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Delta School Supply Giveaway, hosted by Rep. Canales in partnership with Edcouch-Elsa Rotary, Elsa Economic Development Corporation, and City of Elsa, set for Thursday, August 18, 2016 at Carlos F. Truan Junior High Gym in Elsa

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Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, addressing South Texans during a Memorial Day event at the Brooks County Courthouse in Falfurrias on Monday, May 30, 2016.

Photograph By ALEX RÍOS

The annual Delta School Supply Giveway, which will donate key learning materials, ranging from pens and pencils to paper, erasers and notebooks, is underway and will wrap up on Thursday, August 18, 2016, when the donations will be distributed, while supplies last, to students enrolled in the Edcouch-Elsa, La Villa and Monte Alto school districts, Rep. Terry Canales has announced. “Throughout the state and nation, many families simply don’t have enough resources to properly provide the school supplies needed by their children,” the state lawmaker reflected. “But through the love and caring that our residents have for our communities and for our youth, these small acts of kindness are investments in all of our future and well-being.” Any student enrolled in the Edcouch-Elsa, La Villa, and Monte Alto school district is eligible, but each child and parent must be present to receive a backpack. Each child will get a backpack approved by the school districts, which means it is clear or mesh. In the backpack will be supplies to get a child started out for the year: pencils, folders, notebooks, tissues, glue sticks, erasers, pencil case, rulers, colored pencils and crayons. The backpacks with school supplies will be given away from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Carlos F. Truan Junior High Gym, located at 700 East Ciro Careers Drive in Elsa. There will also be a raffle of school supplies and various resources and service-oriented organizations at the event.

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Rep. Canales, Rep. Longoria, Rep. Martínez and Rep. Oliveira seeking $20 million in state funds for planned Delta Watershed, designed to help protect Valley from floods and droughts

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Mariachi performers from the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District serenade Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes the Delta Region, at Canales’ District Office in Edinburg on Thursday, February 6, 2014.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

South Texas state lawmakers – including Rep. Terry Canales – are seeking $20 million in state funding to help pay for the Delta Region Water Management Project, a key component of Hidalgo County’s plans to reduce the damage caused by flooding while capturing such excess rainfall to create a new source of water that can be purified by cities for drinking. The Delta Region Water Management Plan will feature the development of the Delta Watershed, to be located in northeast Hidalgo County near Highway 107 in La Villa. The watershed is one of 25 projects overwhelmingly approved in a county-wide election on November 6, 2012 to improve the region’s drainage system. In that referendum, Hidalgo County voters authorized the county judge and the county commissioners, through their roles as the Board of Directors for Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, to issue $84 million in bonds, and leverage a $100 million federal grant, to pay for those 25 projects, including the Delta Watershed in La Villa. The planned Delta Watershed, by bringing the ability to capture stormwater, thus promoting water conservation, could qualify for state funds through the Texas Water Development Board, a state agency whose powers include providing financial help to entities statewide in the form of both grants and loans. As a result, Canales, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, are joint authors of a legislative rider by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, that could result in $20 million over the next two years coming from that state agency for the Delta Watershed in La Villa. A rider is a legislative directive, inserted in the General Appropriations Act following appropriation line items for an agency, which provides either direction, expansion, restriction, legislative intent, or an appropriation. The term also applies to special provisions at the end of each article and general provisions in the General Appropriations Act. “What our measure would do, if approved by the Texas Legislature, is authorize the Texas Water Development Board, which is a state agency, to use up to $10 million a year for the next two years, beginning on September 1, from its existing state funds and unexpended balance, for the Delta Watershed, because that project is designed to reclaim flood water runoff,” said Canales. That rider is awaiting action by the House Appropriations Committee, which includes Longoria and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. Martínez, who is taking the top legislative role with the rider, called the Delta Region Water Management Project “an innovative, forward-thinking plan that will benefit the Valley for decades to come. Whether it is for our agricultural economy, environment, farmers, municipalities, or water supply, this project will positively impact the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Martínez said, adding, “I’m honored to lead the way on this rider and am joined by a strong, united delegation in fighting to provide for a better future for residents of the Rio Grande Valley.” Longoria said the rider would represent an outstanding investment by the Legislature and the Texas Water Development Board because of the uniqueness of the planned Delta Watershed. “Texas, not just the Valley, is dealing with a significant drought, so much so that on March 9, Gov. Abbott said our current drought conditions have reached historic levels and continue to post an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy,” Longoria said. “But here in Hidalgo County, we have an excellent plan which is deserving of state financial support, and that is the message we are taking to the Legislature and the Texas Water Development Board.”

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Edinburg Mayor García says he would support possible AG Opinion expanding property tax freeze to homeowners with long-term illnesses

Fresh off a successful first session that included the passage of 18 major bills and one amendment bearing his name – including measures that provided $630,000 for a bachelor’s degree program at South Texas College, will reduce high school dropout rates, punish human traffickers and sexual predators, protect private property rights, and reduce the growing health and safety problems caused by roadside vendors – Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, has been honored by his Democratic colleagues for his legislative achievements. Muñoz, featured left with Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on the House floor in late May, authored, coauthored, sponsored and cosponsored more than 60 bills and one amendment – including 25 measures approved by the full House that publicly recognized major achievements by constituents in his House District 36. See lead story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, along with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday, June 9, hosted a job fair for Santana Textiles, one of the world’s largest denim manufacturers, which is constructing a $180 million complex at the city’s North Industrial Park. This first round, held at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, 602 West University Drive, focused on seeking skilled applicants for 20 positions, such as licensed electricians, mechanics, and mechanic helpers. “This job fair helped kick off Santana Textiles’ hiring process, but we will be hiring throughout the summer,” said Lori A. Garza, Manager of Human Resources for Santana Textiles, LLC. “We are happy to cooperate with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and appreciate their support.” Interested area residents who were unable to make it to the event may call the EEDC at 383-7124 for more information about future hiring by Santana Textiles, which eventually will have a workforce of 800 along with the major investment for facilities and state-of-the art equipment. Featured from left: Letty Reyes, Project Manager, EEDC; Evana Vleck, Director of Marketing and Special Events, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Lori A. Garza, Manager of Human Resources, Santana Textiles, LLC.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, featured front row, center, participates in a group portrait with his Capitol office and House committee staff members, praising them for their individual and collective achievements on behalf of his constituents. “It’s appropriate that I take a moment to recognize the solid staff that makes our office run as effectively as it does. These are smart, young people who have found public service to be a value,” said Peña. “They are a credit to our community and to the State of Texas. I expect great things from them.” Featured, front row, from left: Maricela De León, chief of staff; Rep. Peña; and Paul Kamprath, chief clerk, House Committee on Technology. Featured, back row, from left: Felicia Peña, assistant committee clerk; Melinda Reyes, legislative intern; Mikael García, legislative director; Trey Pérez, legislative intern; and Jacob Welch, assistant committee clerk. See a related story later in this posting on Peña being bestowed the Teddy Roosevelt Award by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.

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The University of Texas-Pan American is forming a Center for Bilingual Studies, which will take a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the Rio Grande Valley’s bilingual community. Featured from left: Dr. Glenn Martínez, professor of modern languages, and member of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Dr. José Ruiz-Escalante, professor of curriculum and instruction, Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and sister to Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Dr. Héctor Ochoa, dean of the College of Education; Dr. Jennifer Joy Esquierdo, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, Leonides Gómez, professor of curriculum and instruction, and Dr. Francisco Guajardo, associate professor of educational leadership. See story later in this posting.

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Veterans from the Rio Grande Valley, featured here in Austin earlier in the spring on behalf of a full-service Veterans Administration Hospital for the Valley, are closing following reports from Washington, D.C. which point to progress on that issue at the federal level as well. Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, has included legislation in the fiscal year 2012 Military Construction and Veterans funding bill that would bring South Texas one step closer to having a full-service VA hospital. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 15, by a  vote of 411 to 5. Featured in this portrait, taken in the State Capitol complex in Austin are, from left: Rep. J.M. Lozano, D-Kingsville; José María Vázquez; Joe Ibarra; Treto Garza (seated); Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rubén Cantú; Pete Garza; Sisto Barrera; and Scott Jenkines, chief-of-staff for Rep. Martínez. See story later in this posting.

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The inaugural graduates with Mexican American Studies certificate from the University of Texas-Pan American – which was first offered in spring 2010 –  celebrated the historic moment in May. To earn the certificate, a student must already be admitted to a graduate program at UTPA and take 12 hours of course work in Mexican American Studies from any discipline with no more than six hours in any one subject. Featured, front row, from left: certificate recipients Karmin San Martín and Vania Barrera; Dr. Cynthia Brown, UTPA vice provost for graduate studies; and certificate recipients Verónica Sandoval and Orquidea Morales. Back row, from left: certificate recipients Rodrigo Cano, Milena Melo, Lucas Espinoza, Hugo Paz, and Dennis Garza. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department recently donated six sets of protective helmets, jackets, pants and gloves to the foundry at the University of Texas-Pan American to keep artists safe when working with the molten metal. (A foundry is an establishment where metal is melted and poured into molds.) Shawn Snider, the fire department’s chief, said the gear is no longer useable by firefighters to enter burning buildings, but is safe for the artists to use when working in the foundry. Featured, from left: Jacob Quintanilla, EVFD firefighter; R.H. Pursley, EVFD deputy chief; Jaime Piña, EVFD firefighter; Antonio Salazar, EVFD deputy chief; Susan Fitzsimmons, UTPA Art Department chair; Douglas Clark, instructor at the UTPA Art Foundry Program; and Shawn Snider, EVFD chief. See story later in this posting.

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UnitedHealthcare, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Lone Star Insurance Services on Thursday, June 23, will host a seminar for small-business owners on Healthy Texas, a statewide health initiative to offer affordable health insurance to small-business employees and their families. The seminar, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., will be held at Lone Star National Bank, 520 E. Nolana, Suite 110, in McAllen. Registration begins at 8 a.m. UnitedHealthcare has been selected to provide insurance plans for Healthy Texas, an employer-based, public-private health insurance program offered by the Texas Department of Insurance. Healthy Texas uses state and federal funding to make it more affordable for qualifying small employers to offer health care benefits to their employees. Premiums for Healthy Texas products are, on average, 25- to 30-percent lower than commercial market plans. Featured making preparations for the seminar are, from left: Robbie Burgess, an executive with UnitedHealthcare; Laura McClelland, a renewal account consultant with UnitedHealthcare; and Rubén Garza with Lone Star Insurance Services. See story later in this posting.

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JoAnn Gama of McAllen, Chief of Schools at IDEA Public Schools, has been appointed by President Obama to President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Gama, featured here at the White House for a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, May 26, held in the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C., which  featured U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Gama was one of more than a dozen new members selected by the President to help improve academic excellence and opportunities by providing advice to President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Gama co-founded IDEA Public Schools in 1998 as an academy, and after receiving a state charter, opened IDEA as an independent charter school in August, 2000. Since IDEA Public Schools’ launch, Gama has served as Principal and Chief Operating Officer. In 1997, she joined Teach For America in Donna, where she taught 4th and 5th grade English as a Second Language. Gama earned her B.A. from Boston University and her M.ED. in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas-Pan American. Also in this White House photograph is fellow Texan and commission member Ricardo Romo, the president of the University of Texas at San Antonio. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz, featured right, on Thursday, May 19 in Mission expressed his appreciation to Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, for the South Texas lawmaker’s help in securing $5,975,000 in federal funds to construct a new 1.5 million gallons per day wastewater treatment plant in that border community. Cuellar – along with, from left, Jake Sheeran, Area Director for the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, and Paco Valentín, USDA Rural Development State Director – also announced grant awards of $1 million to the City of Alton for the construction of a new fire station, and $121,275 to the City of Palmview to begin a Revolving Loan Fund to aid small and emerging businesses. Cuellar, whose congressional district includes portions of Rep. Sergio Muñoz’ state House District 36 and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s Senate District 20, also praised both state lawmakers for their roles in helping secure the grants. “One of the things that federal agencies look at is what sort of support they have in the local communities,” said Cuellar, himself a longtime state representative before he was elected to Congress. “If (local projects) have the support of the state legislators such as Rep. Muñoz and Sen. Hinojosa, that helps a lot.” Muñoz, who was in Austin for the state legislative session, said the alliances between the area’s state and federal elected leaders “continue to pay off. These important projects will help many of my constituents in House District 36 with the resources that will result in improved public safety, public health and economic development, as these three cities continue to grow and prosper.”  See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard García, featured front row, center, says he would support a pending legal ruling – currently being developed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott – if that decision allows Texas homeowners with diabetes, cancer, and other long-term major illnesses to qualify for the state’s landmark homestead property tax freeze. “Earlier this year, Attorney General Abbott was asked by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles that, in light of a recent decision by Congress to now consider diabetes and cancer as physical disabilities, does that mean Texans with these afflictions now also qualify for a freeze on their local property taxes?” asks García. “If he rules that they – and possibly others facing long-term major illnesses –  do indeed qualify, then I would support such an expansion of the homestead property tax freeze.” The Edinburg mayor is seen here with other city leaders following a May 18 public affairs luncheon at the ECHO highlighting major economic development achievements. Featured, front row, from left: Agustín Hernández, Jr., attorney, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson (LGBS); Pedro Salazar, executive director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC); Mayor Richard García, president, EEDC Board of Directors; Lucy Canales, attorney and general partner, LGBS; and Anissa Salazar, marketing coordinator, LGBS. Middle row, from left: Edinburg City Councilmember Elias Longoria, Jr.; Edinburg City Councilmember Noé Garza, P.E.; Flo Prater, Rio Valley Realty; Maggie Kent, General Dentistry Centers; Edna Peña, Horizon Properties; Marissa Castañeda, chief operations officer; Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Letty González, president, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Elva Jackson Garza, vice president, Edwards Abstract Title Company (EATC); Back row, from left: Ramiro Garza, Jr., Edinburg city manager; Johnny Rodríguez, owner, Austin Personnel Services; Mark Peña, legal counsel, EATC and member, EEDC Board of Directors; Eliseo Salinas, operations manager, LGBS; and Sam de la Garza, public relations, LGBS. See top story on the possible property tax freeze expansion later in this posting.

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