In certain situations, active duty members and veterans of the U.S. military who suffer from a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or was a victim of military sexual trauma that occurred during or resulted from the defendant’s military services – and who are convicted of their first criminal offense in Texas – would be able to have that conviction wiped off their record automatically and for free, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has proposed. His measure, House Bill 322, which was approved on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 by the Texas House of Representatives on a vote of 146 to 0, now goes to the Texas Senate for its action. HB 322 also would extend these protections to eligible members of the reserves, national guard, or state guard. Having a court order the destruction of records of the conviction is known as an expungement. An expungement is currently available for certain Texans, but the costs nationwide can start around $400 and go up to $4,000, plus court costs, depending on the nature of the charge, according to CostHelper.com. Texas veterans “are being failed by current law because in many cases these wounded warriors do not get their record expunged because it requires hiring a lawyer and paying additional court fees,” added the House District 40 state lawmaker, who is an attorney. “Such costs prevent many veterans eligible for an expungement from doing so.” But under HB 332, U.S. military personnel and veterans who successfully complete a rigorous and effective series of rehabilitative programs offered through veterans courts in Texas would be able to have their record cleared of a first offense, saving them thousands of dollars and precious time. “Criminal records are like scarlet letters that a person carries for the rest of their lives,” Canales said. “Our active military personnel and veterans fight and die for us, and I believe if they mess up, they should be given special consideration under the law.” HB 322 was requested by judges statewide who oversee the state’s veterans treatment courts.
Graphic Courtesy U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
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.
Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, addressing the Public Affairs Luncheon, sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
A proposed law that would prevent Texas governments from approving contracts whose payments are secret will be filed in 2017 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who said he is a strong champion of the people’s right to know. Canales said Texas governments – from school districts to state universities and agencies – should not be allowed to keep secret any expenditures paid for with tax funds.
Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Thursday, July 9, 2015, at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen, addressing the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s 84th Legislative Session Wrap-Up Luncheon.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
The Delta Area School Supplies Drive, which will donate key learning materials, ranging from pens and pencils to paper and erasers to notebooks, is underway and will wrap up on Wednesday, August 19, when the donations will be distributed, while supplies last, to students enrolled in the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District, Rep. Terry Canales has announced. Canales, who said he has contributed in the past to other school drives, said this is the first time he is helping organize one, serving as host for the event. He also expressed deep appreciation to the Edcouch-Elsa Rotary Club, which is playing a vital role in this event, and to his House 40 constituents in the area. “We have been asking as many people as possible. It is amazing how some companies will pull out their checkbook with a moment’s notice to help with school supplies,” Canales reported. “It is very expensive for all families to prepare their children for the school year. I am just glad to work with the Edcouch-Elsa Rotary Club and other generous leaders to provide help for those who need it.” Any school student is eligible, but each child must be present to receive a backpack. Each child will get a Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District approved backpack, 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 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Elementary Cafeteria, 500 West 9th Street, in Elsa. Students must show up in person to receive the donations. Individuals who wish to contribute or have questions about the Delta Area School Supplies Drive may call 956/383-0860. Canales said students who show up are the ones who are doing society the real favor. “There is nothing shameful about needing help,” Canales encouraged the public school students. “By receiving these school supplies, they will do better in school, and it shows the world that Valley students want a great education. We’re here to give our Edcouch-Elsa ISD students some of the tools to help the achieve their goals and dreams.” Equally important, Canales said, the generosity demonstrated by groups such as the Edcouch-Elsa Rotary Club, local businesses, and caring individuals involved in the school supply drive are worth of fortune in many other ways that count. “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.”
Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, flanked by leaders of local veterans’ groups, on Thursday, June 11, explained why he took on powerful legislative enemies in order to get his bill passed that will provide up to a 100 percent home property tax break for thousands of disabled veterans. "We veterans, we don’t leave anyone behind, and I wasn’t about to leave these veterans behind," Flores said during a press conference organized by the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley. The group chose the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission as the site for the news event, noting that Flores had also been the principal architect in bringing the state veterans cemetery to the Valley. Despite behind-the-scenes legislative opposition to his measure, Flores, a U.S. Army veteran, outmaneuvered his political rivals and passed the veterans’ home tax break. Flores praised Texas veterans groups for playing a key role in the measure’s hard-fought success. See lead story later in this posting.
Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured first on right, was rated as one of the best state lawmakers in Texas by Capitol Inside, a non-partisan web site news service has been a big hit with Republicans, Democrats and diehard independents as well since making its debut online in January 2003. At the conclusion of each legislative session, several political publications and websites name best and worst performers based on their service to their districts and the state. This year, Capitol Inside and political strategists Ted Delisi and Harold Cook compiled top ten lists, each naming Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, as one of Texas’ top ten legislators. Capitol Inside referred to Hinojosa as a veteran legislator that "just keeps getting better." The Delisi/Cook list noted Hinojosa’s ability to secure funding for District 20 projects, including highway infrastructure, and millions of dollars for health care delivery services. From left, during a recent visit to the Capitol, are Hidalgo County Treasurer Norma G. García, Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa (no relation to the senator), Hidalgo County County Clerk Arturo Guajardo, Jr., and Hinojosa. See story on the Capitol Inside ranking later in this posting.
South Texas firefighters were among the dozens of area groups which visited state lawmakers at the Capitol during the recently-concluded five month regular session. On Wednesday, April 1, a Valley delegation brought their issues to Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville. Featured with Lucio, in his office, are, from left: Manuel Vargas, McAllen; Raul R. Zúñiga, Jr., San Benito; Javier Gutiérrez, McAllen; Lucio; Ramón Martínez, San Benito; Jesús Tijerina, San Benito; and Ernest Abrego, Harlingen. Later in this posting, Lucio writes about several key measures approved by the Legislature that will benefit another key constituency – military veterans.
The Convention Committee of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is finalizing plans for the 34th annual Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) Convention, which this year will be held at the McAllen Convention Center from July 29 through August 1. The theme to the convention is “Growing Hispanic Business, for a Stronger Texas Economy”. Featured, front row, from left: Sam Guzmán, TAMACC president; Froy Garza with Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office; and Salomon Torres with Congressman Ruben Hinojosa’s office. Back row, from left: Rick Carrera, University of Texas-Pan American Small Business Development Center; Dr. John Thomas, MHCC board of directors; Mark Winchester, UTPA’s Director of the Rio South Texas Regional Procurement Technical Assistance Center; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC Pres/CEO; Letty Flores with Gov. Rick Perry’s office; Margie Treviño, Southern Minority Supplier Development Council; and María Juárez, UTPA Director of the Small Business Development Center. See story later in this posting.
The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host a Power Punch @ Lunch on Wednesday, June 24 at the Depot, located at 602 W. University Drive, sponsored by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR). The business community of Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley are invited to attend the free networking luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Persons who attend are being asked to bring their business cards to distribute during the chamber’s most notable social-networking luncheon, which includes food, door prizes and fun. Area residents interested in attending should RSVP by calling 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Joanna Álvarez, DHR Assistant Director for Marketing; McAllen City Commissioner Jim Darling, who serves as DHR’s legal counsel; Mario Lizcano, DHR Director for Marketing; Marissa Castañeda, DHR’s Chief Operations Officer; and Frank Lara, Membership Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.