Featured, from left: Harvey Rodríguez, Jr., Vice-President, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, at Canales’ District Office in Edinburg on Monday, December 14, 2015.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
An Open Government seminar, offered by the Office of the Texas Attorney General and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, will take place on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, 1200 Ash Avenue, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. “Access to public records gives our citizens the opportunity to participate in public life, help set priorities, and hold their governments accountable. A free flow of information can be an important tool for building trust between a government and its citizens. Public access to our government’s work is a fundamental human right,” said Canales. “Democracies die behind closed doors. The First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people’s right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully, and accurately.”
About 300 11th-grade high school students and their fathers and/or mentors from throughout South Texas participated in the Together in Educational Success (TIES) conference at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in early April. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, along with the City of Edinburg, promote the best interests of UTRGV and the UTRGV School of Medicine though its extensive legislative lobbying efforts before the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Legislature, and Congress.
Photograph Courtesy MARCI CALTABIANO
Possible action on several current and new job creation strategies being considered by the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation will take place beginning at noon on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in the Council Chamber at Edinburg City Hall, the EEDC has announced. The two items scheduled to be deliberated in open session are interlocal agreements with the City of Edinburg regarding Project Domain and the city’s soccer park. In executive session, the following issues will be reviewed: Project Urban; Project Grindstone; the monumentation at the North Industrial Park; Project Square; Project Quest; and a development agreement with VICA Enterprises, L.P.
Featured, seated from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, fields questions on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives from Steve Taylor, the publisher and editor of the online publication, The Rio Grande Guardian.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Children who are victims of sexual assault now have 15 years instead of five years to bring civil lawsuits against alleged sex offenders or others who are liable for the injuries sustained as a result of such crimes, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, who supported House Bill 189, which became state law on September 1, 2015. House Bill 189, which was approved by the Legislature late last spring, also removed any statute of limitations on the criminal prosecution of suspected serial rapists, whether their victim is a child or an adult. “I have a proven record in the Texas Legislature of supporting the creation of laws, policies, and new funding that protect crime victims and prosecute criminals,” said Muñoz. “I have no pity for rapists, child molesters, or other sexual predators, and I never place the blame of these victims because it is never their fault.” Prior to the passage of HB 189, there was a 10-year statute of limitations in the criminal prosecution of sex offenders who were considered serial rapists. A statute of limitations is generally defined as a law that sets a time limit for bringing certain kinds of legal action. Sexual assault is generally defined as any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another. In 2014, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 18,756 sexual assaults in the state, an increase of 5.1 percent over 2013. House Bill 189, effective September 1, 2015, was needed because of the seriousness of these crimes and the special circumstances that can limit when these victims are ready to speak out about the crime, according to the bill analysis by the House Research Organization. Despite these circumstances, a measure of justice always should be available to victims of these crimes, the HRO report stated. “The significance of HB 189 removing the statute of limitations for serial rape cases is well-documented in the bill analysis,” Muñoz emphasized. “The House Research Organization noted that his vital new protection is tremendously important for fighting sexual assault and violence against women because it encourages survivors to come forward to report their cases, preventing those convicted from attacking again.” Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, the author of HB 189, provided some of her key perspectives soon after she first filed the legislation on November 10, 2014, which was approved by the Legislature on June 1, 2015, and signed into law by the governor on June 18, 2015. “Rape is a horrible crime that is not only physical but mental,” said Thompson. “According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, sexual assault is a crime in which the assailant uses sexual contact to inflict humiliation or to exert power and control over the victim. Currently, there are 1.8 million survivors of sexual assault in Texas.” As for the civil lawsuit aspects of HB 189, Muñoz, an attorney, said any crime victim may be able to seek monetary damages against people who caused them harm. Muñoz, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which heavily influences the shaping of the $200+ billion state budget, was a coauthor of another new state law, enacted as a result of House Bill 10, that gives law enforcement in Texas more power to fight human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that preys most fiercely on women and children. “Human trafficking is modern day slavery, which also exposes their victims to sexual exploitation,” said Muñoz, who in 2012 was named to the groundbreaking Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking, which also included Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “One of the results of HB 10 is that even if a victim is an undocumented immigrant, the power of Texas shall be brought to bear to protect the powerless who are forced into the illegal sex trade,” said Muñoz. Muñoz, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which heavily influences the shaping of the $200+ billion state budget, was a coauthor of another new state law, enacted as a result of House Bill 10, that gives law enforcement in Texas more power to fight human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that preys most fiercely on women and children. “Human trafficking is defined as a crime against humanity, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them,” said Muñoz. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad, according to the United Nations. Every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.
Featured: Darryl S. Johnson, Democrat for Waller County Commissioner, Precinct 3.
Photograph By PARIS KINCAID
Darryl S. Johnson, a legislative consultant with more than 30 years experience in the Texas Legislature and in Congress, says that as Waller County Commissioner, he would use his leadership skills and influential friends in the business and political corridors of power to benefit all voters in his precinct. Johnson, a Prairie View businessman, has filed for Precinct 3 Waller County Commissioner, calling himself “the only true Democrat” with a proven record of working for small business owners, university students, working families – people from all-walks-of-life. “Waller County, and especially Precinct 3, are blessed with the brainpower, willpower, and staying power to become a regional and statewide leader in higher education, economic development, tourism, and job creation,” said Johnson. “But we need someone with know-how, vision, and abilities to help us achieve a higher level of greatness.” The father of two daughters, Johnson said his campaign slogan reflects his honest approach to the challenges and opportunities in Waller County: “We have a lot of work to do.” Among his many strategies, Johnson said he would work closely with state and federal lawmakers to identify sources of funding from Austin and Washington, D.C., and secure millions of dollars for vital programs in Precinct 3, ranging from more money for transportation needs to filing state legislation to expand Prairie View A&M University. “I know where to look at our state capitol and our nation’s capitol for the financial resources we deserve in order to improve our economy, to create more jobs, to serve and protect our families and our future,” he said. “I know how the complicated systems work in the Texas Legislature and in Congress, and I will make them work for all of us in Precinct 3. No other candidate can deliver for us like I will.” Johnson said that he also would fight for programs that would provide needed financial and health care resources for senior citizens. “Older Texans have made a lifetime of contributions to our nation, and it is a sacred obligation of our society to help those who need it in their retirement years,” he said. “One of the actions I will take as a Waller County Commissioner is to set up town hall meetings with all constituents, including sessions specifically with senior citizens, not only to hear their concerns, but especially to learn from their wisdom what I can do to better serve them.” He also pledged to continue building the public’s trust in the Precinct 3 office by always meeting with constituents and being accessible and visible. “I will be the type of county commissioner who not only has an open door policy to my constituents, but more than that, I will always be out in my precinct visiting with residents,” said Johnson. “I won’t be a politician who you only see and hear around election time.” During his career, Johnson has worked for elected leaders in the U.S. Congress, Texas Governor’s Office, and Texas Legislature, and was a key consultant in 2010 for the Texas gubernatorial campaign of multi-billionaire Farouk Shami of Houston. He has also worked with state agencies such as the Secretary of State, Texas Department of Insurance, Texas Water Development Board, and Texas Water Commission. Among his community service roles, Johnson served as a Waller County representative to the Houston- Galveston Area Council, a regional organization through which local governments consider issues and cooperate in solving area wide problems, and served on the Waller County Airport Commission when the region was developing the idea for an airport in Katy. “Precinct 3 deserves someone with the abilities to address the Captains of Industry and the Titans of Politics, and partner with them to shape the laws, policies, and business decisions that will lead to prosperity for our region,” Johnson said. “What I have learned from decades of working with the Powers-that-Be is to always let them know that we have what it takes for them and us to succeed.”
Featured: Sandra Bland (Undated photograph posted on her Facebook)
The tragic death of Sandra Bland on Monday, July 13, 2o15, while confined in the Waller County Jail, requires decisive and landmark action by the Texas Legislature to guarantee that every jail cell in Texas is being monitored by a video surveillance system. Bland, 28, a graduate of Prairie View A&M who had come back after accepting a new job at her alma mater, was reportedly alone in a Waller County Jail cell, out-of-sight of a nearby county jail video camera, when she allegedly committed suicide by hanging. Darryl Johnson, a legislative consultant with more than 35 years experience in the Texas Legislature, who resides in Prairie View, is proposing legislation, to be known as “The Sandra Bland Justice for All Act”, be filed when the Texas Legislature begins its regular session in January 2017. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Houston and Speaker of the House Joe Straus of San Antonio should immediately appoint a joint Senate-House legislative committee to come up with ways to require all jails in Texas to maintain an effective video monitoring system so that no one who is being held in a cell is hidden from the protective and unbiased view of a video camera, he recommended. “In light of the terrible controversy and negative worldwide image of Texas that is resulting from this sorrow, now is the time to show the world that we in Waller County will help lead the way on what would be a major improvement of our state’s criminal justice system,” said Johnson. “More important, it is right and just that Sandra Bland, whose life calling courageously revolved around battling injustice, should have her honorable name, through ‘The Sandra Bland Justice for All Act’, be forever linked to protecting the innocent.”