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Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured, from left: Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Alma Ortega-Johnson, Area President South Texas Region for Wells Fargo; and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, following the State Legislative Session Wrap-Up Luncheon, sponsored by the City of McAllen and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, at the McAllen Country Club. Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

 

Several key projects vital to the Edinburg region – specifically the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, the UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, a Texas Department of Public Safety multi-use training facility, a hanger for emergency first responder capabilities at the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, and the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr – are included in the $209.4 billion two-year state spending plan that was approved by the Legislature on Friday, May 29, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. Those legislative priorities represent almost $100 million in state investments, beginning on September 1, 2015, that will be coming to the Rio Grande Valley in addition to a separate but enormous infusion of other state funding for the major functions of state government in the Rio Grande Valley. “The Valley legislative delegation played our roles in generating the political support from our 172 other colleagues in the Legislature for securing additional state funding for exciting new projects for House District 40 and for the rest of deep South Texas,” said Canales, who represents House District 40. House District 40 includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. “The special appropriations totaling almost $100 million were secured by Valley legislators, led by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who was the only South Texas lawmaker to serve on a 10-member Senate-House panel that came up with the final version of the state budget,” said Canales. “Having Sen. Hinojosa on the conference committee was invaluable. He deserves congratulations for a job well-done.” Hinojosa, D-McAllen,was one of only five Senate appointees – and the only Democrat – selected on Thursday, April 23, by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to serve on the Senate/House Conference Committee that came up with a final state budget for the 2016-17 biennium. A conference committee is a special legislative panel appointed by the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House when there are differences between a Senate bill and a House bill that deal with the same issue, such as the proposed state budget that has been approved by the Senate and the proposed state budget that has been approved by the House of Representatives. Edinburg, where a major campus of the UT-RGV School of Medicine, now under construction, and the adjacent UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division are located, will see those two cutting-edge facilities share in $91.7 million in state funds over the next two years. The UT-RGV School of Medicine also includes a major presence in Harlingen, with the UT-RGV RAHC Medical Education Division, while the UT-RGV School of Medicine in Edinburg will provide the first two years of a medical student’s education, along with the groundbreaking studies at the neighboring UT-RGV RAHC Medical Research Division. From the $91.7 million in state funding, more than $60 million will go towards the School of Medicine, while $31.4 million will be invested in the UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Centers. The leadership of UT-RGV will decide what portions of that money will be invested in each of the facilities and their programs. New money for public safety and law enforcement – not counting hundreds of millions of dollars for border security measures that will come into the Valley – was approved for the Edinburg region. The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg picked up $3 million to help expand its hangar capabilities, which are needed by the Texas Department of Public Safety for emergency and first responders for staging and storage purposes. That money is coming out of a state highway fund that is reserved for public safety efforts at local airports throughout Texas. Also, $2 million has been set aside to build a Department of Public Safety multi-use training facility to be used by DPS, the Texas military forces, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, and any other military or law enforcement agencies, including agencies of the federal government, for training purposes. It is the intent of the Legislature that the governing body of the County of Hidalgo or the City of Edinburg may donate 200 acres of real property to DPS for the training facility. If donated, DPS shall accept 200 acres of donated land from the governing body of the County of Hidalgo or the City of Edinburg for the purpose of constructing the training facility. Edinburg’s neighboring community, the City of Pharr, picked up more than $1.5 million, effective on September 1, 2015, to help in the construction of the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. That complex, to be built on a 50-to-60 acre tract of land to be donated by the City of Pharr, will “increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, whose House District 36 includes most of Pharr. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” The state money would be in addition to $4.2 million already set aside by South Texas College for the construction of a 16,000 square-foot facility to include a vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, classrooms and administrative offices. “The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellent will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” The state funding comes as part of House Bill 1887, which is well on its way to being approved by the Legislature. HB 1887, authored by Muñoz and sponsored by Hinojosa, amends the Education Code to create the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence to provide education and training for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley. “Having such an educational facility for our current and future law enforcement officials will be a tremendous benefit for the delivery of justice and the protection of all of us in deep South Texas,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes 19 percent of the City of Pharr. “I appreciate Rep. Muñoz allowing me to sign on as joint author of HB 1887, and I appreciated working with him and the leadership of Pharr and South Texas College on this most important legislative effort.” Along with Canales, the other joint authors of HB 1887 are Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City.

••••••

Almost $100 million in key funding secured for UT-RGV medical school and RAHC, DPS training facility, Edinburg airport hangar, and STC law enforcement center in final state budget, says Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Several key projects vital to the Edinburg region – specifically the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, the UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, a Texas Department of Public Safety multi-use training facility, a hanger for emergency first responder capabilities at the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, and the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr – are included in the $209.4 billion two-year state spending plan that was approved by the Legislature on Friday, May 29, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

Those legislative priorities represent almost $100 million in state investments, beginning on September 1, 2015, that will be coming to the Rio Grande Valley in addition to a separate but enormous infusion of other state funding for the major functions of state government in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The Valley legislative delegation played our roles in generating the political support from our 172 other colleagues in the Legislature for securing additional state funding for exciting new projects for House District 40 and for the rest of deep South Texas,” said Canales, who represents House District 40.

House District 40 includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco.

“The special appropriations totaling almost $100 million were secured by Valley legislators, led by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who was the only South Texas lawmaker to serve on a 10-member Senate-House panel that came up with the final version of the state budget,” said Canales. “Having Sen. Hinojosa on the conference committee was invaluable. He deserves congratulations for a job well-done.”

Hinojosa, D-McAllen,was one of only five Senate appointees – and the only Democrat – selected on Thursday, April 23, by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to serve on the Senate/House Conference Committee that came up with a final state budget for the 2016-17 biennium.

A conference committee is a special legislative panel appointed by the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House when there are differences between a Senate bill and a House bill that deal with the same issue, such as the proposed state budget that has been approved by the Senate and the proposed state budget that has been approved by the House of Representatives.

OPERATING FUNDS SECURED FOR SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Edinburg, where a major campus of the UT-RGV School of Medicine, now under construction, and the adjacent UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division are located, will see those two cutting-edge facilities share in $91.7 million in state funds over the next two years.

The UT-RGV School of Medicine also includes a major presence in Harlingen, with the UT-RGV RAHC Medical Education Division, while the UT-RGV School of Medicine in Edinburg will provide the first two years of a medical student’s education, along with the groundbreaking studies at the neighboring UT-RGV RAHC Medical Research Division.

From the $91.7 million in state funding, more than $60 million will go towards the School of Medicine, while $31.4 million will be invested in the UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Centers. The leadership of UT-RGV will decide what portions of that money will be invested in each of the facilities and their programs.

Earlier this spring, in another major advance for UT-RGV and its School of Medicine, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on April 23 approved a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree.

According to a news release from UT-RGV:

The approval of UT-RGV’s Doctor of Medicine degree affords students in the Rio Grande Valley the opportunity to pursue a career in medicine that has never before been possible.

Scheduled to open in fall 2016, the UT-RGV School of Medicine plans to enroll 50 students into its inaugural class for the medical school, pending accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

“This is yet another historic milestone for the entire Valley, UT-RGV and the School of Medicine. We are thankful to the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, our President Dr. Guy Bailey and our staff and faculty who are committed to our goal of providing education that is state-of-the-art in terms of advancing the science of medicine with technology in concert with a humanistic approach,” said Inaugural Dean Dr. Francisco Fernández.

The UT-RGV M.D. program will have an innovative curriculum where medical students will have early exposure to clinical experiences and service learning opportunities. Students and faculty will also have the opportunity to engage in inter-professional instruction and research in the biomedical sciences, pharmacy, public health, allied health and nursing professions, according to a report from the coordinating board.

“For the first time in the history of the Valley, students will be able to both earn their medical degree and practice medicine in this region. This is yet another phenomenal step forward for UT-RGV and the School of Medicine. As a medically underserved region, this will help UT-RGV address the critical issues surrounding health care needs in the Valley. Today’s decision is a truly historic one,” said Bailey, who is Founding President for UT-RGV.

Approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is the latest step in the development of the UT-RGV School of Medicine. In July 2014, the University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved establishing the M.D. degree, pending approval from the coordinating board.

In February 2015, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education approved the UT-RGV School of Medicine candidacy for accreditation, which was the first step in the process for a medical school to achieve full accreditation. A site visit is scheduled for late June 2015 for preliminary accreditation.

Regional facilities housing the UT-RGV School of Medicine include the existing Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen and the UT-RGV Smart Hospital, a 15,000-square-foot state-of-the-art simulation teaching hospital, also in Harlingen. Construction has been underway since August 2014 of the $54 million medical school building in Edinburg, which will be complemented by the $20 million RAHC Medical Research Division, which broke ground in 2002.

To date, the School of Medicine has received grants totaling more than $4.5 million from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, H-E-B and United Health Foundation, to fund inter-professional, team-based care and research initiatives.

Hidalgo County and the cities of McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and Pharr gave UTRGV $4.75 million to support the School of Medicine’s programs and Dr. William C. Head, an orthopedic surgeon from Dallas, donated $600,000 to establish the Jean Marie Rodriguez-Ayers Scholarship to benefit the inaugural class of students.

EDINBURG AIRPORT EXPANSIONS

New money for public safety and law enforcement – not counting hundreds of millions of dollars for border security measures that will come into the Valley – was approved for the Edinburg region.

The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg picked up $3 million to help expand its hangar capabilities, which are needed by the Texas Department of Public Safety for emergency and first responders for staging and storage purposes. That money is coming out of a state highway fund that is reserved for public safety efforts at local airports throughout Texas.

Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, in his State of the City Address on Wednesday, May 27, provided updates on the growth of the city-owned airport.

“Hangar space is being clamored for with more than 50 people on a waiting list,” he said. “To them, we say, ‘More hangar space is coming.”

Other growth at the airport is making its presence known, he continued.

“We have also made additional improvements at the airport, which include renovating the main hangar and the building that houses the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Aircraft Division,” he said. “The runway was also restored with a new taxi for easy turnarounds. We’re about to start construction of a new fuel facility and maintenance hangar as well.”

The mayor added that the city is designing several additional major changes “that we have identified as priorities as we move forward in growing the airport. We will work to accommodate more touchdowns, airplane traffic, and future growth, as well as creating a Business Airport Plan.”

He also noted the growing importance of the city-owned airport to the local economy in addition to public safety and transportation advances.

“Our airport will begin to accommodate international passengers at our brand new U.S. Customs Facility,” the mayor reported. “Currently, we see about 4,150 landings and take-offs per year. But in just a few weeks, we expect that number to increase greatly since visitors from Mexico and abroad will now be able to clear Customs right here in Edinburg.”

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, if the final destination is in the U.S. and the first port of arrival is in the U.S., travelers must clear immigration and customs at the first port of entry – which will now include The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg. If a connection is involved, the traveler will not be required to go through another clearance when they arrive at their final destination.

“This will be very useful for people who have business in this area because now they won’t have to delay their trip making a pit stop somewhere else to clear Customs,” García added. “A ribbon-cutting is now being planned, so please stay tuned for that announcement.”

Also, $2 million has been set aside to build a Department of Public Safety multi-use training facility to be used by DPS, the Texas military forces, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, and any other military or law enforcement agencies, including agencies of the federal government, for training purposes.

It is the intent of the Legislature that the governing body of the County of Hidalgo or the City of Edinburg may donate 200 acres of real property to DPS for the training facility. If donated, DPS shall accept 200 acres of donated land from the governing body of the County of Hidalgo or the City of Edinburg for the purpose of constructing the training facility.

SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE REGIONAL CENTER FOR PUBLIC SAFETY EXCELLENCE

Edinburg’s neighboring community, the City of Pharr, picked up more than $1.5 million, effective on September 1, 2015, to help in the construction of the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence.

That complex, to be built on a 50-to-60 acre tract of land to be donated by the City of Pharr, will “increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, whose House District 36 includes most of Pharr. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.”

The state money would be in addition to $4.2 million already set aside by South Texas College for the construction of a 16,000 square-foot facility to include a vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, classrooms and administrative offices.

“The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellent will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.”

The state funding comes as part of House Bill 1887, which is well on its way to being approved by the Legislature. HB 1887, authored by Muñoz and sponsored by Hinojosa, amends the Education Code to create the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence to provide education and training for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Having such an educational facility for our current and future law enforcement officials will be a tremendous benefit for the delivery of justice and the protection of all of us in deep South Texas,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes 19 percent of the City of Pharr. “I appreciate Rep. Muñoz allowing me to sign on as joint author of HB 1887, and I appreciated working with him and the leadership of Pharr and South Texas College on this most important legislative effort.”

Along with Canales, the other joint authors of HB 1887 are Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City.

••••••

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Ronnie Guerra, Mark Iglesias, and Harvey Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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