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Hidalgo County Healthcare District legislation set for public hearing at Texas Capitol on Thursday, March 19

20150318

Featured, from left; Anne Drescher, Chief-of-Staff; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and Aisa Showery, Legislative Director, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 in Edinburg. Guerra is carrying House Bill 1596, set for a public hearing in Austin on Thursday, March 19, to create the Hidalgo County Healthcare District.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

An effort to create the Hidalgo County Healthcare District, which would help support the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, provide health care for many residents who do not have health insurance, set a limit on the property tax rate that would come with its creation, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new jobs and businesses, will receive its first legislative hearing in Austin on Thursday, March 19. House Bill 1596, whose primary author is Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, is one of five measures set to go before the House Committee on County Affairs. The public hearing, which will be held in Room E2.016 of the Capitol Extension, will begin at 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment by the full House of Representatives. The event, which will be broadcast live and also be available for viewing afterwards, is accessible on the Internet. Information on how to access the live and recorded broadcasts are available by logging to http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/. The companion bill in the Senate, which seeks the same goals as HB 1596, is Senate Bill 626 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. Although no action has been set on SB 626, that measure is currently before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs, of which Lucio serves as Chair. In response to feedback received from voters, who in November 2014 narrowly voted against a different version of this legislation, Valley lawmakers have put safeguards into the current legislation in order to ensure the most protections for taxpayers. The name was changed to “Hidalgo County Healthcare District” to allow for a more comprehensive approach to the system which the Valley’s Hidalgo County state legislative delegation hopes to implement. Some of the key differences in this measure from the one last year are: the tax rate would be capped at 25 cents per $100 valuation; the budget must be approved by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to ensure proper oversight; all residence homestead exemptions will be provided, including an exemption for elderly and disabled residents as well as a total exemption for 100% disabled veterans and their surviving spouse; and all rollback tax provisions apply. Joining Guerra in support by signing on as Joint Authors are Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

•••••• (more…)

Construction in Edinburg sets new record with $191.7 million in 2006


Mayor Pro Tem Noe Garza, featured third from left, helps Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured in dark jacket, on Thursday, January 18, as the city’s political and business leaders participated in the proverbial ribbon cutting at the $18.5 million, 117,000 square foot supercenter located at 2802 W. University Drive. Also included in the ceremony was Council member Alma Garza (no relation to Noe Garza), featured in the back row to the mayor’s left. With 40,000 items in stock, and an adjacent garden center, Lowe’s in Edinburg – which features appliances and products for home improvements – is predicted to create up to 175 direct and indirect jobs and have an annual economic impact of $25 million, according to Richard García, president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The store, which opened for business on January 13, helped Edinburg reach a record for new construction in 2006, said Ochoa. See story on the city’s construction activities later in this posting.

••••••


State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville (featured center), proudly displays a plaque of appreciation from Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College, and Paul S. Moxley, president and secretary of the board of directors for Texas State Bank, during a legislative breakfast on Friday, January 19, at the STC campus in south McAllen. Lucio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, were honored for their many contributions to STC by the STC Board of Trustee and area business and community dignitaries. Lucio was the author of the legislation in 1993 that created STC, along with then-Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, who sponsored the measure in the House of Representatives. STC, which was originally called South Texas Community College, has an estimated 18,000 students enrolled this fall, making it one of the largest institutions of higher education in South Texas.

••••••

Constructionin Edinburg sets new record with $191.7 million in 2006

Total construction activities in Edinburg during 2006 totaled almost $192 million, an increase of more than $22 million over the $169.3 million mark set 2005, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

It is governed by a five-person board of directors, which includes Mayor Joe Ochoa,former mayor Richard García, who is the EEDC board president, and FredPalacios, Mike Govind, and George Bennack.

The construction level surpassed the previous record of $171.1 million, set in 2004.

New constructionof single-family homes and commercial buildings, not including government or religious facilities, led the way in 2006.

Single-family homes, which does not include apartments and other multi-family dwellings such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, accounted for almost $70.5 million of the total construction activities last year, up from more than $66.2 million in 2005.

In 2006, 765 new single-family homes were constructed, compared with 742 new homes in 2005.

New commercial buildings valued at almost $70 million were built in 2006, up considerably from the almost $40.2 million level reached in 2005.

Multi-family residences in 2006 accounted for more than $18.7 million in new construction, compared with more than $31.7 million in 2005.

The values of the construction are listed in building permits issued by the city’s Code Enforcement Division.

Construction
activities of non-taxable facilities – government buildings, churches,
schools, not including UT-Pan American – reached almost $9 million
in 2006, compared with almost $17.5 million in 2005.

Building
permits are permits taken out in order to allow excavation and to protect
public safety.

Building
permits represent the estimated cost of construction, not the selling
price.

The building
permits do not include the price of the lot.

A start
in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation
for the building.

A building
permit is permission issued by a city’s planning department to oversee
and approve any changes to structures.

They are
documents designed to guarantee that any construction work, from remodeling
to demolition to building a new home or business facility, meets the
city’s building codes.

•Doctors
Hospital expansion continues

The continuing
expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was reflected in its receipt
of the most valuable building permit in December.

The medical
complex, which is expected to invest as much as $150 million in its
second site, received a building permit valued at $5 million for a medical
facility, that is being built at 5502 S. McColl Road, in the Doctors
Center Subdivision.

Walgreen’s
was issued a building permit for the second-most valuable project in
December for a new facility, valued at $1.7 million, that is being
built at 1520 S. McColl Road in the Bond & Bond Subdivision.

The third-most
valuable project approved for construction in December is a commercial
building, owned by José Chapa, and valued at $720,000. It is being
built at 1623 W. University Drive in the West Manor Unit 1 & 3 Subdivision.

Developer
Juan Luis Alcorta received building permits in December for six multi-family
developments, each valued at $200,000, located in the Summer Winds and
Summer Winds II Subdivisions on Orlando, Phoenix, and Tampa streets.

The most
valuable home authorized for construction in December is being built
by Jaime Lozano. The house, whose construction value is listed at $200,000,
is located at 2301 Big Valley Circle in the Big Valley Subdivision.

For the
month of December, total construction activities, which include everything
from installing plumbing to building the structures, saw building permits
approved for $14,929,924 in governmental, residential and commercial
construction, up from the December 2005 figure of $6,588,675.

For 2006,
total construction activities were $191,782,397, compared with $169,589,043
in 2005.

A more
detailed breakdown of the December 2006 figures for Edinburg features
the following highlights:

•Commercial
construction

In December,
new construction of commercial buildings, not including multi-family
residences, was reported at $8,235,950, compared with $547,000
for the same month in 2005.

In 2006,
new construction of commercial buildings reached $69,775,422, compared
with $40,266,530 in 2005.

Commercial
alterations in December totaled $614,156, compared with $57,665 in December
2005.

In 2006,
commercial alterations reached $10,617,621, compared with $9,461,295
in December 2005.

•Home
construction

New construction
of single-family homes in December 2006 reached $3,324,600, compared
with $4,943,860 in December 2005.

In 2006,
building permits were issued for residential homes valued at $70,446,664,
compared with $66,205,764 in 2005.

In 2006,
building permits were issued for the construction of 765 single-family
homes, compared with 742 in 2005.

In December,
work began on 33 single-family residences, compared with 51 homes in
December 2005.

In December,
alterations for single-family residences were valued at $388,218, compared
with $108,150 for the same month in 2005.

In 2006,
building permits were issued for residential alterations valued at $5,564,650,
compared with $2,758,656 in 2005.

•Multi-family
residences

New construction
of multi-family residences in December reached $2,367,000, compared
with $867,000 for the same month in 2005.

In 2006,
new construction of multi-family homes totaled $18,745,740, compared
with $31,756,569 in 2005.

In 2006,
building permits were issued for 182 multi-family residences, or 406
units, compared with 320 multi-family residences, or 739 units, in 2005.

For the
month of December, building permits were issued for 21 multi-family
residences, or 54 units, compared with 19 multi-family residences, or
40 units, in December 2005.

•Alterations/repairs

Alterations/repairs
involving nontaxable facilities, such as churches and government buildings,
but not including UT-Pan American, totaled $7,636,300 in 2006, compared
with $1,654,229 in 2005.

The city
does not issue permits for construction work at UT-Pan American.

•Top
December construction projects

Highlights
of construction in December of commercial buildings, not including multi-family
residences, valued at $100,000 or more include:

•Doctors
Hospital at Renaissance, 5502 S. McColl Rd ($5,000,000);

•Walgreen’s,
1520 S. McColl Road ($1,700,000);

•José
Chapa, 1623 W. University Drive ($720,000);

•Dr.
De Dios Cans, L.P., 206 Conquest Blvd ($370,000);

•Eddy
Bentacourt, 1801 W. Trenton Road ($200,000).

Highlights
of construction in December of multi-family buildings (duplexes, triplexes,
fourplexes, and apartment buildings) valued at $100,000 or more include:

•Juan
Luis Alcorta, 1410 Phoenix Street ($200,000);

•Juan
Luis Alcorta, 1506 Phoenix Street ($200,000):

•Juan
Luis Alcorta, 1408 Tampa Street ($200,000);

•Juan
Luis Alcorta, 1525 Orlando Street ($200,000);

•Juan
Luis Alcorta, 1510 Tampa Street ($200,000);

•Raúl
Fabela, 1916 Upland Drive ($140,000);

•Raúl
Fabela, 1910 Upland Drive ($140,000);

•Juan
A. García, 2214 Candlelight Lane ($130,000);

•Thurmond
Reed, 622 Logan Drive ($130,000);

•Thurmond
Reed, 702 Logan Drive ($130,000); and

•Michael S. Campbell,
618 DFW Drive ($130,000).

Highlights
of construction in December of single-family homes valued at $100,000
or more include:

•Jaime
Lozano, 2301 Big Valley ($200,000);

•Eldwin
R. Vargas and Thelma Caballero, 1821 Fawn Circle ($190,000);

•Michael
Galola, 2611 María Luisa ($184,000);

•Jesús
Ramos, 706 Amistad ($160,000);

•Jaime
Lozano, 467 Dalabo Drive ($160,000);

•Carlos
González, 3721 Inez Street ($136,900);

•Rey
Benavidez, 419 Frio Drive ($120,000);

•Rey
Benavidez, 3823 Inez Street ($115,000);

•Pilar
Brito, 704 Steamboat Drive ($110,000);

•Pilar
Brito, 712 Steamboat Drive ($108,000);

•Gilbert
Vera, 3808 Inez Street ($105,000);

•Elias
Lozano, 2607 Denise Circle ($100,000);

•Elias
Lozano, 2613 Denise Circle ($100,000);

•Elias
Lozano, 2609 Benji Circle ($100,000);

•Randy
Rives, 3109 Kenyon ($100,000);

•Victor
López, 1320 Hickory ($100,000); and

•Javier
Moreno, 2624 Flipper Drive ($100,000).

Highlights
of repairs or additions in December of commercial buildings valued at
$100,000 or more include:

•Dan
Gerlach, 3102 S. McColl Road ($350,000); and

•Lowes
Home Center, Inc., 2802 W. University Drive ($135,956).

By DAVID A. DIAZ

Legislativemedia@aol.com

For more information
on the people and politics that impact Edinburg, please log on to
http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com

••••••

Three Valley senators
land plum spots on powerful Senate Finance Committee

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst
has appointed three Valley state senators to the powerful Senate Finance
Committee, which develops the state budget for the full Senate.

Sen. Juan “Chuy”
Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen.
Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, whose district includes Starr County, were
put on the powerful money committee by Dewhurst on Friday, January 12.

Zaffirini was named vice-chair
of the Senate Finance Committee, while Lucio remained chair of the Senate
International Relations & Trade Committee. Hinojosa was also
named vice-chair of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee.

The Senate committee assignments
come in advance of the highly-anticipated move, possibly this week,
by Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, to appoint House members
to their respective panels.

A legislator’s position
on certain committees can significantly increase their influence in
pushing measures for their home districts, such as more money for state
universities and roadways.

Hinojosa, Lucio, and Zaffirini’s
committee assignments follow:

• Hinojosa: Vice-chair,
Jurisprudence; Criminal Justice; Finance; Natural Resources; and Subcommittee
on Agricultural, Rural Affairs and Coastal Resources;

• Lucio: Chair, International
Relations and Trade; Business and Commerce; Finance; Subcommittee on
Emerging Technologies and Economic Development; and State Affairs; and

• Zaffirini, Chair, Subcommittee
on Higher Education; Vice-Chair, Finance; Administration; Education;
and Health and Human Services.

Dewhurst announced the
15 standing committees and five subcommittees, including a new subcommittee
to address the critical issues of flooding and evacuations in Texas.

“It was important
to me to get the Senate organized and moving forward by appointing committees
by the end of the first week of the session. After personally contacting
all 31 senators late Friday evening, I thanked them in advance for the
hard work they will put in over the course of the next five months for
the people of Texas. I believe the lineup of these committees puts the
right people in the right places to work toward making Texas a better
place to live, grow a business and raise a family,” Dewhurst said.

Senators serve on more
than one committee. The Valley senators committee appointments
follow:

••••••

What do Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Eliot Spitzer have that Rick Perry needs?

By State Sen. Juan “Chuy”
Hinojosa

Governors across the country,
including Texas’ own Rick Perry, are preparing their State of the State
speeches. In fact, the recently reelected governor of California and
the newly elected governor of New York have already delivered theirs.
And each of them took the opportunity to announce that affordable health
care will be top priorities for their administration in 2007, including
comprehensive children’s health care initiatives and efforts to reduce
the number of uninsured adults in their states.

What will we hear in Texas
about these issues? After all, more of our residents are uninsured than
anywhere else in the country and health care costs threaten to overwhelm
middle-class families, small business owners, hospitals, physicians
— and our future economic growth.

The need to fix our health
care crisis transcends partisan politics. Gov. Spitzer is a liberal
Democrat and Gov. Schwarzenegger – like Gov. Perry – is a conservative
Republican.

Nor is it a matter of geography.
California, Texas, and New York rank first, second, and fourth in the
number of uninsured working-age adults. They also rank first, second,
and fifth in the number of uninsured children. If anything, the problem
is more pervasive here because the percentage of Texans without insurance
coverage – 31 percent of working-age adults and 20 percent of children
– places us far ahead of every other state in the nation.

It isn’t because health
care providers haven’t raised the issue, either. In careful reports,
a coalition of the state’s medical schools, the Texas Medical Association,
and others have offered dire predictions if Texas fails to act now to
stop the vicious cycle of uninsurance.

But where health professionals
may have fallen short is in not partnering with the single most powerful
force in Texas politics: the business community. By failing to make
the business case for dealing with the uninsured, the issue was AWOL
from the 2006 elections and is still a non-issue today, as lawmakers
gather for the legislative session and Gov. Perry prepares for his third
term.

Gov. Schwarzenegger calls
his own state’s high number of uninsured residents “a hidden tax
on every person in this state” and “a terrible drain on our
economy.” Gov. Spitzer says that “expanding access to health
care will reduce state spending significantly in the long run.”

Here’s the situation in
Texas:

• One in every four Texans
– 5.6 million people – is uninsured. In Houston, one of every three
people has no access to basic health services.

• Taxpayers,
Texans with insurance, and employers who offer health benefits pay extra
for caring for the uninsured, adding $1,551 to the average Texas family’s
private health insurance premium.

• Some
79 percent of uninsured Texans either work themselves or live with a
family member who does. These employed but uninsured Texans work mainly
in small firms, which are the largest generators of new jobs.

• Uninsured
patients are more likely to forego or delay treatment for acute illnesses
or injuries, or to go without needed treatment for chronic conditions
or illnesses. For employers, that means their sick workers will get
sicker and be off the job longer.

• Many
uninsured patients are forced to get their health care in already overcrowded
emergency rooms at three times the cost of a physicians office and often
at taxpayer expense.

And here are a few steps
for Gov. Perry and our state leaders to consider:

• Expand the “three
share” pilot project in Galveston County, where employers, employees,
and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are picking up equal
shares of health insurance premiums for workers in small businesses
that can’t otherwise afford to provide health care benefits.

• Encourage
doctor participation in Medicaid by raising reimbursement rates.

• Bring
home the dollars we deserve from Washington, D.C., where hundreds of
millions in available federal funds are waiting for us if we will simply
take advantage of the generous federal matching funds for Medicaid and
CHIP by enrolling all eligible Texans in those proven programs.

• Ease
the burden on local taxpayers by aggressively pursuing available federal
reimbursements for school-based Medicaid services.

• Invest
in proven nursing programs at state colleges and universities to address
the record nursing shortage.

• Pilot
test other innovations that would help uninsured working Texans buy
into various state-run insurance programs.

We don’t need to copy the
California or New York models. This is Texas, after all. We have unique
challenges and – of course – that huge share of our population without
health insurance. What we need is a Texas plan. And we need our state
leaders to champion it.

Without a comprehensive
initiative to solve the health care crisis, Texas will not be able to
sustain a healthy economy or build a future of progress and prosperity.
Other states are moving forward with bold initiatives to reduce their
uninsured. If Texas wants to remain an attractive place to do business,
we should, too.

Sen. Juan “Chuy”
Hinojosa represents Senate District 20, which stretches from the Coastal
Bend to the Rio Grande Valley.

••••••

Estella L. Treviño
honored by Legislature for her contributions on behalf of public housing,
elderly

Mrs. Estella Lane Treviño,
a statewide leader in public housing programs and for efforts to help
the elderly, has been honored for her many contributions to Texas by
the state House of Representatives.

House Resolution 57, authored
by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, hailed Treviño for her “exceptional”
work in helping tens of thousands of area and state residents during
a public service career that spans more than three decades.

Treviño, a political activist
and Edinburg icon whose career has included service as a justice of
the peace, has brought positive recognition to herself and her community.

The legislative resolution,
which was approved by the House of Representatives on January 11, reads
as follows:

H.R. No. 57

R E S O L U T I O N

“WHEREAS, Estella
L. Treviño received the 2005 Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Service
from the Texas chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment
Officials in recognition of her exceptional contributions to public
housing in the Edinburg community; and

WHEREAS, For the past 32
years, Ms. Treviño has served as the executive director of the Edinburg
Housing Authority, where she has been a passionate advocate for public
housing and the elderly; and

WHEREAS, Through the Family
Self-Sufficiency Program, Ms. Treviño has broadened the agency’s mission
to encompass helping residents acquire marketable skills, and she has
enabled more than

60 families to achieve
the American dream of home ownership in the agency’s Sunrise Estates
subdivision; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Treviño has
further enriched the quality of life for area residents by incorporating
community rooms, learning centers, and educational and recreational
programs into Edinburg

public housing; in 1973,
she was instrumental in the development and construction of The Towers,
a 100-apartment complex designated for the elderly; and

WHEREAS, Under Ms. Treviño’s
leadership, the agency has been recognized with numerous honors, including
the Outstanding Services Award, the Specific Activity Award for Outstanding
Programs from the Drug Elimination Program, the Award for Excellence
in Youth Sports, the Family Self-Sufficiency Program Award, and the
Texas NAHRO Member of the Year Award; and

WHEREAS, “Ms. T,” as
she is affectionately known to her legion of friends and admirers, is
a long-standing member of the Texas Silver Haired Legislature; at the
age of 83, she remains committed to providing decent, affordable housing
and promoting the skills necessary to achieve home ownership to the
citizens of Edinburg; and

WHEREAS, Representative
Aaron Peña has justly recognized Estella Treviño by authoring this
resolution in her behalf during the Regular Session of the 80th Texas
Legislature; now, therefore,

be it

RESOLVED, That the House
of Representatives of the 80th Texas Legislature hereby congratulate
Estella L. Treviño on her receipt of the 2005 Hall of Fame Award for
Outstanding Service from the

Texas chapter of the National
Association for Housing and Redevelopment Officials and extend to her
deep gratitude for her years of service to the community; and, be it
further

RESOLVED, That an official
copy of this resolution be prepared for Ms. Trevino as an expression
of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.”

••••••

Judge J.D. Salinas attends
Lyceum meeting in Midland

While most of us huddled
up in our homes during the recent cold weather snap, Hidalgo County
Judge J.D. Salinas braved the weather to travel to Midland this weekend
and attend a quarterly Texas Lyceum meeting.

Texas Lyceum, a non-profit,
non-partisan organization, is made up of 96 men and women from throughout
the state of Texas who have demonstrated leadership in their community.
The diverse group is comprised of government officials, business owners,
doctors, lawyers, academics and others who discuss and debate the most
pressing issues facing Texas.

“Group meetings like
this help us generate new ideas and help me make better decisions,”
Salinas said. “Some of them have tried the things we’re thinking
about doing and they know what works and what doesn’t.”

“The Texas Lyceum brings
together some of the best experts and many different opinions on the
most timely issues and helps us form an effective plan of action,”
Salinas said. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone who attends
and I appreciate both the opportunity to learn from their experiences
and the chance to tell them what works for us here.”

Houston Mayor Bill White;
Dr. George Martin, President, St. Edward’s University; David Gonzales,
Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility; and Dr. Mary Evans
Sias, President, Kentucky State University, will be among the speakers
Salinas was scheduled to hear this weekend.

••••••

State lawmakers conduct
tour of South Texas, Edinburg

A group of state legislators
visited Hidalgo and Starr counties, including Edinburg, from January
18 – 24, as part of a major tour, sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley
Partnership.

The visit was organized
to lobby, educate and inform state leaders about deep South Texas..

Several members of the
Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation, including Peña, Rep.
Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City,
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio,
Jr., D-Brownsville, were on hand to personally escort many of their
fellow lawmakers.

“The Partnership does
a tremendous job every session putting this tour together,” said
Peña. “It is such an important tool in showing our colleagues
firsthand the tremendous potential and growth in the Rio Grande Valley.”

The Partnership scheduled
visits to the new Weslaco City Hall, McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlan World
Birding Center and South Texas College, the Food Bank of the Rio Grande
Valley in Pharr, Edinburg’s new Children’s Hospital and Museum of
South Texas History.

On Saturday, January 19,
the went to Mission to tour the Rio Queen Citrus processing facility,
the Los Ebanos Ferry, and then the historic plaza of Rio Grande City.
They wrapped up the evening visiting members of the Tamaulipas Legislature
atop the Weslaco-Progreso International Bridge for a “Fiesta
de Hermandad.”

Before departing back to
Austin on Sunday the legislators were scheduled to make a trip into
Cameron County to tour the Rio Grande Regional Seawater Desalination
Pilot Plant and the Port of Brownsville.

“The Rio Grande
Valley is set to assume a more prominent role in the leadership of this
Texas Legislature,” said Peña. “We have a unique opportunity
to ensure that our public schools and universities have the tools necessary
to keep producing world class leaders. We are going to continue working
hard to provide access to healthcare to the young and old. It is so
important to keep showcasing our rich cultural vibrancy and robust economy.
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome our colleagues to South Texas.”

The Rio Grande Valley Partnership
has been organizing these legislative trips since 1975. In 2005 the
legislators toured communities in the Cameron and Willacy Counties.

••••••

Gov. Perry calls on
Texans to “imagine the possibilities

In his third gubernatorial
oath-of-office address, Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, January 16,
called on Texans to embrace the ideals of freedom, equality and selflessness.
He challenged Texans to imagine the possibilities of a Texas with limitless
opportunity.

“Imagine the possibilities
in a Texas where every child is educated, every graduate has access
to a good job and every life deemed precious. Imagine the possibilities
in a Texas blind to color, class and ethnicity and where no one is invalidated
because of their heritage, but valued because of their humanity. Imagine
the possibilities in a Texas where every man, woman and child is able
to put behind the past, to grab hold of their promise, to press on to
be who they were created to be,” Perry said.

Perry said that even though
Texas has not had a history of complete solidarity, he called on all
Texans to come together and embrace the common ideals of freedom, equality
and selflessness.

“My vision for Texas
is a tremendous tapestry of diversity woven together by common threads.
We are of many faiths, traditions, heritages but we are all Texans.
And in Texas, it is not your identity that matters most, but your ideals,”
Perry said. “And even when we disagree, we can engage our differences
in a discussion that unifies rather than divides and that lifts up the
hopes, dreams and aspirations of all people without casting a single
soul aside.”

The governor said that
a free society has a responsibility to those in poverty, the young and
the aged and to those who are sick and live with disabilities. He also
said we have a responsibility to future generations to leave them a
world that is safe, an environment that is healthy, an economy that
is strong and a government that is honest.

“Young Texans must
never be taught about rights without also learning about responsibilities,”
Perry said. “For more than a generation our culture has emphasized
a message of self-indulgence at the expense of social obligation. We
have reaped the consequences in the form of teen pregnancies, divorced
and broken families, and a cycle of incarceration that joins young men
with their fathers behind bars.”

“The fabric of our
society is not government or individual freedom; it is the family,”
Perry said. “And the demise of the family is the demise of any
great society.”

Perry addressed the divisive
issue of border security and immigration by quoting the prophet Isaiah:
“come now, and let us reason together.” “We are both
a nation of laws and immigrants; the former protect us, the latter enrich
us,” Perry said. “We must secure the border with manpower,
not unmanned walls. We must have a guest-worker program that recognizes
the economic contributions of foreign workers and the desperate conditions
that bring them here. And we must oppose amnesty because those who come
here illegally should not be able to receive citizenship ahead of those
who migrate here legally.”

Finally, Gov. Perry outlined
his bipartisan agenda for a new term. “Together, we must work to
make our border more secure and our neighborhoods safer. We must find
solutions to the high rate of the uninsured and to the high cost of
health insurance. We must commit to excellence in higher education as
it prepares the workforce of the future, and we must ensure that property
tax relief is not only substantial but long-lasting. We must pass budget
reforms that protect the taxpayers,” Perry said. “Texas is
better off when Republicans and Democrats work together because our
potential is too vast to be spoiled by a politics leavened with partisanship.”

••••••

Democratic Party leader
Radnofsky takes aims at alleged Republican missteps involving Hispanics

By Barbara Ann Radnofsky

While national Republicans
attempt to attract Hispanics to their party, Texas Republicans have
no joint strategy and attack each other with increasing frequency. They
start 2007 as the minority in DC, with loss of power base and torn between
factions, as they shoot themselves in the foot.

1. The Republican governor
of Texas hosted his good friend, singer Ted Nugent, as the finale for
his innaugural ball. The entertainer used machine guns as his props
as he wore the Confederate battle flag and attacked folks who don’t
speak English as their first language. The governor’s spokesman: “Most
people had a really good time and enjoyed the show.” Houston Chronicle,
Jan 18 2007. The governor is rumored to be seeking the Republican vice
presidential slot.

2. The two Republican senators
from Texas, finding themselves in the minority, now backtrack from their
repeated, on-the-record votes for a doubled walled border fence at the
borders with Mexico. They hosted mayors from Texas border areas who’ve
argued their areas from Brownsville to El Paso would be economically
devastated by the double walled fence for which their senators voted.
The senior senator is rumored to be seeking the Republican vice presidential
slot.

3. The chairwoman of the
Republican Party in Texas criticized favored RNC Chair-to-be Sen. Martinez,
who was born in Cuba, for his pro-amnesty positions. She was reported
as “definite Martinez ‘no’ vote.” (Houston Chronicle Jan 18,
07). No word on whether she also seeks the Republican vice presidential
slot. It should suffice for today that the Republican governor and senior
senator continue their long standing feud as they jockey for position
in Republican leadership. The governor’s campaign ads attacked the inability
of the state’s federal leaders to bring federal dollars to Texas.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky of Houston
was the Texas Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006.

••••••

Border leaders’ input
crucial to fence plan

By Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Securing our nation’s borders
should be among the highest priorities of the new congressional leadership
because continued failure to do so endangers our nation’s security.

This is not a question
that affects only states that share an international border; it demands
immediate attention because it affects every American.

Throughout last year’s
debate on comprehensive immigration reform, I stressed the need to secure
our borders — not only our border with Mexico, but also our northern
border with Canada, our maritime borders, coastlines and ports of entry.
I have consistently voted in favor of strong border security initiatives,
including reinforced fencing in strategic areas.

Other measures should be
taken as well, including the deployment of additional Border Patrol
agents, port of entry inspectors, immigration and customs personnel
and drug enforcement agents. I have also supported the purchase of additional
equipment, such as encrypted two-way radios, body armor and night-vision
goggles.

Not only fencing but additional
physical barriers are needed. Improved roads for patrols, lighting,
cameras, electronic sensors and other infrastructure upgrades are needed.
Only with such a multitiered, layered system will we be able to achieve
our objective.

It is essential that those
who know the border best are part of the process. Security measures
will be far more effective if those who live and work along the border
have a say in critical decisions, such as the location of fences. Congressmen
who live thousands of miles from the border have neither the expertise
nor background to make such decisions unilaterally.

In that spirit, I have
arranged for mayors from cities along the border to meet today with
Sen. John Cornyn, myself and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
to give the secretary insights that can be provided only by those immersed
in border issues every day.

The Secure Fence Act of
2006 authorizes 700 miles of fencing along our southern border, and
the mayors attending today’s meeting represent more than 2.1 million
Texans directly impacted by this law. It is imperative that the voices
of all Texans be heard, including those of state and local governments,
Indian tribes and private property owners.

Throughout the process
that led to passage of the Secure Fence Act, Sen. Cornyn and I were
frustrated that local officials representing areas specifically cited
in the act — particularly in the El Paso, Del Rio-to-Eagle Pass and
Laredo-to-Brownville sectors — did not have the opportunity to participate
in decisions regarding the location of fencing and other physical infrastructure
near their communities. We repeatedly attempted to remedy this omission
during the 109th Congress, and today’s meeting with Secretary Chertoff
is a result of those efforts.

Fencing has proven to be
an effective deterrent to crime along the Texas-Mexico border. For more
than a decade, we have had a border fence in El Paso, where apprehensions
decreased dramatically following fence construction.

More recently, in May 2005,
a fence was constructed in Laredo. About 1.2 miles of strategic fencing
has kept the students and faculty of Laredo Community College and local
residents safe from the perils of illegal narcotic trafficking.

Both fences were built
because local communities, in collaboration with their Border Patrol
sector chiefs, recognized the effectiveness of strategic fences in controlling
illegal entry and narcotic and human trafficking.

The United States is bound
to Mexico by ties of history, blood, culture and land.

Our expanding commerce,
growing trade and history with Mexico are like the Rio Grande, which
unites us. Our border should bring health and life to both sides. It
must be a shared resource from which we both benefit. It can be a symbol
of the heritage we will always share.

We do not need to isolate
ourselves from our friends. We can secure our borders with infrastructure
and technology that protect our sovereignty and citizens and that make
economic sense.

We have a historic opportunity
to repair our immigration system, and I look forward to playing a key
role in shaping comprehensive legislation in the 110th Congress. We
must secure our borders first; and to keep our borders secure and our
economy strong, we must work toward a solution that addresses the needs
of commerce.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a Republican
U.S. senator from Texas

••••••

Lt. Governor Dewhurst
sworn in for a second term

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst
was sworn in on Tuesday, January 16, to a second term as Texas’
41st Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor also serves as President
of the Texas Senate.

Dewhurst took the oath
of office in the State Capitol Tuesday morning, using Sam Houston’s
Bible and surrounded by his family. “When you elected me the first
time, it had to be an act of faith. This time I trust I’ve earned your
confidence,” said Dewhurst in his inaugural remarks.

Dewhurst has made putting
Texas Children First the cornerstone of his second term. He is asking
the Texas Legislature to pass tougher laws dealing with child predators,
put defibrillators in public schools and take illegal steroids out through
mandatory, random drug testing.

“Texas Children First
is a package of legislation based on a simple, unassailable premise–that
safe and healthy children learn. Safe and healthy children learn, they
grow, and they go on to lead lives that strengthen our state and make
us proud,” said Dewhurst.

Before taking office as
Lieutenant Governor, Dewhurst served as Texas Land Commissioner. Dewhurst
is a successful businessman, rancher and proud veteran. Before taking
public office he was a civic leader in his hometown of Houston. Dewhurst
has also served in the United States Air Force, Central Intelligence
Agency and the United States State Department. He is a graduate of the
University of Arizona.

To read his complete inaugural
address, please log onto, http://www.ltgov.state.tx.us/.

••••••

Congressman Cuellar
cosponsors bill to lower costs of student loans

On Wednesday, January 17,
Congress passed HR 5, the College Student Relief Act, which was cosponsored
by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen. This bill will
help make higher education accessible and affordable by cutting the
interest rates in half on certain subsidized student loans over the
next five years. Interest rates on subsidized student loans for undergraduates
would be cut from the current 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent.

“The cost of attending
college has continued growing at an unprecedented rate,” noted Cuellar.
“A college education is now out-of-reach for many working families.
The cost of public universities has increased by 41 percent after inflation
since 2001 and jumped by 17 percent after inflation for private universities.”

Once fully phased in, this
bill would save the typical borrower, with $13,800 in subsidized federal
student loan debt, approximately $4,400 over the life of the loan. Additionally,
cutting interest rates has widespread bipartisan support, with 88 percent
of the American public supporting interest rate cuts.

“Our economy relies heavily
on having a highly-skilled and well-educated workforce,” continued
Cuellar. “For America to remain the preeminent global economic player,
we must ensure that our students have access to all levels of education.
This bill is a step forward in helping working families send their children
to college.”

••••••

Congressman Hinojosa
hails cuts in interest rates for student loans

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa,
D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, January 17, ) addressed the U.S. House of
Representatives on H.R. 5, the College Student Debt Relief Act of 2007.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. Speaker, I am proud
to rise in support of H.R. 5, the College Student Debt Relief Act of
2007.

Last year the 109th Congress
cut $12 billion from the student loan programs. These savings were not
re-invested in helping low and moderate income families send their children
to college.

Instead, the $12 billion
from the student loan program was used to underwrite the irresponsible
deficit spending generated by tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Those cuts severely hampered our nation’s ability to close the college
access gap for Hispanic and other low and moderate income students.

The 110th Congress has
a new set of priorities. HR 5 will cut in half the interest on subsidized
student loans by the year 2011. This legislation will save the average
borrower $4,400 over the life of the loan.

The student loan programs
have become an important piece of the access puzzle for Hispanic families.
This interest rate reduction is part of the solution.

Hispanic students borrow
less on average than other groups. The reluctance to assume debt that
could be difficult to repay has pushed many Hispanic students into attendance
patterns that jeopardize their ability to persist until graduation.
Nevertheless, according to the report, How Latino Students Pay for College,
Excelencia in Education, the average loan amounts exceeded the average
grant amounts by more than $1800.

It is of critical importance
to the Hispanic community that we provide assurances to borrowers that
there are protections to help them meet their student loan obligations.

We are committed to addressing
the other pieces of the access and affordability puzzle as well.

We will move forward to
ensure that academic preparation is no longer a missing piece of the
puzzle. Today, there are many gaps and leaks in the educational pipeline.
For Hispanic students, the on-time high school graduation rate hovers
around 50 percent and the college-ready rate is less than 20 percent.

We will make sure that
the early awareness of the financial aid piece of the puzzle is not
missing. A recent survey conducted by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute
found that more than half of Hispanic parents and 43 percent of young
adults could not name a single source of college financial aid. Certainly,
we can do better.

Finally, and most importantly,
we will invest in the most important piece of the puzzle – the Pell
grant.

The Advisory Committee
on Student Financial Assistance estimates that in 2003, more than 400,000
college-qualified low-income students did not enroll in a four-year
college, and 170,000 did not enroll in any college at all because of
financial barriers.

The maximum Pell grant
has remained frozen for 4 years. That must change.

But first, with H.R. 5,
we will right a wrong and place savings from the student loan program
where they belong – with our low and middle income students.

I urge all my colleagues
to support this down payment on college access and affordability and
to vote yes on H.R. 5.”

••••••

Perry designates property
tax relief for senior citizens, tax rebates emergency items for Legislature

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday,
January 12 declared legislation authorizing property tax relief for
senior citizens and legislation authorizing state tax rebates as emergency
items for the 2007 legislative session. The emergency designation will
allow lawmakers to begin considering these issues in the initial 30
days of the legislative session.

“I want to see a constitutional
amendment on the May ballot so that seniors get the maximum amount of
tax relief on this year’s tax bill the same as other homeowners,”
Perry said. “Just because senior citizens have their tax rates frozen
doesn’t mean they should be left out in the cold when it comes to
additional rate relief.”

“To keep government fiscally
responsible, state leaders need the authority to rebate surplus funds
directly to taxpayers,” Perry said.

The text of the Governor’s
message to the House and Senate follows:

I, RICK PERRY, Governor
of the State of Texas, pursuant to Article III, Section 5, of the Texas
Constitution and by this special message, do hereby submit the following
emergency matters for immediate consideration to the Senate and House
of Representatives of the 80th Legislature, now convened:

Legislation authorizing
the reduction of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for public school
purposes on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect
any reduction in the rate of those taxes.

Legislation providing that
state appropriations made for the purpose of directly reducing local
property taxes and state appropriations made for the purpose of returning
state funds to the public do not count against the constitutional state
spending limit and authorizing the legislature to provide for the grant
of public money for the purpose of returning state funds to the public.

Statement from Speaker
Tom Craddick

“I applaud the emergency
declaration by the Governor. This will allow the legislature to consider
these issues in an expeditious manner. If it is the desire of the members
to pass such legislation, the opportunity exists that such constitutional
amendments could be brought to the voters of this state for their consideration
on a May ballot.”

Statement from Rep.
Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City

“I fully support the
effort to reduce school taxes on the residence homesteads of the elderly
or disabled. The property tax cut passed last year must be applied fairly
and equally to all taxpayers.”

••••••

Sen. Zaffirini wants
state, school districts to provide online sites to warn
young people of sexual predators

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini,
D-Laredo, has filed Senate Bill 120 to provide young people with Internet
sites to help them avoid being lured by sexual predators and child molesters.

Her legislation follows:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT

relating to the prevention
and prosecution of and education concerning the offense of online solicitation
of a minor.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE
OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1.

Title 1, Code of Criminal
Procedure, is amended by adding Chapter 5A to read as follows:

CHAPTER 5A.

ONLINE SOLICITATION OF
MINOR

Art. 5A.01.

EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS.

(a) The attorney general
shall maintain on the attorney general’s Internet website a link that
enables an Internet user to access free of charge information and educational
materials designed to prevent the commission of the offense of online
solicitation of a minor under Section 33.021, Penal Code, or any substantially
similar offense.

(b) The information and
educational materials described by Subsection (a) must be:

(1) appropriate for use
in a classroom setting in a public primary or secondary school; and

(2) designed to educate
minors concerning ways to avoid becoming a victim or perpetrator of
the offense of online solicitation of a minor under Section 33.021,
Penal Code, or a substantially similar offense.

(c) The Internet link maintained
under Subsection (a) may link the Internet user to information and educational
materials that are prepared by the attorney general, another state agency,
or a private entity that operates in the computer or computing industry,
including an Internet service provider or a computer software provider.

SECTION 2.

Section 37.083(a), Education
Code, is amended to read as follows:

(a) Each school district
shall adopt and implement a discipline management program to be included
in the district improvement plan under Section 11.252. The program must
provide for:

(1) prevention of and education
concerning unwanted physical or verbal aggression, sexual harassment,
and other forms of bullying in school, on school grounds, and in school
vehicles;

and

(2) prevention of the offense
of online solicitation of a minor under Section 33.021, Penal Code,
or a substantially similar offense by educating students concerning
ways to avoid becoming victims or perpetrators of that offense.

SECTION 3.

Section 33.021(f), Penal
Code, is amended to read as follows:

(f) An offense under Subsection
(b) is a state jail felony, and an offense under Subsection (c) is a
felony of the second degree, except that an offense under Subsection
(b) [or (c)] is a felony of the second degree and an offense under
Subsection (c) is a felony of the first degree if the minor is

younger than 14 years of
age or is an individual whom the actor believes to be younger than 14
years of age.

SECTION 4.

(a) The attorney general
shall post the Internet link required by Article 5A.01, Code of Criminal
Procedure, as added by this Act, not later than December 1, 2007.

(b) Each school district
shall modify its discipline management program to comply with Section
37.083, Education Code as amended by this Act, as soon as possible after
the attorney general posts the Internet link required by Article 5A.01,
Code of Criminal Procedure, as added by this Act, and not later than
the first day of the 2008-2009 school year.

(c) The change in law made
by this Act in amending Section 33.021, Penal Code, applies only to
an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An
offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by
the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law
is continued in effect for that purpose. For the purposes of this section,
an offense was

committed before the effective
date of this Act if any element of the offense was committed before
that date.

SECTION 5.

This Act takes effect September
1, 2007.