in south Texas so as to protect its scarce water resources,” Hinojosa. “These projects are vital to improving water management throughout the region.”

This legislation passed the House of Representatives by voice vote in the 110th and 111th Congresses and is cosponsored by Congressman Filemón Vela, D-Brownsville, Congressman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

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Texas state troopers would receive pay boost under legislation filed by Rep. Longoria and Rep. Thompson

By MICHELLE VILLARREAL

Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, and Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, on Tuesday, March 5, filed House Bill 2100, which would increase the pay for state troopers in Texas.

“The Texas state troopers are the chief law enforcement agency in our state,” said Longoria. “They keep Texans safe every day and they risk their lives to ensure that we, as citizens of this state, are safe and well protected. This salary increase is a long time coming.”

Last October, the State Auditor’s Office concluded that the pay for Texas state troopers was not competitive with other law enforcement departments in the state, resulting in the decrease of new recruits.

“These men and women are supposed to be the elite level of law enforcement in our state,” said Thompson. “It is time that we begin recognizing the work that they do, the dangers that they face, and the sacrifices they make every day to keep this great state safe.”

The State Auditor’s Office released a report that surveyed and analyzed the state law enforcement salary schedule (Salary Schedule C) for the 2014-2015 biennium. The report reviewed the average maximum base pay for the state troopers in comparison with the average maximum base pay for comparable positions at the seven largest local law enforcement departments within the state.

The State Auditor’s Office concluded that Salary Schedule C for state law enforcement is not competitive and the average maximum base per pay is approximately 20.6% below that of the seven largest law enforcement departments in the state.

“It is unfortunate that as our top law enforcement officials, Texas state troopers’ salaries are not competitive with other law enforcement departments,” remarked Longoria. “It is unsatisfactory that they have not received salary increases, given the amount of work and personal danger they face on the job. Representative Thompson and I look forward to working diligently with the House leadership to ensure this bill is passed.”

House Bill 2100 would reclassify the salary for certain positions with the Department of Public Safety to make these positions more competitive and attract more individuals to this great profession.

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McAllen urologist Lahiji and wife, an attorney, charged in heath care fraud scheme and conspiracy to violate Iranian Sanctions

By ANGELA DODGE

A federal grand jury in Houston on Thursday, March 14, returned a four-count, superseding indictment against urologist Hossein Lahiji M.D. and his wife, attorney Najmeh Vahid Lahiji, both of McAllen and San Antonio, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced.

The second superseding Indictment, returned the previous day, charges the couple with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and for conspiring to violate Iranian sanctions.

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.

Hossein Lahiji M.D. is a physician investor in the physician-owned hospital, Doctor’s Hospital at Renassiance, in Edinburg.

The Lahijis appeared in Houston on Friday, March 15, before U.S. District Judge Mary Milloy.

This indictment alleges the Lahijis conspired to violate Iranian Sanctions by transferring approximately $1.1 million to Iran. The Lahijis allegedly utilized an unlicensed money remitting business called the Espadana Exchange to avoid the United States banking regulations and to allegedly make it appear they were not violating the United States embargo with Iran. The indictment alleges the defendants sent some of the monies representing profits of their alleged illegal health care fraud scheme to Iran for the purpose of making an investment on behalf of Hossein Lahiji and Najmeh Vahid Lahiji in real estate rental property in Iran, all in violation of the Iranian sanctions.

“The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will tenaciously pursue individuals who violate international emergency economic powers statutes,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz. “IRS-CI’s unique skill set is to unravel the often concealed complex networks used to disguise international financial crimes.”

The health care fraud scheme alleged in this indictment accuses Hossein and Najmeh Lahiji of conspiring to defraud multiple health care benefit programs by submitting false and fraudulent claims in connection with the use of unlicensed and unqualified medical personal and for billing for medical services not rendered.

The scheme allegedly ran from January 2003 through Feb. 24, 2012, and involved Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana and United Healthcare. The indictment further alleges the Lahijis submitted claims to these health care benefit programs for urology services allegedly performed by Hossein Lahiji M.D. when, in fact, he was traveling outside Texas and outside the United States.

The individuals, who were only licensed as medical assistants, were the ones actually performing these “urology services” without any supervision from any physician or other qualified, licensed personal in violation of protocols established by Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurance and the state of Texas.

The scheme also allegedly involved specific days in which Hossein Lahiji claimed to treat between 65 to 117 patients per day during the office hours of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The indictment further alleges false and fraudulent representations including that Hossein Lahiji had conducted a “consultation” for another physician.

In reality, he allegedly performed routine medical services for a patient of his own, a practice known as “upcoding. Lahiji allegedly indicated that the patient’s medical situation had necessitated a comprehensive physical examination and the taking of a comprehensive medical history. However,

The patient’s situation had not required such an examination or history-taking, and Hossein Lahiji had not performed such services, according to the indictment.

The indictment also contains two substantive counts of health care fraud occurring on July 1, 2009 and July 28, 2009.

The Lahijis each face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine if convicted of the health care offenses as well as a maximum of 20 years in prison and a possible $1 million fine upon conviction of conspiracy to violate Iranian sanctions.

The Lahijis are currently scheduled for a jury trial in Southern District of Texas on March 25, 2013. They are also scheduled for trial in the District of Oregon on June 4, 2013, on unrelated federal charges.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the FBI, the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and IRS-CI. Assistant United States Attorneys Carolyn Ferko and Jim McAlister are prosecuting the case.

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Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and technology adoption

By RUSS OATES

Latinos own smart phones, go online from a mobile device and use social networking sites at similar, and sometimes higher, rates than do other groups of Americans, according to a new analysis of three Pew Research Center surveys.

The analysis also finds that when it comes to using the Internet, the digital divide between Latinos and whites is smaller than what it had been just a few years ago. Between 2009 and 2012, the share of Latino adults who say they go online at least occasionally increased from 64% to 78%. Among whites, Internet use rates also increased, but only by half as much (80% in 2009 to 87% in 2012).

Over the same period, the gap in cell phone ownership between Latinos and other groups either diminished or disappeared. In 2012, 86% of Latinos said they owned a cell phone, up from 76% in 2009.

Among the biggest drivers of these increases are spikes in technology adoption among foreign-born Latinos and Spanish-dominant Latinos. Both groups’ rates of going online and of owning cell phones increased sharply since 2009, helping to reduce the digital divide between Latinos and whites and also reducing gaps within the Latino community itself.

This analysis, based on three national Pew Research Center surveys of more than 7,500 adults combined conducted between May and October of 2012, also finds:

Cell phone Ownership: Fully 86% of Latinos say they own a cell phone, a share similar to that of whites (84%) and blacks (90%). Among Latinos who do not own cell phones, 76% are foreign born and 24% are native born.

Smart phone Ownership: Among adults, Latinos (49%) are just as likely as whites (46%) or blacks (50%) to own a smart phone.

Going Online from a Mobile Device: Latino Internet users are more likely than white internet users to say they go online using a mobile device (76% versus 60%). Black Internet users are equally as likely as Latinos to access the Internet from a mobile device.

Social Networking: Among Internet users, similar shares of Latinos (68%), whites (66%) and blacks (69%) say they use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook at least occasionally. Among Latinos who use social networking sites, 60% say they do so mostly or only in English, 29% say they do so mostly or only in Spanish and 11% say they use English and Spanish equally.

Computer Ownership: Some 72% of Latinos say they own a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 83% of whites. Among blacks, 70% are computer owners. Half of Hispanic computer owners are foreign born. By comparison, 73% of Hispanics who do not own a computer are foreign born.

Internet Use: Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) Latino adults go online at least occasionally, compared with 87% of whites and 78% of blacks. Half (50%) of Hispanic Internet users are native born and half are foreign born.

The report, Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption, was written by Mark Hugo López, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center; Ana González-Barrera, research associate with the Pew Hispanic Center; and Eileen Patten, research assistant with the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. It is available at the Pew Research Center’s website, http://www.pewresearch.org

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan source of data and analysis. It does not take advocacy positions. Its Hispanic Center, founded in 2001, seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos’ growing impact on the nation.

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