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Sexual Assault Awareness Month, proposed by Rep. Canales, receives 144 – 0 House approval; lawmaker also wants universities and colleges to provide details of such crimes on campuses

Featured: A recent U.S. Air Force poster, part of an ongoing campaign by the American military in support of Airmen and their families who have been a victim of sexual assault. In Texas, a statewide effort led by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is underway to develop strategies to reduce sexual assault by equipping the public with knowledge and awareness of this serious crime by designating April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Photograph Courtesy of U.S. AIR FORCE

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has proposed that April would be designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Texas in order to increase knowledge that leads to more prevention of sexual assault and punishment of criminals, and to authorize the regular observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month through appropriate activities in public schools and other places. Sexual assault, according to FindLaw.com, occurs when a defendant – intentionally and knowingly – commits any of a number of prohibited sexual activities listed under Texas’ sexual assault law without the victim’s consent. Canales’ proposal, as illustrated in House Bill 822, was overwhelmingly approved by the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, April 2o, 2017.  The bill will now go to the Texas Senate for their action. “Today, I passed legislation out of the House to officially designate the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in an effort to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual assault,” Canales said. “We need everyone’s help to reduce sexual assault, and I believe that officially designating this month is a step in the right direction towards proactively reducing sexual assault.” Sexual assault is a serious criminal violation. Canales’ measure stems from a study conducted by UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, whose findings were released on Friday, March 24, 2017. The report titled Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments showed that sexual assault is an ongoing problem throughout society, including in the halls of higher education. According to the study,  almost 200 out of the more than 3,800 students who participated in the anonymous online survey reported to have been sexually assaulted since they have been enrolled at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s campuses. Nine percent of those students who participated in the anonymous online survey – almost 350 individuals – said they had been victims of unwanted sexual touching since they have been enrolled at UTRGV’s campuses. “These figures are shocking, to say the least,” said Canales, an attorney who also serves on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, which shapes state laws to protect Texans, especially from violent criminals. “But through this legislation, and another major bill I am working on, we are going to help remove the shroud of secrecy over sexual assault, family violence, and stalking policies at our public universities and colleges.” House Bill 1096, coauthored by Canales and Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, would require public universities and colleges in Texas to provide students and organizations with information about these crimes. “If HB 1096 becomes law, but a public university or college fails to provide that information, that university or college would not receive any state funding,” Canales said. 

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U.S. military personnel and veterans suffering from mental health trauma tied to their time in the service would get key legal protections under plan by Rep. Canales approved by Texas House

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

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Janiece Longoria, renowned Houston attorney who was raised in Hidalgo County, appointed to the UT System Board of Regents, announces Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

Featured: Janiece Longoria of Houston, a renowned attorney who was born in McAllen and grew up in Pharr, was one of three Texans appointed on Monday, January 23, 2017 by Gov. Greg Abbott to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. If approved by the Texas Senate, she would serve on one of the most powerful state boards, which controls tens of billions of dollars for the UT System, including money for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the School of Medicine campuses in Edinburg. Her term would begin on February 1, 2017 and end on February 1, 2023.

Photograph by: Scott Dalton

Janiece Longoria may soon be joining fellow attorney Ernest Aliseda of McAllen as a current UT System regent with deep roots in the Rio Grande Valley. Aliseda was appointed to a six-year term on the nine-member UT System Board of Regents by Gov. Rick Perry in February 2013. Longoria is a daughter of the late Sen. Raúl Longoria, D-Pharr, who was a civil rights activist in the Texas Legislature, both in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate, where he represented Hidalgo County. The Edinburg Mayor and the Edinburg City Council, along with the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors, lobby the Texas Legislature and the UT System Board of Regents on behalf of the UTRGV and School of Medicine campuses in Edinburg. Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director for the Edinburg EDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mayor Richard García as President, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr. as Vice President, Elías Longoria, Jr. as Secretary/Treasurer, and Richard Rupert and Dr. Peter Dabrowski as Members. Agustín García, Jr. and Mayor Richard García are not related.

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Sen. Zaffirini named to UT campus newspaper’s The Daily Texan Hall of Fame; award ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, September 16, 2016

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Featured: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, at the rostrum (large desk) facing the Texas Senate chamber at the State Capitol Building. The portrait behind her is of Stephen F. Austin, known as the “Father of the Republic of Texas”, done shortly before his death on December 27, 1836.

Photograph By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is one of six 2016 inductees into The Daily Texan Hall of Fame, the non-profit Friends of The Daily Texan announced recently. The organization was established in 2013 to support quality journalism and a strong future for the student newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin. While a UT undergraduate, Zaffirini served as a reporter, feature writer, copy editor, headline writer, assistant editor and special issue editor for The Daily Texan. “This award is especially meaningful to me because working for The Daily Texan was an amazing experience that strengthened my resolve to pursue a career in communication and public service,” Zaffirini said. “What’s more, I am grateful to the Friends of The Daily Texan not only for this honor, but also for their work to promote quality journalism and to ensure the success of The Daily Texan in the digital world. I share their belief in the power of student journalism, and, equally important, their commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

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Edinburg’s May 2011 retail economy registers best improvement among key Valley cities

McAllen’s state legislation on Thursday, July 7, pose for news photographers following their presentations before the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on how the Valley made out during the five-month regular session of the Texas Legislature, which ended May 31, and the special session, which wrapped up in late June. “The $27 billion budget shortfall and the current political environment set the theme from the start and it was not pretty,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured second from left. “Still, aside the difficulties we faced, we were able to shine a positive light on several important issues.” As one example, the Texas Legislature approved almost $66 million in additional funding for border security, among some of the victories secured by South Texas state lawmakers. From left are: Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg; Sen. Hinojosa; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. See editorial later in this posting by Sen. Hinojosa on his view of the sessions’ negative and positive impact on the Valley.

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Thursday, June 23, welcomed Edinburg North High School student Felipe Gaitán, his family and his teacher to Washington, D.C. Felipe is the 1st Place winner of the 2011 Artistic Discovery Congressional Art Competition for Texas’ 15th Congressional District. He earned the top spot for his pencil drawing entitled Hey Good Looking. “It was a pleasure meeting Felipe and his family here in Washington, D.C.,” said Hinojosa. “He’s a fine young man and obviously a very talented artist. Our district will be very well represented here on Capitol Hill throughout the year.” The annual art competition, coordinated by members of the U.S. House of Representatives, takes all of the winning art work from throughout the country and displays them for one year as part of the national exhibition in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. House of Representatives, which leads to the U.S. Capitol building. For winning 1st Place, Felipe received a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, plus he and his family were flown to the nation’s capital. This is the Gaitáns’ family first visit to Washington, D.C., and the first time, for the children to fly on an airplane. High School students from throughout Texas’ District 15 submitted 26 entries for the annual competition. A total of 12 high schools from Harlingen to Three Rivers participated in the competition. Featured, from left: Lorenzo Gaitán (father); Christian Gaitán (brother); Felipe Gaitán (art winner); Elena Gaitán (mother); Congressman Hinojosa; Terry Viña (art teacher); and Rubén Gonzáles, Jr. (brother)

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A research and education park for the deep South Texas is becoming a reality now that the master planning process is well underway. Broaddus Planning of Austin expects to have the plan completed by Fall 2011, and gave a preview of the plan to regional stakeholders, including leaders with the University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College, during a reception at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, June 22. The park will be located on 400 acres of public and private land near the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone.  The driving force behind the park is a subcommittee comprised of affiliates of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI). Sixty business, education, economic development, industry and government partners form the initiative, which was launched as a result of a U.S. Department of Labor investment. NAAMREI partners are focused on transforming the region into a world leader for advanced and rapid response manufacturing. Featured during the June 22 update are, from left: Wanda Garza, executive director, NAAMREI; Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president, South Texas College; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president, the University of Texas-Pan American; Rose Benavidez, vice-chair, STC Board of Trustees; Gary Gurwitz, chair, STC Board of Trustees, and Juan E. Mejía, chief academic officer, STC. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host Workforce Solutions at their next Business Luncheon, set for Thursday, July 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Edinburg Depot, located at 602 West University Drive. Topics being discussed will include: Workforce Solutions services and support to businesses; the do’s and don’ts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); employing those with disabilities, and how Workforce Solutions can help businesses save money, support human resource needs; and hiring, pre-screening and training of employees. More information is available at the chamber’s website at http://www.Edinburg.com. Featured, from left: John Hershey, business development specialist, Workforce Solutions; Katherine Filut, disability program navigator, Workforce Solutions; Letty González, president, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Evana Vleck, marketing director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Sonia Quintero, deafness resource specialist, Texas Department of Assistive & Rehabilitative Services; and Víctor Martín de León, public information officer, Workforce Solutions.

Hobos around Edinburg are packing up and on the trail to the historic Edinburg Depot, the home of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. They are hopping on board to support the Depot Restoration Project and getting spiffed up to participate in the Hobo Hap’nin’ Reunion, scheduled on Saturday, September 17 at the Edinburg Depot, located at 602 W. University Drive. “We are inviting all past presidents, board members, volunteers and the current chamber investors to join us in September as we host the Hobo Hap’nin’ Reunion,” said Elva Jackson Garza, chairman of the Depot Restoration Committee. “This will be a very special event as it will bring civic and business leaders who were instrumental in the original renovation project that started in 1994. It’s time we come together again for a very important cause as we restore one of Edinburg’s most important treasures built in 1927.” Members of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Depot Restoration Committee, featured here promoting the event, are, from left: Vivian Martin, Maggie Kent, Flo Prater, Edna Peña, Letty González, Marty Martin and Elva Jackson Garza. See story later in this posting.

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McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, featured July 7 at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s legislative update, is criticizing the state’s Republican leadership for what he fears will be almost a $1 billion reduction in state funds for key programs and services, including public education and medical care for the poor, in deep South Texas. “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you, as mayor of this city, as great as we have done in the past, there is a storm brewing out there,” Cortéz said. “When they tell me we’re not going to get almost a billion dollars of funds from the state to the Rio Grande Valley, if that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. How do we make up a billion dollars in our economy?” See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, whose legislative district also includes Starr County, recently marked her 47,550th consecutive vote in the Texas Senate. Featured here earlier this year presiding over the Texas Senate, her unique, career-long 100 percent voting record extends from January, 1987, when she first took office.  “Every vote I cast in the Texas Senate reflects my commitment to balance the needs of my Senate District 21 constituents with those of our great state,” Zaffirini said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to make a difference, especially for the very young, the very old and persons with disabilities.” See story later in this posting.

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