State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, on Tuesday, January 23, honored the memory of the late Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio – which would have been Madla’s 70th birthday. The veteran lawmaker was killed November 24, 2006 in a house fire in San Antonio. Co-authoring the Memorial Resolution was Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who also honored Madla’s five-year-old granddaughter, Aleena, and his mother-in-law, Mary Cruz, 81, both of whom perished in the fire, with separate resolutions that Lucio coauthored. The entire body of the Senate signed onto all three documents. Accepting the resolutions were Madla’s wife, Helen Madla; son, Dr. Frank Madla III; daughter, Marci Madla; brother, Ralph Madla; and other members of the family. Featured in this portrait, which was taken on the floor of the Senate chambers, are Lucio (center), presenting a Texas State Cemetery flag to Dr. Frank Madla, Jr. and his wife, Nenette, pictured to the right of Lucio. At the far right is Marci Madla, who also received a flag. Left to right are Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington; Van de Putte, and Helen Madla, who received the flag that was draped over her husband’s coffin at the burial.
The City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation have announced the revitalization of the “I Shop Edinburg” campaign. The renewed campaign kicked off in early January, and will continue through December 2008. The mission of I SHOP is to promote economic growth in Edinburg resulting in improved city services by encouraging residents to trade with local merchants, who will provide quality goods and services, thus securing a better future for the Edinburg community. All Edinburg businesses are invited to participate. Any business owner interested in benefiting from the I Shop Edinburg campaign may call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce to get a logo. Shoppers can save money by patronizing participating businesses by looking for the I SHOP logo. To pick up an I SHOP savings card, stop by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, Edinburg City Hall, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, or call 956-383-4974 for more information about the program.
On Tuesday, January 16, Kiwanis Clubs of District 11 were honored with a visit by Texas/Oklahoma Kiwanis Governor William E. Crump, III and his wife Jane, at the ECHO Hotel. Crump updated area Kiwanis Clubs on local Texas/Oklahoma initiatives and asked for the clubs support with issues such as events, fundraisers, meetings and seminars occurring across the state. He has served as an active member of the Kiwanis Club organization for the past thirty-two years with thirty years perfect attendance of club meetings. Lt. Gov. Terry Wilson who represents District 11 was also present at the special event. The Edinburg Kiwanis Club hosts community events and fundraisers throughout the year. The annual Pancake Breakfast will be held on Saturday, February 3, 2007 from 7-11 a.m. at the ECHO Hotel. Tickets are only $3 and include all the pancakes you can eat, free coffee or milk, and one serving of sausage. Tickets can be purchased at the door or through any Edinburg Kiwanis member. For more information, please call Letty Martínez at 956-383-4974.
Edinburg’s jobless rate in December drops to 4.2 percent, best in Valley, better than state average
Edinburg’s jobless rate, which is a key indicator of the strength of the local economy, dropped to 4.2 percent in December, the best showing in the Valley for the fifth month in 2006, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
At 4.2 percent, the local showing was also better than the Texas average of 4.5 percent, which is the lowest statewide average in five years, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.
The EEDC’s five-member governing board includes Mayor Joe Ochoa; former Mayor Richard García, who is president of the EEDC board of directors; and Fred Palacios, Mike Govind, and George Bennack.
As of December, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, 1,169 Edinburg residents were looking for jobs, while 26,752 local residents were employed.
The jobless rate, also known as the unemployment rate, is the number of persons unemployed, expressed as a percentage of the civilian labor force.
The civilian labor force is that portion of the population age 16 and older employed or unemployed.
To be considered unemployed, a person has to be not working but willing and able to work and actively seeking work.
The jobless rate for Hidalgo County was 6.6 percent in December, same as the previous month, representing 18,649 area residents without jobs, while 262,795 residents were employed during that month.
McAllen had the lowest monthly unemployment rates during seven months of 2006, followed by Edinburg, which had that distinction during five monthly reporting periods.
In December, McAllen reported a 4.4 percent jobless rate.
Cameron County’s jobless rate in December was 5.7 percent, representing 8,404 people looking for work and 138,090 residents holding down jobs.
Harlingen had the third-best showing among major Valley cities in December, reporting a 4.7 percent jobless rate, followed by Mission and Pharr, which each registered 5 percent unemployment rates for that month.
Also for December, Brownsville posted a 5.7 percent jobless rate, followed by Weslaco, with its 6.1 percent unemployment rate.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission:
Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent in November and from 5.2 percent in December 2005.
The declining unemployment rate continues to set records for the lowest rate in five years. The state unemployment rate matches the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.
Seasonally adjusted nonagricultural employment grew by 15,600 jobs in December as Texas employers continue adding jobs.
Over the last 12 months, the Texas economy grew by 213,200 jobs, with an over-the-year growth rate of 2.2 percent. Texas employers now have added jobs for 27 consecutive months.
“Record-setting low unemployment rates and high job growth highlight the strength of the Texas economy,” said Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chair Diane Rath. “Employers are displaying confidence as they continue to add jobs.”
Trade, Transportation & Utilities contributed 6,700 jobs in December, the largest increase within a sector.
Employment in Construction rose by 2,800 jobs over the month, for a total of 44,700 jobs since December 2005.
“Both the goods producing and service providing sectors experienced broad-based growth in December,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ron Lehman. “Employment gains in Construction jumped 7.7 percent over the year, and Professional & Business Services added 46,000 jobs over the same period.”
Financial Activities employment displayed a significant increase of 3,100 jobs in December. This was the largest December job gain recorded in the group in over a decade. Financial Activities completed 2006 with a total of 19,300 jobs created for an annual growth rate of 3.1 percent.
“For Texans seeking employment, now is the time to find work,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton. “The tremendous job growth means many opportunities in a variety of industries.”
Natural Resources & Mining employment increased for the seventh consecutive month, adding 1,500 jobs in December.
The industry finished the year with a total of 11,800 positions gained in 2006 representing an annual growth rate of 6.9 percent.
Initial claims for unemployment compensation in December 2006 were 56,501, down 4.8 percent from a year ago.
The Texas Workforce Commission is a state agency dedicated to helping Texas employers, workers and communities prosper economically.
For details on TWC and the programs it offers in unison with its network of local workforce development boards, call (512) 463-8556 or visit http://www.texasworkforce.org.
By DAVID A. DIAZ
For more information on the people and politics that impact Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com
Mayor Ochoa to deliver The State of the City address during Wednesday, January 31 luncheon at ECHO
Mayor Joe Ochoa will address the community as part of the upcoming Public Affairs Luncheon, hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday, January 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the ECHO Hotel in Edinburg.
Ochoa will present the annual State of the City speech, which will cover topics such as major city projects, economic overview, and the legislative agenda for the City of Edinburg.
Ochoa is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science Degree in pharmacy with certification in immunization, diabetes care, and nutrition. He is self-employed as a retail pharmacist and owner of two community pharmacies and other business ventures.
Ochoa has served as mayor for several terms, from May 1993 to May 2003, and from May 2006 through the present. His current term continues through May 2009.
Ochoa served as an Edinburg school board member from May 1981 to May 1993, is past President and current member of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, co-chairman of I-69 Alliance – Highway 281, past chairman and present member of Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Also, other public service endeavors include him serving as a member South Texas Border Partnership, past member of NAITCP (National Association of International Trade Corridor Partnership), has achieved two “All American City” awards as Mayor for Edinburg in 1995 and 2000 plus an Outstanding Business Award 1995 from UTPA-SIFE, Ochoa received the Leadership in Economic Development award from the American Economic Development Council in 1995 and lastly, received the Clean Cities Award in 2000 and 2001, which held State of Texas Recognition.
The Public Affairs Luncheons are a new initiative introduced in 2006 and part of the chamber’s vision to inform, involve and educate chamber members and civic leaders. The event allows business people to meet, network and create opportunities for the companies they represent.
“The chamber of commerce encourages all chamber investors and others interested in learning about hot topics affecting our community and the Rio Grande Valley to attend,” commented Elva Jackson-Garza, Vice Chair of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Membership Committee. “We would like to thank our sponsors for their generous time and donations: Edwards Abstract & Title Co., AT&T, and Time Warner Cable.”
The cost to attend is $10 per person, and will include a hot lunch, beverage and dessert. For more information on programs and events sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, please call 956-383-4974.
Sen. Hinojosa presses Gov. Perry, U.S. officials to improve access by children to medical care
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Friday, January 28, released the following statement regarding the visit by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to announce to offer federal assistance for Texas-based initiatives to improve access to health care:
“I applaud the effort to free up state leaders to explore innovative ways to make sure all eligible Texans have access to the high-quality, affordable health care they deserve, especially when it comes to the federal Medicaid program and how it serves children.
“My bottom line is simple and straightforward — if a criminal has the right to see an attorney, a child should have the right to see a doctor. Period.
“How we reach that goal should be a top priority of this legislative session.
“U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) estimates that Texas forfeits more than $600 million in available federal funding each year by not enrolling more eligible children in the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program. This makes no moral or financial sense.
“I look forward to working with Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and my colleagues in the Texas Senate to make sure we take advantage of this new-found freedom announced today to try to find new ways to make Medicaid more effective and efficient as part of a comprehensive agenda for addressing the health care needs of all Texans.”
Gov. Perry and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt discuss restructuring Medicaid
Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, January 26, joined U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt and state lawmakers to discuss restructuring the state’s Medicaid program. As the cost of managing the Medicaid program continues to grow, the state must develop new approaches to sustain the program that serves 2.7 million vulnerable, disabled and elderly Texans.
“Texas cannot continue to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to Medicaid,” Perry said. “Escalating costs and increasing enrollment has made our current system unsustainable. Together, with our state and federal partners, we must develop a more flexible and efficient system of providing safe, quality medical care to those who need it most.”
In 10 years (1994 to 2004), the cost of Medicaid doubled in Texas, now constituting 26 percent of the state’s budget. In the near future, Gov. Perry will suggest reforming Texas’ Medicaid program through:
• Providing customized benefit packages for specific populations;
• Providing assistance for enrollment in private insurance and employer-sponsored plans; and
• Promoting consumer choice through health savings accounts and consumer directed services.
At the January 26 event, Perry emphasized the importance of greater flexibility in managing diverse Medicaid populations. Children represent 70 percent of the Medicaid population and only 30 percent of the cost, while the elderly and those with special needs represent 21 percent of the Medicaid population and account for about 60 percent of the cost.
“The best insurance plan for pregnant women and children is not the same as the best plan for elderly Texans who need long-term care,” Perry said. “I would like to create Medicaid benefit packages that target specific groups, such as a plan for healthy children and adults, a separate plan for children with special needs, and a third plan for adults with disabilities and long-term care needs.”
On Thursday, January 25, HHS awarded Texas $4 million for Medicaid “transformation grants” to support the development of electronic health passports for children in foster care. Electronic health passports ensure greater continuity of care for a population of children that often receives treatment from a variety of physicians due to changing living arrangements.
Rep. Peña’s appointment as House panel chairman in honor of his late son, says Speaker Craddick
State Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, on Friday, January 26, was appointed to serve on two House committees, including serving as chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.
The committee assignments were made by Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland.
Craddick said he selected Peña to lead the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, not only because he was qualified, but also because the Speaker of the House made a special effort to recognize the representative’s late son.
“I am proud to make this appointment in the memory of John Austin Peña,” Craddick said, noting that Pena’s son was the motivation for his father to eventually enter public service.
Peña said he was grateful for the appointment, and vowed to work on behalf of all Texans who face difficulties in their lives, particularly from the threat or consequences of crime, including substance abuse.
“I am honored to have been given the opportunity to lead this very important committee,” said Peña. “Chairing Criminal Jurisprudence and being named to Ways and Means gives our community a stronger voice in the leadership of the state. These assignments give me a special opportunity to keep working on substance abuse and mental health policy.”
The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence has nine members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
(1) criminal law, prohibitions, standards, and penalties;
(2) probation and parole;
(3) criminal procedure in the courts of Texas;
(4) revision or amendment of the Penal Code; and
(5) the following state agencies: the Office of State Prosecuting Attorney and the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.
During the 2005 regular session, Peña served as a member of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. The top position on that House panel became available when Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, retired from the Legislature.
But as a result of his Peña’s chairmanship, under the rules that govern the Texas House of Representatives, a state representative who is chairman of a House committee can not serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which develops the state budget for the House of Representatives.
Peña selection to the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has nine members, will give him considerable influence over the following legislation and issues:
(1) all bills and resolutions proposing to raise state revenue;
(2) all bills or resolutions proposing to levy state taxes or other fees;
(3) all proposals to modify, amend, or change any existing state tax or revenue statute;
(4) all proposals to regulate the manner of collection of state revenues and taxes;
(5) all bills and resolutions containing provisions resulting in automatic allocation of funds from the state treasury;
(6) all bills and resolutions diverting funds from the state treasury or preventing funds from going in that otherwise would be placed in the state treasury;
(7) all bills and resolutions relating to the Tax Code; and
(8) the following state agencies: the Office of Multistate Tax Compact Commissioner for Texas and the State Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Peña’s promotion to chairmanship came after he supported Craddick’s bid for reelection to a third-two year term as Speaker of the House, arguably the most powerful state legislator in state government.
The Speaker of the House is elected every two years, on the first day of the regular session, by a vote among the 150-members of the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House needs 76 votes to secure a victory.
Peña supported Craddick against Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Democrat from Houston, who announced for speaker last spring before dropping out of the race late last year. Then, Peña stood by Craddick – even seconded his nomination on the House chamber – when Craddick was unsuccessfully challenged by Rep. Jim Pits, a Republican from Waxahachie.
Hidalgo County Democratic Chairman Juan Maldonado summed up the sentiments of many community leaders regarding the chairmanship.
“Rep. Peña continues to serve his constituents well,” said Maldonado. “South Texas needs more good Democrats to assume leadership roles in our state government.
Peña said his selection to the House Committee on Ways and Means is significant but more importantly and of greater impact to South Texas was his appointment to serve as Chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.
Peña noted that Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, retained his chairmanship of the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, which has jurisdiction over legislation dealing with businesses, industries, general trades, and occupations regulated by the state.
Peña said the appointments made by Craddick along with other top assignments “have led many to consider this Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation as the strongest in the history of the state.
“I am honored to have been given the opportunity to lead this very important committee,” said Peña. “Chairing this committee and being named to Ways and Means gives our community a stronger voice in the leadership of the state.”
Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, was another Craddick loyalist who was repaid with plum committee assignments. Guillen was selected by Craddick as the Vice Chair of Appropriations,
“Rep. Peña has always been a strong advocate for the Rio Grande Valley. His leadership appointment brings strength to the South Texas and border delegations,” said Guillen.
As Chairman of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Peña has the power to call meetings, set the agenda and influence legislation in that committee.
“The committee is especially significant because many members of the Texas House file numerous
bills regarding criminal jurisprudence issues,” Peña said.
The committee is charged with writing state criminal laws, prohibitions, standards, and penalties. It also has jurisdiction over probation, parole and criminal procedure in the courts of Texas. The committee maintains sole control over any changes made to the Texas Penal Code, which determines punishment for our most serious crimes.
“As our state grows so do the challenges facing our criminal justice system,” said Peña. “Many of our jails are operating at maximum capacity and we are once again faced with the decision of building more prisons or expanding probation and diversion programs. As the Lt. Gov. mentioned in his inaugural speech, we face critical problems regarding sexual predators in our communities. I am ready for the challenge of finding solutions to these complex issues.”
Rep. Gonzáles will influence health care, Texas courts with appointments to House Public Health, Judiciary committees
State Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, on Friday, January 25, was appointed by Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, to serve on the House Public Health and Judiciary committee.
“I am thrilled that I received my top two choices for committee assignments,” said Gonzáles. “Health care is an extremely critical issue in our state and our nation, and is especially important in the Rio Grande Valley, where so many do not have access to healthcare,” said the House District 41 lawmaker, who represents southwest Edinburg. “The tremendous need for public health issues to be addressed is evident by the many hospitals and medical facilities serving Valley residents in my district.”
The Public Health Committee is responsible for the protection of public health, including supervision and control of the practice of medicine and dentistry and other allied health services.
The Public Health Committee has nine members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
(1) the protection of public health, including supervision and control of the practice of medicine and dentistry and other allied health services;
(2) mental health and the development of programs incident thereto;
(3) the prevention and treatment of mental illness;
(4) oversight of the Health and Human Services Commission as it relates to the subject matter jurisdiction of this committee; and
(5) the following state agencies: the Department of State Health Services, the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas, the Texas Funeral Service Commission, the State Committee of Examiners in the Fitting and Dispensing of Hearing Instruments, the Texas Optometry Board, the Radiation Advisory Board, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, the Board of Nurse Examiners, the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, the Texas State Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the State Board of Dental Examiners, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, the Advisory Board of Athletic Trainers, the Dental Hygiene Advisory Committee, the State Board of Barber Examiners, the Texas Cosmetology Commission, the Texas Cancer Council, the Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners, the Health Professions Council, the Office of Patient Protection, the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Perfusionists, and the Texas Health Care Information Council.
“I appreciate the importance of good health and look forward to working on legislation that will improve the quality of public health for my constituents,” said Gonzáles.
“I am likewise pleased to be reappointed to serve on the Judiciary committee which oversees matters relating to judges and the creation or changes to courts in the State of Texas,” she continued. “Last session, I was able to secure the passage of legislation that created a new district court, a new county court, increased jury pay and salary increases to our Texas judges. I feel confident that my experience as an attorney will continue to benefit my service on this committee and the legal system in Texas.”
The Judiciary Committee has nine members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
(1) uniform state laws;
(2) creating, changing, or otherwise affecting courts of judicial districts of the state;
(3) establishing districts for the election of judicial officers;
(4) the Texas Judicial Council;
(5) the State Commission on Judicial Conduct;
(6) the Office of the Attorney General, including its organization, powers, functions, and responsibilities;
(7) courts and court procedures except where jurisdiction is specifi cally granted to some other standing committee; and
(8) the following state agencies: the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System, the State Law Library, the Texas Judicial Council, the Office of the Attorney General, the Court Reporters Certification Board, and the Board of Law Examiners.
Gonzáles explained that thousands of pieces of legislation will be considered by the Legislature this session, and the committee process closely analyzes legislation before Representatives vote on bills on the House Floor. Taking an active role as a committee member enables her to have greater input on a large number of bills covering a wide range of issues.
Speaker Craddick outlines process for committee appointments, appoints 14 new committee leaders
Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, on Friday, January 26, announced the House committee assignments. The appointments are a culmination of weeks of meetings between Craddick and the members in what was a long and thoughtful process.
“The committee assignments reflect the preferences of each individual member, to the degree that it could be achieved,” Craddick said. “I made these appointments after weeks of discussions with legislators, and I believe this leadership team strikes a balance between experience and the diverse interests of this state. The subsequent selection of subcommittee chairmen will round out the committee process. I want these members to go forth in carrying out the business of the state and in achieving the goals they have set for themselves and their constituents.”
Craddick appointed 14 new chairmen to reflect the ever-changing face of the House membership. He expressed his belief that the committees are one of the most important components of the legislative process.
Faced with challenging issues such as appraisal reform, property tax relief, water conservation and healthcare costs, the House leadership team will focus on reaching solutions in a bipartisan and pragmatic manner, said Craddick, who added he wished to thank the House members for their patience and goodwill throughout the whole committee selection process.
Sen. Hinojosa says scholars program for Hispanic legislative interns reaches $200,000 funding goal
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Thursday, January 25, said the innovative Senator Gregory Luna Memorial Luna Scholars and Fellows Program met its fundraising goal of $200,000 when Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, a Republican, and others gave generous contributions to provide fellowships for Texas’ future leaders and make it possible for them to work in the Texas Legislature during the current session.
Hinojosa, chairman of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, which oversees the fellowship program, thanked his Senate colleagues and Dewhurst for their commitment to the innovative program.
“Hosting these young scholars and mentoring them helps build the future leaders of Texas,” Hinojosa said. “It is especially important for them to have the opportunity to serve in a vital office like the Lt. Governor’s, and we are especially pleased by his support and commitment and his leadership in helping us surpass our fundraising goals for this important program.”
Hinojosa also congratulated the 16 scholars currently participating in the fellowship program, which is named after the late Gregory Luna, a longtime Texas senator, a strong education advocate and onetime chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus.
Hidalgo County revisits issue of illegal drug use by employees; Judge Salinas, Commissioner Garza volunteer to be first to be tested
Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, along with Precinct 4 Commissioner Oscar Garza Jr., on Wednesday, January 24, volunteered to be the first to submit to random drug testing.
“Hidalgo County employees need to be sober, sincere and professionally accountable to taxpayers,” Salinas said. “I am more than willing to go first and I’m also volunteering the staff of the county judge’s office to be tested right away.”
Garza said his office was also volunteering to lead the way.
“Everyone from me to the janitor will be tested,” Garza said. “And we don’t mind going first.”
Hidalgo County’s drug and alcohol policy came under fire when a county employee returned to his job of interviewing inmates at the detention facility, after he allegedly consumed alcohol during his lunch hour.
That employee was initially given a punishment of three months probation, but was eventually fired.
The county adopted a policy in 2005 and a drug testing company was contracted, however pre-employment testing and random checks were never implemented.
Salinas said he wants both random drug tests and pre-employment screens to begin immediately. Officials expect both tests to begin as early as next week.
“I’m interested in knowing why the drug testing was never started in 2005,” Salinas said. “But I’m even more interested in getting the testing started immediately.”
Members of the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court will vote on the revised drug testing policy at their Monday, January 29 meeting.
Mrs. Francisca V. Flores, 72, mother of Rep. Flores, passes away
Francisca V. Flores, 72, mother of State Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, passed away on Monday, January 22, at Lifecare Hospitals of South Texas in McAllen.
Born October 19, 1934 in Cuevitas, Texas to Nieves and María Luisa Villalón, Mrs. Flores was married for 54 years to Gumaro Flores.
She was a patient, forgiving, and educating person, always taking the opportunity to teach and pass on knowledge as evident having worked more than 30 years with children. She will be missed by all who knew her.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her two sisters, Estela Flores and Josefina Gómez, and by her brother Nieves Villalón, Jr.
She is survived by her loving husband, Gumaro Flores; her daughter Esmeralda Amany, and her son, Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores. She is also survived by her only only daughter-in-law, Debra Y. Flores, Kino’s loving wife of 29 years. Debra has always been supportive of her husband and her mother-in-law.
Also surviving her are three grandchildren, Kino, Jr., Kareema Anany, and Eric Daniel Flores.
Pallbearers for her funeral were Ismael Flores, Jr., Hugo Villalón, Isaac Suelmana, Isaias García, Macario Solís and Arnulfo Flores.
Honorary pallbearers were Kino, Jr., Kareema Anany and Eric Daniel Flores.
Visitation for Mrs. Flores was held Tuesday, January 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with prayer service at 7 p.m. at L&I Funeral Home, 1005 West Expressway 83 in Peñitas.
Funeral mass was celebrated Wednesday, January 24 at 2 p.m. with Pastor Jaime Chapa from El Faro Bible Church at L&I Funeral Home Chapel in Peñitas.
Burial followed at New Sullivan City Cemetery in Sullivan City. L&I Funeral Home was in charge of the funeral arrangements.
Former Congressman Kika de la Garza, wife Lucille, honored by Rep. Gonzáles, House of Representatives
The Texas House of Representatives on Wednesday, January 24, unanimously approved House Resolution 86, authored by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, which honors the lifetime contributions of former U.S. Congressman Kika de la Garza, D-Mission, and his wife, Lucille, who is an Edinburg native.
The text of the congratulatory resolution follows:
WHEREAS, The Honorable Kika de la Garza and his wife, Lucille de la Garza, have been selected to receive the Golden Eagle Award from the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in recognition of their many significant contributions to the benefit of their fellow citizens; and
WHEREAS, The first couple to jointly receive this award, the de la Garzas are highly regarded for their efforts in support of their community, most notably through Congressman de la Garza’s
dedicated public service as a longtime member of the Texas and U.S. House of Representatives and through Mrs. de la Garza’s myriad civic endeavors; and
WHEREAS, Congressman and Mrs. de la Garza both hail from the Rio Grande Valley, he from Mercedes and she from Edinburg, and they continue to make their home in the Valley today as residents of McAllen; reminders of the respect and admiration felt for the de la Garzas abound, including such namesakes as the Kika de la Garza Border Crossing Station, Lucy’s Garden at the Butterfly Gardens in Mission, and the Kika de la Garza Federal Building in McAllen; and
WHEREAS, A 12-year member of the Texas House of Representatives and a 32-year member of the United States Congress, Congressman de la Garza cofounded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
and was a driving force for positive change during his legislative tenure, and he has rendered invaluable service to this state and nation as an expert in national and international law as it relates to agriculture and commerce; his extensive list of honors includes distinguished service awards from Texas A&M University and the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers, and the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners; and
WHEREAS, Mrs. de la Garza has deep roots in the Valley, descending from a long line of area Democrats and regional pioneers; named Distinguished Democrat of the Year for 2002 by the
Hidalgo County Democratic Party, she currently serves on the Advisory Board for the North American Butterfly Association and Lucy’s Garden; honored as the first Mother of the Year by AVANCE-Rio Grande Valley, she joins former First Lady Barbara Bush as one of only two people to have christened two U.S. Navy vessels; and
WHEREAS, Congressman and Mrs. de la Garza have earned the esteem of countless people in Texas and beyond through their civic, charitable, and political efforts, and their selection as recipients of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Golden Eagle Award is indeed well-deserved; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 80th Texas Legislature hereby congratulate the Honorable Kika de la Garza and Lucille de la Garza on their receipt of the Golden Eagle Award from the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and commend the de la Garzas for their extensive contributions to residents of the Rio Grande Valley and the Lone Star State; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for the de la Garzas as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.
Congressman Cuellar appointed to chair Homeland Security subcommittee
Congressman Henry Cuellar has been selected to serve as Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness & Response.
The Subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes: interoperability and other emergency communications; first responders; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); state and local preparedness and response; private sector preparedness; national response plans and planning; and public health preparedness.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled to have been chosen to serve as the chairman of such an essential subcommittee,” said Cuellar. “The Emergency Communications, Preparedness & Response Subcommittee plays a crucial role in ensuring that our local police and fire departments have the tools they need to effective. I look forward to working with my committee colleagues to improve our nation’s ability to respond to emergency situations. Whether it’s local first responders or federal disaster response, Americans should have faith in their government’s ability to respond to unforeseen incidents.”
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome Henry to the Committee on Homeland Security. As one of Laredo’s favorite sons, Congressman Cuellar, came to Washington with a promise to keep his focus and priorities relevant to his constituents. His leadership on the Committee, balancing privacy protections as much as homeland protections, will be an invaluable asset.”
Cuellar was also appointed to serve as a member of the Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee. This Subcommittee oversees operations along the border, including the implementation and construction of a border fence.
“This subcommittee assignment will help me to ensure that the views and opinions of those that live along the border are heard when Congress considers issues of border security,” noted Cuellar. “I will fight to protect the interests of our border communities, while working to enhance our nation’s safety and security.”
Cuellar is a member of the House Homeland Security and Agriculture Committees in the 110th Congress; accessibility to constituents, education, health care, economic development, and national security are his priorities.
Gov. Perry emphasizes need for additional border security during visit to McAllen
Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, January 24, encouraged the Texas Legislature to support a $100 million border security package to be proposed this session.
Perry made this announcement at a press conference in McAllen about the recent launch of Operation Wrangler, a statewide expansion of highly successful border security surge operations.
“We have launched a statewide operation this week, Operation Wrangler, to send a message to drug traffickers, human smugglers and criminal operatives that their efforts to exploit our international border will come at a great cost,” Perry said. “In order to continuously fund surge operations like this one in the future, I am asking the legislature to join me in supporting a $100 million investment in border security.”
Operation Wrangler is a coordinated interagency law enforcement surge effort intended to prevent and disrupt all crime, including illegal international drug and human trafficking. It is the second phase of Operation Rio Grande, launched February 2006, which reduced all crime by an average of 60 percent in sheriff-patrolled areas of border counties during five surge operations last year.
“There can be no safe haven for drug traffickers and human smugglers anywhere in Texas,” Perry said. “If legislators pass my $100 million border security package, we can take back our streets, neighborhoods and private ranches from the criminal scourge that currently jeopardizes them.”
Operation Wrangler will involve federal, state and local ground, air and water-borne assets, including more than 6,800 personnel, 2,200 vehicles, 48 helicopters, 33 fixed wing aircraft and 35 patrol ships. Up to 90 sheriffs’ offices and 133 police departments are participating, as well as 604 Texas Army National Guard (TANG) troops activated by Perry. These TANG troops comprise 12 armed security platoons that will deploy to various traffic crossovers along the Rio Grande River and will be accompanied by a Border Patrol agent and a local police officer.
Local, state and federal agencies involved in Operation Wrangler include the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Department of Transportation; the National Park Service; the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Texas Civil Air Patrol; the Texas Cattleman’s Association; Texas Military Forces; Texas Task Force 1; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Railroad Police; the U.S. Transportation Security Agency; the U.S. Postal Service; the U.S. Coast Guard; and the University of Texas Center for Space Research.
“The best border security policy involves more boots on the ground, more patrol cars, more helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, more patrol boats and the latest law enforcement technology. All of this costs money; but our security is worth a whole lot more.”
Perry was joined at the press conference by local, state and federal officials.
Rep. Gonzáles files House Bill 701 to restore CHIP medical benefits to thousands of Texas children
State Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, has filed House Bill 701 to restore health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for hundreds of thousands of children in Texas.
In 2003, the Texas Legislature reduced state funding for CHIP and passed House Bill 2292, which significantly increased the difficulty for enrollment. Since the restrictive policies were enacted in 2003, almost two hundred thousand children have lost their health coverage.
“Providing health coverage for our children is one of my top priorities,” Gonzáles said. “I believe we must put our children and our families first. Lets remember CHIP is not free; it was created to help families who are helping themselves. My bill will move forward with positive change for our children’s health coverage by repealing restrictive policies that have needlessly kicked children in our community off the CHIP program.”
Restoring the CHIP program to the enrollment levels that existed before 2003 would not cost the state any money. According to data collected from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), during the 2006 budget year, the State of Texas left unspent $400 million in state funds dedicated for CHIP and Children’s Medicaid. Those dollars could easily cover every child that has lost CHIP coverage since 2003.
“It would take no more than 1/100th of our $14 billion surplus each year to restore CHIP for our children,” Gonzáles said. “We have the money – there’s no question about that. The only question is if we have the will.”
Gonzáles joined dozens of other House members on Wednesday, January 24, to advocate and raise awareness for the repealing of the restrictive CHIP policies.
“Common sense policies – like reducing paperwork, deducting child care costs when determining eligibility and not counting families’ savings against them – will ensure that more of our kids have health care,” Gonzáles said. “We’ve heard it time again, Children are an asset to our state; a healthy child is a successful child.”
Rep. Peña signs up as joint author for legislation to overcome cuts to Children’s Health Insurance Program
State Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, has signed up as a joint author for House Bill 109 in an effort to restore cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The legislation seeks to bolster the CHIP program to pre-2003 levels. Peña joins House colleague Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, in the effort to provide health care to more Texas children.
Turner is the Speaker Pro-Tempore, which is the top lieutenant to Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland.
“By expanding the number of children who are eligible to receive care under CHIP we are investing in a stronger, healthier Texas,” said Peña. “Our goal is to provide primary and preventive health care to almost 3/4 of a million children.”
There are over 700,000 children who are eligible to receive health care under the CHIP program. As of January 2007, only 321,815 are enrolled. At its peak, in 2002 CHIP served more than 500,000 children and Texas was lauded nationally for the success and enrollment rates of the program.
“I voted against those cuts two sessions ago,” said Peña. “Last session we went back and restored some of those programs. This session we are going to do what it takes to make sure that all kids who qualify have access to health care.”
Highlights of the legislation include:
•The reinstatement of twelve months of continuous coverage instead of 6 months;
•The reinstatement of “income disregards,” expenses that drop a family’s income to the eligibility level, such as child care expenses or work related expenses;
•The reinstatement of community outreach and education campaigns, utilizing school-based health clinics, community based organizations and coalitions to provide information and education to the community; and
•The elimination of the assets test. Texas is one of two states that maintains this standard and the other state’s asset test is capped at $20,000 whereas Texas is at $5,000.
“Other than our public schools I can not think of any other program that has done more good for so many kids,” said Peña.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program was created in 1999 by SB 445 with broad bi-partisan support in the Texas Legislature.
The program is designed for families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet cannot afford to buy private insurance for their children. CHIP provides eligible children with coverage for a full range of health services including regular checkups, immunizations, prescription drugs, lab tests, X-rays, hospital visits and more.
Peña currently sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He is serving his third term in the Texas House.
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst outlines Senate Bill 1 and budget priorities, including $3 billion in property tax cuts
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Wednesday, January 25, unveiled Senate Bill 1, the Legislative Budget Board’s base budget for 2008-09 and outlined his budget priorities in a Capitol news conference.
The two-year LBB budget totals $147.6 billion.
It funds essential services and a separate bill will deliver $14.2 billion in local school property tax cuts passed by the Legislature last spring.
“Four years ago we faced a $10 billion budget deficit that threatened to cripple the state’s ability to provide essential services. By keeping taxes low, holding the line on state spending and passing conservative budgets, we helped generate billions in new revenue. Our conservative fiscal policies are working and there’s no reason to change course now,” Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst was joined by Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Vice Chair Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
“Thanks to fiscal discipline, new jobs and a robust economy, Texas has gone from a $10 billion deficit to $14.3 billion in new money – a $24.3 billion upswing,” Craddick said. “I am looking forward to continuing this success by working with the Lieutenant Governor, the Senate and the House to make investments in our most critical needs and possibly look at further tax relief.”
Dewhurst’s top priority in the 2008-09 state budget is to return taxpayers’ money to Texas families. To pay for the $14.2 billion in local school property tax cuts, Dewhurst proposes using a portion of new available state revenue along with revenue from tax reform passed last spring to provide a net tax cut of over $6 billion for the biennium.
Dewhurst will also ask the Legislature to set aside at least $3 billion in new revenue to continue local school property tax cuts in 2010-11.
“Cutting local school property taxes isn’t just good fiscal policy, it’s keeping the commitment we made to taxpayers. When we’re blessed with billions in new revenue, we should return as much money as possible to Texas taxpayers,” Dewhurst said.
As introduced, Senate Bill 1 increases the General Revenue budget by $4.6 billion. Over half the increase, $2.5 billion, is not an increase in overall spending but repaying the Foundation School Program deferral in used 2003 and transferring payment of some Child Protective Service reform and public education items to General Revenue from the Rainy Day Fund.
The remaining $2.1 billion increase in the base budget is continuing spending for public schools passed during the Spring Special Session and a net increase for population growth in Medicaid, CHIP, prisons and education which represents a conservative increase in real spending of 3.2% over the biennium, or about 1.6% per year, a rate less than inflation.
Local school property tax cuts and modest growth in essential services will commit approximately $12 billion of the $14.3 billion in new available revenue announced by the Comptroller earlier this month. In this plan approximately 70% of the new available revenue is dedicated to items that do not increase government spending, including tax cuts and paying back money borrowed in 2003.
“I’m going to make sure every penny of the local school property tax cut gets to the taxpayers. I also want to make sure we’re in good shape if our economy slows down,” Dewhurst said.
Details of the Legislative Budget Board’s base budget can be found at http://www.lbb.state.tx.us.
Rep. Riddle takes case to eliminate in-state tuition for illegal immigrants to national airwaves
State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Austin, on Monday, January 21, continued her efforts to repeal a Texas law which allows illegal immigrants to receive discounted tuition at state universities with an appearance on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight.
“We have got hardworking Texans, hardworking folks here in Texas that are playing by the rules, abiding by the law.” Riddle told Tonight’s Bill Tucker. “It is their tax money that is helping pay for the college education for folks that, quite frankly, should not even be here in Texas, should not even be here in the United States because they’re illegal.”
Texas was the first state to enact the policy in 2001. Nine other states have since enacted similar legislation.
“It all comes down to this: either our immigration laws matter or they don’t,” Riddle said. “I think that they should matter, and I don’t think you should get a discount on your tuition as a reward for breaking the law, most especially if that reward is being paid for by the taxpayers who are breaking the bank to send their own kids to college.”
Riddle’s House Bill 104 would amend current statute to stipulate that only legal residents are eligible for in-state tuition. The bill will is expected to be debated during the state’s legislative session, which began on Jan 9 and will continue until the end of May.
Sen. Cornyn named top Republican on Immigration, Border Security panel
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Thursday, January 25, was officially named the top Republican on the Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee on Thursday during Judiciary Committee approval of subcommittee leaders and members.
In addition, Cornyn was selected to serve as a member of the following three subcommittees:
The Constitution; Human Rights and the Law; Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security.
“These subcommittees will allow me to continue working on several of the top challenges of our day, including securing our border and homeland, implementing comprehensive immigration reform and fighting and winning the war on terror,” Cornyn said. “Securing the border and fixing our broken immigration system is one of the most pressing domestic issues facing Texas and our nation and we must work together to address it.”
In the previous Congress, Cornyn and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, introduced the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act to dramatically bolster border security, strengthen interior enforcement and implement broader reforms of our immigration laws.
Cornyn said the newly formed Human Rights subcommittee will “provide the opportunity to ensure we continue taking steps to end the atrocity of sex slavery and international human trafficking and smuggling.”
Cornyn led a bipartisan effort in the last Congress to combat sex trafficking, a crime that disproportionately victimizes women and children. He introduced legislation to target and reduce demand of trafficking as well as increase penalties for human smuggling. In addition, he has worked with federal, state and local officials to establish task forces in several Texas cities to combat human trafficking and slavery.
Regarding the Terrorism subcommittee, Cornyn said, “We must build on last year’s efforts to provide the necessary tools to fight and win the war on terror, including the ability to detect, deter and disrupt terrorist attacks.”
Below is more information about Cornyn’s Judiciary Committee subcommittees–
Immigration, Refugees and Border Security
Jurisdiction: (1) Immigration, citizenship, and refugee laws; (2) Oversight of the immigration functions of the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Ombudsman Citizenship and Immigration Services; (3) Oversight of the immigration-related functions of the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the Department of Labor; (4) Oversight of international migration, internally displaced persons, and refugee laws and policy; and (5) Private immigration relief bills.
Jurisdiction: (1) Constitutional amendments; (2) Enforcement and protection of constitutional rights; (3) Statutory guarantees of civil rights and civil liberties; (4) Separation of powers; (5) Federal-State relations; and (6) Interstate compacts.
Human Rights and the Law
Jurisdiction: (1) Human rights laws and policies; (2) Enforcement and implementation of human rights laws; (3) Judicial proceedings regarding human rights laws; and (4) Judicial and executive branch interpretations of human rights laws.
Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security
Jurisdiction: (1) Oversight of anti-terrorism enforcement and policy; (2) Oversight of Department of Homeland Security functions as they relate to anti-terrorism enforcement and policy; (3) Oversight of State Department consular operations as they relate to anti-terrorism enforcement and policy; (4) Oversight of laws related to government information policy, electronic privacy and security of computer information, Freedom of Information Act, and Privacy Act; (5) Oversight of encryption policies and export licensing; and (6) Oversight of espionage laws and their enforcement.
Other UT System campuses join UT-Pan American in offering tuition breaks to low-income students
With an eye toward making college more affordable for economically disadvantaged Texans, The University of Texas System’s academic institutions are establishing guaranteed financial aid programs for students who come from low-income families.
Although eligibility and criteria vary somewhat by campus, the programs effectively guarantee qualifying students that their tuition and mandatory fees will be covered so long as they perform well in their studies and graduate on time.
Most of the guaranteed financial aid programs will begin this fall and apply primarily to incoming freshmen who come from Texas households which earn fewer than $25,000 annually. Three campuses have extended the guaranteed financial aid initiative to eligible students regardless of their class standing.
UT Arlington and UT Dallas were the most recent academic institutions to announce guaranteed financial aid programs, meaning all nine academic institutions in the UT System will have programs available beginning in Fall 2007. UT Arlington will offer its program, called the Maverick Promise, to students who take as few as six hours per semester. UT Dallas’ program is called the UT Dallas Tuition Promise.
“This demonstrates the UT System’s continued commitment to enhance higher education opportunities for financially disadvantaged Texans, and sends a clear message to deserving students that their socio-economic status shouldn’t be a barrier to their college aspirations,” UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof said. “We believe these programs will not only get more students into college, but provide them with the incentives to make good grades and graduate on time,” Yudof added.
The programs could have a profound impact at campuses that serve the state’s most impoverished regions.
At UT Pan American in Edinburg, it is possible that as many as one-half of the student population may meet the financial qualifications for the program, said Elaine Rivera, the university’s director of financial aid.
She expects the initiative, known there as UTPAdvantage, to have a positive impact on the college graduation rate for the Rio Grande Valley, which has a degree attainment rate of about 11 percent – well below the state average of 20 percent.
“This has the potential to change the lives of countless families in the Rio Grande Valley,” Rivera said.
At UT El Paso, where the UTEP Promise launched in the Fall 2006 semester, about 600 students took advantage of the program.
And at UT San Antonio, where the average cost of tuition and mandatory fees hovers at about $6,000 per year for a total of 30 semester hours, the program also includes a work-study component that allows participants to earn additional money to offset the costs of room and board.
The UTSAccess program, as it is known, will also provide support programs such as heightened academic advising, financial aid counseling and tutoring to help students handle the program requirements and graduate on time.
“Access to higher education just got easier for cash-strapped families who want to send their children to UTSA,” President Ricardo Romo said. “This not only helps the students and families that we serve; it adds to the vitality of Texas’ future workforce – and everyone benefits from that.”
At UT Tyler, that campus created the Pathway to Success Program, which allows incoming freshmen from households earning $25,000 or less to participate as long as they complete a minimum 12 semester credit hours in the fall and spring semesters (plus six more in the summer) and maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.
UT Permian Basin offers the UTPB Promise financial aid program and UT Brownsville/TSC plans to announce its program this month.
The first campus to start such a program was The University of Texas at Austin. Since 2003, eligible students there have had all increases in flat-rate tuition covered by the program if they come from households that earn up to $40,000 per year and, on average, eligible students have had all their flat-rate tuition paid by financial aid.
To become eligible for any of the programs, students must be Texas residents and apply for federal financial aid by the March 31 deadline. Once qualified, they must fulfill academic requirements set forth by each campus and graduate on time.
The programs will be funded through a mix of federal, state, institutional and private sources. Although many of the qualifying students already would’ve qualified for federal and state aid, each institution has promised to fill in the gaps to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees.
Students who come from families that earn more than the limit necessary to qualify for the program are also encouraged to apply for federal financial aid by the March 31 deadline to help reduce their college costs.
Although they may not qualify for the program, they still could qualify for significant financial aid. To find out how much aid you may qualify for, visit the UT System’s TexasCollegeMoney.org Web site. For more information about each campus program, please visit the respective institutions’ Web site.
Serving the educational and health care needs of Texans for more than 125 years, the UT System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems with 15 campuses – including nine academic and six health institutions – and an annual operating budget of $10 billion (FY 2007). Student enrollment exceeded 190,000 in the 2006 academic year. The UT System confers one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates three-fourths of Texas health care professionals. With more than 76,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in Texas.
Texas Senate Week in Review: Lawmakers file legislation as session gears up
Though Senate rules prevent legislation from being debated on the Senate floor for the first 60 days of session, senators aren’t wasting any time getting their bills in the parliamentary pipeline. Only bills on the governor’s emergency agenda, or those that get four-fifths approval can be brought to the floor before sixty days, but any bill can get a committee hearing with the chairman’s approval.
Among the bills already filed is Senate Bill 1, the base budget bill. This legislation will act as a framework for the final appropriations bill, which sets state priorities for spending and provides the money for essential services.
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst laid out the base budget bill Tuesday, January 22, with the help of Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, and Vice-Chair Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. Dewhurst wanted to make clear exactly how much of a budget surplus the state has available for the upcoming 2008-2009 biennium.
Some media outlets have been reporting the surplus as the full $14.3 billion in new revenue, he said, but the state has obligations for most of that money.
“We’ve got enough money to be able to balance our budget over the next four years, provide for modest increase in our essential services, and still provide the promised local school property tax cuts that we outlined last May, a little over $7 billion in local school property taxes each year for the next four years,” said Dewhurst.
After paying back state funds used to balance the budget in past sessions, debt service on bonds, Medicaid expense increases, new education reforms, and the cost of lowering property taxes from $1.50 per $100 valuation to $1, Dewhurst said the budget surplus will be about $2.5 billion. He said lawmakers will have to decide how to spend that new money, with competition among higher education, prison construction, border security, and others.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, filed a bill Wednesday, January 23, that he says would pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide being committed in the Darfur region of that country. Senate Bill 247, the “Stop Darfur Genocide Act” would prohibit state pension funds, notably the Teachers and Employees Retirement System funds, from investing in companies that do business with the Sudanese government, and require them to divest funds already invested with these companies.
Ellis said that economic pressure is the best way for Texas to affect the domestic policy of the Sudan.
“This targeted disinvestment approach will maximize the impact to the Sudanese government, while minimizing harms to the Sudanese citizens and investment returns,” said Ellis.
Also filed Wednesday, January 23, was a bill that puts single, first-time mothers in contact with qualified nurses to teach them to be better parents.
Senate Bill 156, filed by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, would expand the Nurse/Family Partnership initiative (NFP) from a pilot program in Dallas to 11 other urban areas in Texas. NFP provides in-home counseling and training to mothers from pregnancy up to two years after birth.
House sponsor Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, who chairs the House Corrections Committee, said this preventative program is among the most successful ever in reducing future crime and increasing the quality of life among participants.
“The Nurse/Family Partnership has demonstrated consistent, quantifiable outcomes that are verifiable through multiple randomized tests with the first populations [in NFP]. It works everywhere,” he said.
Shapiro pointed out that this program offers a good return on investment for Texas. She cited a Rand Corporation study that showed that for every dollar invested in NFP, communities reap $5.70 in social benefits, from increased productivity to decreased crime and learning impairment. “I have always believed in evidence based prevention programs,” she said, “I believe in the long-term effects of a long-term initiative that will truly save dollars, not just talk about it, and we’ve seen the evidence that goes along with it.”
It was announced Monday, January 21, that Senate President Pro Tempore Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, underwent a liver transplant over the weekend. Close friend and colleague Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he visited Gallegos, and that the senator was alert, conscious, and optimistic about his prognosis.
Dewhurst said Gallegos told him he could be back to work in Austin in a few weeks.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, January 29, at 1:30 p.m.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website’s audio and video archive pages.
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.
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.
permits are permits taken out in order to allow excavation and to protect
permits represent the estimated cost of construction, not the selling
permits do not include the price of the lot.
in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation
for the building.
permit is permission issued by a city’s planning department to oversee
and approve any changes to structures.
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.
Hospital expansion continues
expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was reflected in its receipt
of the most valuable building permit in December.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
total construction activities were $191,782,397, compared with $169,589,043
detailed breakdown of the December 2006 figures for Edinburg features
the following highlights:
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.
new construction of commercial buildings reached $69,775,422, compared
with $40,266,530 in 2005.
alterations in December totaled $614,156, compared with $57,665 in December
commercial alterations reached $10,617,621, compared with $9,461,295
in December 2005.
of single-family homes in December 2006 reached $3,324,600, compared
with $4,943,860 in December 2005.
building permits were issued for residential homes valued at $70,446,664,
compared with $66,205,764 in 2005.
building permits were issued for the construction of 765 single-family
homes, compared with 742 in 2005.
work began on 33 single-family residences, compared with 51 homes in
alterations for single-family residences were valued at $388,218, compared
with $108,150 for the same month in 2005.
building permits were issued for residential alterations valued at $5,564,650,
compared with $2,758,656 in 2005.
of multi-family residences in December reached $2,367,000, compared
with $867,000 for the same month in 2005.
new construction of multi-family homes totaled $18,745,740, compared
with $31,756,569 in 2005.
building permits were issued for 182 multi-family residences, or 406
units, compared with 320 multi-family residences, or 739 units, in 2005.
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.
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.
does not issue permits for construction work at UT-Pan American.
December construction projects
of construction in December of commercial buildings, not including multi-family
residences, valued at $100,000 or more include:
Hospital at Renaissance, 5502 S. McColl Rd ($5,000,000);
1520 S. McColl Road ($1,700,000);
Chapa, 1623 W. University Drive ($720,000);
De Dios Cans, L.P., 206 Conquest Blvd ($370,000);
Bentacourt, 1801 W. Trenton Road ($200,000).
of construction in December of multi-family buildings (duplexes, triplexes,
fourplexes, and apartment buildings) valued at $100,000 or more include:
Luis Alcorta, 1410 Phoenix Street ($200,000);
Luis Alcorta, 1506 Phoenix Street ($200,000):
Luis Alcorta, 1408 Tampa Street ($200,000);
Luis Alcorta, 1525 Orlando Street ($200,000);
Luis Alcorta, 1510 Tampa Street ($200,000);
Fabela, 1916 Upland Drive ($140,000);
Fabela, 1910 Upland Drive ($140,000);
A. García, 2214 Candlelight Lane ($130,000);
Reed, 622 Logan Drive ($130,000);
Reed, 702 Logan Drive ($130,000); and
•Michael S. Campbell,
618 DFW Drive ($130,000).
of construction in December of single-family homes valued at $100,000
or more include:
Lozano, 2301 Big Valley ($200,000);
R. Vargas and Thelma Caballero, 1821 Fawn Circle ($190,000);
Galola, 2611 María Luisa ($184,000);
Ramos, 706 Amistad ($160,000);
Lozano, 467 Dalabo Drive ($160,000);
González, 3721 Inez Street ($136,900);
Benavidez, 419 Frio Drive ($120,000);
Benavidez, 3823 Inez Street ($115,000);
Brito, 704 Steamboat Drive ($110,000);
Brito, 712 Steamboat Drive ($108,000);
Vera, 3808 Inez Street ($105,000);
Lozano, 2607 Denise Circle ($100,000);
Lozano, 2613 Denise Circle ($100,000);
Lozano, 2609 Benji Circle ($100,000);
Rives, 3109 Kenyon ($100,000);
López, 1320 Hickory ($100,000); and
Moreno, 2624 Flipper Drive ($100,000).
of repairs or additions in December of commercial buildings valued at
$100,000 or more include:
Gerlach, 3102 S. McColl Road ($350,000); and
Home Center, Inc., 2802 W. University Drive ($135,956).
By DAVID A. DIAZ
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
What do Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Eliot Spitzer have that Rick Perry needs?
By State Sen. Juan “Chuy”
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
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
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
• 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
doctor participation in Medicaid by raising reimbursement rates.
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.
the burden on local taxpayers by aggressively pursuing available federal
reimbursements for school-based Medicaid services.
in proven nursing programs at state colleges and universities to address
the record nursing shortage.
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,
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
H.R. No. 57
R E S O L U T I O N
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
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
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,
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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/.
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
“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
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:
Title 1, Code of Criminal
Procedure, is amended by adding Chapter 5A to read as follows:
ONLINE SOLICITATION OF
(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
(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 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
(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
(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 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.
(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
This Act takes effect September
Valley state representatives split on secret ballot, but all eventually voted for Craddick’s reelection
Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, a Republican, was reelected on Tuesday, January 9, to a third two-year term as the most powerful leader of the 150-member House of Representatives, with unanimous support from the Valley’s state representatives, all Democrats.
Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, also seconded Craddick’s nomination for reelection.
Peña, who was appointed two years ago by Craddick to the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has been positioning himself for a committee chairmanship, possibly as leader of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
Peña told House members that his support for Craddick was based on "pragmatic politics.
"The people I represent do not have the luxury to tilt at windmills," Peña said. "We come looking for a seat at the table, not as adversaries, but as brothers and sisters."
In his acceptance speech, Craddick acknowledged "a special thank you" to Peña for the Edinburg Democrat’s support for his reelection.
"Bound by my oath"
Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, also was a Craddick supporter from the onset.
"I felt bound by my oath to support Speaker Tom Craddick, and the two points I think we should emphasize are that Tom Craddick and his opponent, Jim Pitts, are both powerful Republicans with identical voting records and the results of the election will enable me and other border
representatives to work together to benefit our people and the local economy," said Guillen, who also serves on the Appropriations Committee.
However, before Craddick was reelected, 121- 27, the Valley’s eight state representatives were divided on a much closer vote that gave a clearer picture of Craddick’s support among his colleagues.
By an 80 – 68 margin, the House approved a motion to table – effectively kill – a proposal that would have allowed each lawmaker’s vote for the House speaker to remain secret until after all the committee chairmanships and appointments were made.
The proposal to allow for the secret vote was perceived by many lawmakers as a vote against Craddick’s reelection.
The call for a secret ballot presumably would have made it easier for some House members to vote for Craddick’s only opponent, Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, a fellow Republican and former top lieutenant for Craddick.
One of the many powers of the speaker of the house is the authority to appoint state representatives to the most influential House committees, including naming the chairs of those legislative panels.
Craddick’s rivals, including some of the major news media outlets, had portrayed Craddick as being heavy-handed and vengeful against House members who disagreed with his leadership style. He denied those allegations.
Craddick’s supporters also privately complained that the major newspapers and wire services demonized the Republican lawmaker with scores of negative stories, which included accounts ranging from having lobbyists arrange for Craddick, a Catholic, to have a private audience with the Pope, to blaming him for state budget cuts that threw thousands of poor children off the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Craddick also had maintained since early November that he had more than enough votes publicly promised to him by House members to be reelected. He needed 75 votes.
Tina Benkiser, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said Craddick’s reelection spoke well of him and his GOP rival.
“Congratulations to Speaker Tom Craddick on his overwhelming reelection as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives," Benkiser said on Wednesday, January 10. "Speaker Craddick has always led the Texas House of Representatives with a steadfast commitment to conservative values. The voters of Texas won also; the debate about who would lead this body was public and the process for choosing the next speaker remained transparent.”
Edinburg’s two state representatives – Peña and Verónica Gonzáles – were split on the resolution filed January 9 calling for a secret ballot in the speaker’s race.
Peña voted for a motion to table – effectively kill – the secret ballot proposal, while Gonzáles voted against that motion.
Also voting to kill the secret ballot proposal were Guillen; Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview; and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito.
Peña, Guillen, and Flores all publicly supported Craddick’s reelection bid, even when he was being challenged by a Democrat, Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston.
Lucio later added his name to the list of Craddick loyalists.
In addition to Gonzáles, other Valley lawmakers who voted against the motion to table the secret ballot proposal were Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville; and Rep. Juan Escobar, D-Kingsville, whose legislative district includes Willacy County.
But after the measure was passed killing the secret ballot proposal, Pitts threw in the towel, saying he did not want "to subject members to a public vote that might damage their standing with the next Speaker (Craddick).
Pitts, who many predict will lose his spot as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, wound up voting for Craddick when the secret ballot proposal was defeated.
"I will be voting for Tom Craddick to begin the healing," Pitts said.
Peña nominates Craddick for speaker
Under the rules that govern the House of Representatives, a small number of state representatives are allowed to second the nomination of a candidate for Speaker of the House.
Peña was one of the handful of legislators who were given that honor by Craddick.
Peña’s remarks, which he read before the full House, follows:
"Mr. Secretary, members, distinguished guests, family, and friends.
The currents of history are constantly crashing around us. Throughout it all this Texas House and the Texas ideals and values it represents remain. In 2003 after 130 years, not since the aftermath of the Civil War, had this institution seen those currents bring such change that came with the election of Tom Craddick as Speaker.
A lot has happened in the past 4 years. Say what you want about this period but often missed in the headlines and greater issues of the day is one of the single greatest achievements of this administration and in the advancement of Texas. In unprecedented numbers, the diversity that is
Texas has gained a significant role in the leadership of their government.
People like me and the people I represent for the first time in significant and meaningful numbers have assumed leadership roles in the Texas House these past two sessions.
It is no mistake that I, a son of the border, am addressing you today. I have also not failed to note that the others who also rise to speak with me are part of the new face of Texas. I stand here because the people I represent do not have the luxury to tilt at windmills. We were not elected to be partisans, to war with each other over questions of style. We were elected to create substance, to work on improving the lives of the people of Texas and the state we love. We come looking for a seat at the table, not as adversaries but as brothers and sisters, diverse in our perspectives but singular in our purpose.
We see hope in a new partnership, not blinded by illusion, placing our full faith in the pragmatic politics of reality. Whereas the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. History tells us that when the crusaders entered the holy land, they came as conquerors to dominate the land and its people. Their experience left them however more changed by the people they sought to dominate. This maxim of history is not forgotten here, to change the direction of policy not through confrontation and partisanship but rather through the time honed value of pragmatic politics – respect, trust and honor – placing value in a man’s word.
Above all values, the reason I am here is because one man extended his hand and I responded with my word and my honor.
Mr. Secretary, fellow members. It is my great honor to second the nomination of Tom Craddick for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives."
Craddick acceptance speech
For his part, Craddick laid out his vision for the five-month regular session in comments provided by his office:
"Thank you, (Rep.) Geanie (Morrison, R-Victoria), for your kind introduction.
Mr. Secretary, members of the House, families and friends, welcome to the Texas House of Representatives and the 80th Texas Legislature.
I would like to extend a special thank you to Representative Morrison, Representative Peña, Representative Rose, Representative Gattis, Representative Chisum and Speaker (pro-tempore) Turner for nominating me.
I want to also thank God for giving us this opportunity to gather here this Legislative Session.
I want to start by acknowledging the efforts made by other speaker candidates to win this post. Anyone who has run for this position or held it knows its importance to all members of this body. I want to congratulate all who sought to be elected and, through their efforts, encouraged serious dialogue about our legislative process.
I had numerous conversations with members during this election period, and I can assure you I listened carefully. The conversations are always instructive because people speak from their heart in these private meetings.
I have served many terms in the House. This is the only elected position for which I have ever run, because this is the body for which I have the utmost respect and zeal. I have worked under six Speakers. I tried to observe each of their styles closely and to know each of them personally. Like all things, I was more successful doing so with some than others.
The lesson I have learned over the long haul has been that this body works well because members care about their issues and care about their constituents. That is not to say there aren’t disagreements within this body or disagreements between the House and the Senate, or between us and the governor. That is part of politics in a democracy.
I want to assure each and every one of you today that I believe my primary responsibility as your elected leader is to fulfill your elected purpose. I hope it is done efficiently and thoroughly, because six months is not long to perform two years worth of work.
I want to be responsive to your personal needs, and I want you to go forth and do the work for which you were elected. Do it with passion, and do it with decorum.
We belong to the greatest legislative institution in all the 50 states. Our diversity, intellect and passion are unmatched by any other. Take your talents where they lead you, and I will help you succeed. If in some way I fall short of your expectations or needs, please tell me, and I will do my best to correct that shortcoming.
Thank you all, again, for electing me Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. I am greatly honored and humbled by your vote today. As a husband, a father, and a grandfather, I also want to thank my family for the love and support they have given me. And I want to especially thank, Nadine, my lovely wife, my partner and my best friend.
Enjoy the rest of this beautiful day with your families and friends. May God bless us all in this great endeavor."
By DAVID A. DIAZ
For more information on the people and politics that impact Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com
Laredo Rep. Raymond, former supporter for Speaker Craddick, explains why he dropped support for incumbent House leader
State Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, on January 7 dropped his support for the reelection of Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, a Republican from Midland. Two days later, Craddick was reelected to a third two-year term as arguably the most powerful state political leader in Texas.
Raymond’s letter, which he released to the public, explaining his positions follows:
Speaker Tom Craddick
Austin, Texas 78701
Dear Speaker Craddick,
As a young man growing up in Duval County, I saw first hand how corruption of the political process can erode the trust of the people. My parents and I, along with many others, experienced firsthand the wrath of those who lacked ethical standards and corrupted a system of governing, because we dared to change it. It was many years ago, but the memories are still vivid.
My desire to seek public office and much of my inspiration during my years as a public servant have been fueled by the responsibility to earn the trust of the public and justify the faith they place in those they elect. After hard reflection and serious reconsideration, I have concluded that my responsibility to work for an ethical and fair Texas House of Representatives requires that I withdraw my support from you in the race for Speaker and give it to our colleague Jim Pitts. In addition, if given the opportunity, I intend to vote to allow members of the House to cast their vote for Speaker confidentially.
I have simply lost confidence in your ability or willingness to make the changes necessary for the Texas House to function in an ethical and fair manner. Jim Pitts and I differ on many substantive issues. I believe, however, that his commitment to restore the highest ethical standards at the highest levels of government and to treat each Member with respect is sincere. I have known Jim Pitts since we arrived in the House together in 1993, and I believe his election to Speaker will give us the opportunity to end the current unacceptable era of corruption of the political process, which it appears you intend to continue.
My initial support for your reelection to Speaker was based upon the hope that you would recognize and embrace the need for reform in a third term. Your first two terms as Speaker were characterized by a lack of ethical standards and mean-spirited stubbornness. I felt certain that you would set a new tone and chart a new course.
Sadly, I have lost faith in your willingness to change. Your recent demand that supporters must not only reaffirm their commitment to you but also vote for an election process that leaves Members subject to intimidation and perhaps retaliation makes it apparent that a return to an ethical and civil House will not occur under your leadership.
When I was a teenager, my State Representative, Ernestine Glossbrenner, passed a law establishing a secret ballot vote for the citizens of Texas. She did so, because in Duval County, corrupt political leaders were able to determine how people voted during elections. If they didn’t vote “right,” they were often fired from their jobs or run out of town – literally. Given your recent maneuvering and efforts to manipulate the manner in which votes are cast in the race for Speaker, it seems that is what you now seek to do. Yours appears to be a modern day effort that rivals the worst of Duval County days past.
Whereas I strongly support recorded votes on every bill and amendment that appears before the House of Representatives, a secret ballot vote in the race for Speaker – an election in which we are voting for a leader, not voting on a substantive piece of legislation – would remove the type of intimidating tactics used in years past, when the process for the election of public officials did not allow citizens a truly secret ballot. I would also add, that were you confident of your colleagues confidence in you, you would also be confident in the outcome of a secret ballot vote. However, having thoughtfully discussed this race with over two dozen of my Republican colleagues, I now know you would lose a secret ballot race by an overwhelming margin, and, frankly, I now expect you to lose regardless of how we cast our votes.
As a Democrat, in purely partisan terms, you remaining Speaker may well be best for my party. Since you were elected Speaker in 2003, Democrats have gained seven seats in the House and stand just a half dozen seats short of claiming a majority. Time and again, you have forced Republican Members to cast votes that conflict with the interests and views of their constituents. These votes became useful issues for their Democratic opponents’ campaigns. Moreover, personal ethical controversy and your inflexible leadership style have created a DeLay-like public persona. In the same way that national Democrats easily vilified Congressional Republicans simply by associating them with Tom DeLay, it is easy to see you playing the same useful role for Democratic legislative candidates in 2008.
Furthermore, you have failed to encourage collegiality in the House by protecting Members from the power elite representing special interests. Instead, you have caused Members of the House, especially Republican Members, to “walk the plank” for a radical agenda of just a few – and many of those Members will no longer serve in this body. Simply put, this pattern of leading the House through coercion and intimidation has not produced a better Texas. Instead, it has made us weaker Texans, with House Members less worthy of the admiration and respect of fellow Texans. This corrosive atmosphere did not exist in the House before you became Speaker in 2003 – and it will no longer exist, once we elect a new Speaker.
Your own disregard for ethics and propriety fairly play into a comparison with DeLay. In addition to your constant attempts to help a small group of questionable interests, even at times over the interests of your own Republican colleagues, you invited controversy upon the House by soliciting and accepting funds from special interests to pay for lavish remodeling of the Speaker’s quarters in the Capitol. Disregarding the wishes of members from both parties, you blocked even the opportunity to debate an Ethics Reform bill in 2005. And in recent days, new charges arose involving you having an improper business relationship with a State contractor and that you have failed to disclose and the identity a business partner who is a registered lobbyist.
Now, as I write this, you are pressuring Republican House Members by having corporate CEOs “strongly urge” them to vote for you. Mr. Speaker, there must be an end to your style of corrupting the political process in this House – we owe it to every Texan we currently represent and to the generations to come.
Before any of us ever pledged to you or anyone else, we pledged to God that we would do the right thing for our state – it is the only pledge that matters. It is regrettable that with over thirty years experience in the House of Representatives, you have not seen this as a member’s highest obligation. I pray another Republican – Jim Pitts – will.
Rep. Flores says Speaker Craddick has appointed more minorities to leadership spots in history of Legislature
State Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, and one of the top lieutenants for Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, says the Midland Republican has been fairer to minority lawmakers than any other legislative leader in history.
A few days before Craddick was reelected by the 150-member House of Representatives, Flores, along with the chairs of most of the House’s standing committees, issued the public letter, released December 29, laying out their support for Craddick.
Craddick, the first Republican in more than 100 years elected by his colleagues as Speaker of the House, was facing a challenge from within his own party, including from Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee,
Pitts did not sign the letter, which follows:
"Dear Fellow House Members:
We want all members of the legislature to know that we firmly support Tom Craddick’s reelection as Speaker. He is known for fairness and making tough decisions, qualities that are indispensable to the House of Representatives, His critics can’t attack his honesty, his character or his accomplishments.
We know that without Tom’s unwavering focus, the many accomplishments that we have achieved during the last two regular sessions and numerous special sessions would not have been possible. He has provided leadership when prioritizing the budget, working to bring the state from a $10 billion deficit to a $15 billion surplus. This allowed the state to absorb unexpected costs due to hurricanes in 2005. This year (2005), it gave the Legislature the ability to put more money into our public schools, provide Texans much needed property tax relief, and give teachers a much deserved pay raise.
Speaker Craddick has also shown leadership when it comes to our most vulnerable citizens by supporting serious reforms and restructuring of agencies and institutions responsible for the protection and placement of abused and neglected children into foster care. Texas has become a leader among the states by passing model tort reform legislation that could not have been possible without his support.
In an effort to better reflect the diverse and ever changing face of Texas, Speaker Craddick has reached out across party lines and has appointed more minority members into leadership positions than in any other time in the Legislature’s history. This diversity has helped build a spirit of bipartisanship and respect from across the aisle."
In addition to Flores, who is currently the only Valley state representative who is chairman of a committee (Licensing and Administrative Procedures), the letter was signed by 26 other House committee chairs.
Sen. Lucio: Finding solutions together echoes Dr. King’s dream
My theme for the 80th legislative session that began Jan. 9, 2007, is Finding Solutions Together. This
month we celebrate the contributions of a man whose works mirror that same theme.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., worked to unify the African-American community and other groups interested in seeking solutions to the social injustices of the time. Jan. 15 is the designated day we honor a man who empowered people to push for civil rights and motivated them to become involved in the process of change.
Working with community leaders and community residents, Dr. King forged a coalition that opposed the oppression of African-Americans in this country. I too will work with my colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as the people of South Texas, to achieve consensus for laws and funding that advance our legislative goals.
Although the total African-American population in my senatorial district that includes the counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties is only about 8.7 percent, the area is also one that has been neglected as far as funding and services for many years.
South Texas lacks a professional school, other than the new Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy in Kingsville, to offer our local residents higher education opportunities; an interstate highway to connect us to the rest of the country; permanent school buildings to replace dilapidated portable classrooms; expanded skills training that can result in higher-wage jobs and attract companies to locate here; and improved access to health care.
Like Dr. King’s struggles that led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, together we can find solutions to these problems and others. Dr. King wasn’t the first to address civil rights nor did he achieve the passage of legislation addressing this issue overnight. The process can be long and slow, but persistence can pay off.
The road from Montgomery, Alabama to Oslo, Norway, where Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize, was long. In his speech he said, “This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new civil rights bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a superhighway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.”
To this group we can add women, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and other groups who have suffered discrimination and injustice and appealed to government for redress.
Dr. King awakened in us the need to create awareness of injustice and value of every human life. His peaceful demonstrations reminded us that we are all Americans and should not only demand equal treatment under the law, but should seek opportunities to improve our families and our communities.
Statement by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst on the reelection of Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst released the following statement on Tuesday, January 9, on the re-election of Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick.
"I want to congratulate Speaker Craddick on his re-election to a third term leading the Texas House of Representatives. Over the past four years we have worked together to pass the largest tax cut in Texas history, landmark reforms in public education, tort reform and pro-family issues. Speaker Craddick is a friend and fellow conservative and I look forward to working with him in this session as we continue to improve the quality of life for all Texans."
Edinburg’s 2006 construction activities through November approaches $177 million
Total construction activities in Edinburg between January and November 2006 totaled almost $177 million, an increase of almost $14 million over the same period in 2005, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.
For the month of November, total construction in Edinburg – not counting any activities at the University of Texas-Pan American – was more than $7.7 million, up from almost $6.8 million in November 2005.
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 Fred Palacios, Mike Govind, and George Bennack.
New residential construction – work done on single-family homes – continued to lead the way with more than $67.1 million in new homes built between January and November 2006.
New residential construction does not include multi-family dwellings, such as duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings.
New commercial construction – which does not include work on government buildings or other non-taxable entities, such as churches – reached more than $61.5 million during the same period.
By comparison, new residential construction between January and November 2005 was more than $61.2 million, while new commercial construction during the same period reached almost $38 million.
Multi-family residences accounted for more than $16.3 million in new construction between January and November 2006, compared to almost $30.9 million during the same period 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 – have reached almost $9 million between January and November 2006, compared to almost $17.5 million during the same period 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.
•Medical facility, multi-family home projects
The continuing expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was reflected in its receipt of the most valuable building permit in November.
Following a building permit issued in October to Alonzo Cantú for a $2.3 million construction project – part of an estimated $150 million expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance – Cantú in November received a building permit for work valued at $475,000 for a medical facility that is being built at 2717 Michael Angelo Drive. It is located in the Doctors Center Phase II Subdivision.
Developer Felipe Aguayo received building permits in November for four multi-family developments, each valued at $350,000, located on Baltic Street in the Jackson Park Phase III Subdivision.
The most valuable home authorized for construction in November is being built by Rey Benavidez. The house, whose construction value is listed at $150,000, is located at 3009 Hawthorne Avenue in the West Meadows Phase 1 Subdivision.
For the month of November, total construction activities, which include everything from installing plumbing to building the structures, saw building permits approved for $7,727,796 in governmental, residential and commercial construction, up from the November 2005 figure of $6,790,443.
Calendar year-to-date, total construction activities were $176,852,473 from January through November, compared to $163,000,368 during the first 11 months of 2005.
A more detailed breakdown of the November 2006 figures for Edinburg features the following highlights:
New construction of commercial buildings, not including multi-family residences, was reported at $1,124,500 in November, compared to $450,000 for the same month in 2005.
Calendar year-to-date, new construction of commercial buildings reached $61,539,472 from January through November, compared to $39,719,530 during the same 11 month period in 2005.
Commercial alterations in November totaled $554,661, compared to $128,360 in November 2005.
Calendar year-to-date, commercial alterations have reached $10,003,465, compared to $9,403,630 from January through November 2005.
New construction of single-family homes in November 2006 reached $3,190,195, compared to $3,956,683 in November 2005.
Calendar year-to-date, building permits have been issued for residential homes valued at $67,122,064, compared to $61,261,904 during the same 11 month period in 2005.
Calendar year-to-date, building permits have been issued for the construction of 732 single-family homes, compared to 691 from January through November 2005.
In November, work began on 36 single-family residences, compared to 46 homes in November 2005.
In November, alterations for single-family residences were valued at $147,400, compared to $157,400 for the same month in 2005.
Calendar year-to-date, building permits have been issued for residential alterations valued at $5,176,432, compared to $2,650,506 in alterations during the first 11 months of 2005.
New construction of multi-family residences in November 2006 reached $2,694,740, compared to $2,098,000 for the same month in 2005.
Calendar-year-to-date, new construction of multi-family homes totals $16,378,740, compared to $30,889,569 during January through November 2005.
From January through November 2006, building permits were issued for 161 multi-family residences, or 352 units, compared to 320 multi-family residences, or 739 units, during the same period in 2005.
For the month of November, building permits were issued for 18 multi-family residences, or 44 units, compared to 19 multi-family residences, or 40 units, in November 2005.
•Top November construction projects
Highlights of construction in November of commercial buildings, not including multi-family
residences, valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Alonzo Cantú, 2717 Michael Angelo Drive ($470,000);
•Ector Casas, 205 Conquest ($250,000);
•Dr. Miguel Mego, 2525 W. Trenton Road, Unit 6 ($125,000); and
•Wing Stop, 2405 W. University Drive, Ste. D ($125,000).
Highlights of construction in November of multi-family buildings (duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings) valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Felipe Aguayo, 223 Baltic Street ($350,000);
•Felipe Aguayo, 205 Baltic Street ($350,000);
•Felipe Aguayo, 217 Baltic Street ($350,000);
•Felipe Aguayo, 211Baltic Street ($350,000);
•Jaime González, 2010 Bahamas Drive ($225,000);
•Gilberto G. Silva, 1520 Orlando Street ($205,000);
•Gilberto G. Silva, 1526 Orlando Street ($205,000);
•Rubén Gutiérrez, 1813 Bahamas Drive ($145,000); and
•Jesús Elizondo, 2217 Moonlight ($115,000).
Highlights of construction in November of single-family homes valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Rey Benavidez, 3009 Hawthorne Avenue ($150,000);
•Rafael Selgado, 3908 Ida Street ($148,000);
•Rafael Selgado, 3810 Ida Street ($143,000);
•David Rogers, 2122 Llano Grande Lane, ($139,400);
•Jorge and Norma Santa María, 2611 W. Schunior ($130,000);
•Roberto Salinas, 2508 Stirling Avenue ($130,000);
•Aaron Cano, 1012 Bunker Avenue ($130,000);
•Sandra Salinas, 411 Frio Drive ($122,000);
•Richard and Brian González, 625 Coffee Mill Drive ($120,900);
•Óscar Cantú, 722 Oregano Street ($120,000);
•Óscar Cantú, 3805 Ripple Drive ($120,000);
•Richard and Brian González, 617 Coffee Mill Drive ($106,900);
•Fabian Ruiz, 2203 Heather ($100,000); and
•Randy Rives, 3221 Club House Drive ($100,000).
By DAVID A. DIAZ
For more information on the people and politics that impact Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com
Rep. Martínez sworn in for second term, lays out key legislative priorities
Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, issued the following statements regarding the beginning of his second, two-year term, and summarized some of his legislative priorities for the five-month regular legislative session, which began on January 9.
His comments follow:
"This week the 80th Legislative Session began and I was proud to be sworn into office alongside my family and my 2-year old son, Kuentin. As we kick off a new legislative session in Austin, I want to rededicate myself to keeping you informed on the inner-workings of the legislative process. I want you to know that my office is always open to you; I hope you will make it a point to let me know how I can better represent your interests on a wide spectrum of issues.
"It is the greatest honor and privilege to serve as your State Representative for House District 39. I will do everything within my power to be a strong and effective advocate for the people who have so generously placed their trust in me.
"Over the next 140 days, the Legislature will address critical issues that affect you, your family, your community, your school, your environment, your pocketbook, your children and your future. I hope the Legislature will take this opportunity to make significant progress on the following issues:
• Increase funding for public education and reduce inequities in the funding system;
• Improve educational facilities;
• Increase teacher pay that is still well below the national average;
• Restore health insurance to the hundreds of thousands of kids who were cut from the program in 2003;
• Lower the skyrocketing costs of a college education;
• Reduce the costs of homeownership by reducing homeowner’s insurance rates and increase the homestead exemption; and
• Enact a comprehensive ethics reform package that restores public confidence in our system of government."
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst calls the 80th Legislature into 140-day regular session
At noon on Tuesday, January 9, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst gaveled in the Texas Senate to begin the 80th Legislative Session in the State Capitol. "We all return to this great chamber ready to turn the challenges we face into opportunities for all Texans," Dewhurst said.
The Lt. Governor welcomed all 31 Senators, their families and friends to the Capitol. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson administered the oath of office to 11 incumbent senators who won re-election and five freshman members.
Dewhurst also congratulated Senator Mario Gallegos on his election to President Pro-Tempore of the Texas Senate. The President Pro-Tem serves as acting governor when the Governor and Lt. Governor are out of state.
"Senator Gallegos has long been a committed public servant not just to those who live in his Houston district, but to the entire state. He’s overcome great adversity to receive this distinguished honor and I congratulate him on his achievement," Dewhurst said.
By a vote of 30 to 1, the Texas Senate adopted the rules which will govern Senate business for the 80th Legislative Session. These are the same rules adopted and used during the 79th Legislative Session.
Dewhurst won re-election to a second term in November, 2006. Dewhurst is the 41st Lieutenant Governor of Texas and serves as the President of the Texas Senate. He will take the oath of office during inaugural ceremonies on Tuesday, January 16, 2007. The 80th Legislative session will last 140-days.
Comptroller Combs predicts state lawmakers will have $14.3 billion "surplus" in 2008-2009 state budget
Comptroller Susan Combs on Monday, January 8, said the Texas Legislature will have $14.3 billion in new money to spend in the 2008-2009 state budget.
Combs issued her Biennial Revenue Estimate, reporting to the 80th Legislature and the Governor that $82.5 billion in general revenue is available for appropriation.
“This is a solid, conservative estimate,” Combs said.
“I anticipate $77.5 billion in general revenue income during the next biennium,” Combs said. “Add to that a $7.0 billion ending balance for the current biennium — the largest ending balance on record. Subtract $2.0 billion in oil and gas production tax revenue that must be set aside in the Rainy Day Fund, and the bottom line is $82.5 billion that is available to spend.
“That is approximately $14.3 billion more than the current $68.2 billion budget,” Combs said.
“This is a great time in Texas,” Combs said. “Our state’s strong economy is producing vigorous revenue growth to serve Texans’ needs. However, it is my duty as Comptroller to point out that I do expect a cooling of the economy in the months ahead.”
Combs said three important contributors to the Texas economy are slowing: the housing market, oil and gas prices and consumer spending.
“Nationwide, the housing boom of the last two years is rapidly slowing. In Texas, new home starts that were up 20.7 percent a year ago were down 12.4 percent last October—a dramatic shift,” Combs said.
“Oil and gas prices are expected to recede following a rapid climb in fiscal 2006 and exploration will decrease somewhat,” Combs continued. “The growth in consumer spending will decline, due in part to the slowdown in the housing market. People feel wealthier and spend more freely if their homes are increasing in value. Also, low interest rates have made refinancing attractive—often involving a ‘cash out’ of home equity to be spent by consumers. That trend, too, has changed.
Looking at some of the state’s largest revenue sources, Combs said 87 percent of the revenue will come from taxes and the remaining 13 percent will come from non-tax sources such as fees, interest earnings and lottery proceeds.
The sales tax will continue to be the states largest tax revenue source, bringing in an estimated $41.50 billion during the 2008-2009 biennium. Sales tax revenue is expected to grow approximately 4.2 percent annually—down from fiscal 2006’s 12.0 percent growth and fiscal 2007’s anticipated 7.0 percent growth.
With the overhaul of the franchise tax by the 79th Legislature, this tax is now the second largest source of tax revenue and the third largest source of general revenue. During the next biennium, the franchise tax is expected to produce $5.84 billion for the General Revenue Fund and an additional $6.09 billion for the new Property Tax Relief Fund, a dedicated fund that is not available for general-purpose spending by the Legislature.
Oil and natural gas production taxes are expected to raise $4.94 billion in revenue. Of this, $2.01 billion will be reserved for the Rainy Day Fund. Both taxes are expected to decline over the biennium, as historically high prices are expected to moderate.
“I will continue to closely monitor Texas’ economic indicators and report to the Legislature if a change in my revenue estimate is warranted,” Combs said. “There will be no surprises. My goal is seamless and constant communication with the Legislature as they go about the crucial task of allocating taxpayer dollars to best meet the needs of all Texans.”
Combs’ complete 2008-2009 Biennial Revenue Estimate can be found on her Web site http://www.window.state.tx.us.
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst says state has enough to balance budget and pay for property tax cuts
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst met with Gov. Rick Perry and Comptroller Susan Combs Tuesday morning, January 9, to talk about budget issues facing the state in the upcoming biennium. Dewhurst said the three officials discussed how the recent property tax cuts will impact the budget, and how to use the budget surplus forecasted by the Comptroller’s office.
One of the top priorities will be providing the funds to cover last session’s promised billions in school property tax reduction.
"We’ve got to make sure that over the next four years we deliver on our promises. We promised that we were going to deliver a little over $14 billion in tax cuts to homeowners and I feel very, very committed to making sure that that happens," he said.
Dewhurst was quick to disabuse the notion that the state has a $14 billion surplus, saying there was some confusion in the media and the public about how much of the increase in general revenue was set aside to pay for property tax cuts.
Dewhurst said it was not clear exactly how much the surplus would be but he did say it was "just enough to balance our budget and pay for our local school property tax cuts in the 2009 biennium." Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website’s audio and video archive pages.
Statement on Monday, January 8, by Gov. Perry on Comptroller Combs’ biennial revenue estimate
Gov. Rick Perry has issued the following statements:
“The Comptroller’s announcement of a historic budget surplus is welcome news that will help ensure Texas can fully fund property tax relief, and pay for priorities like border security and education.
“This surplus should reinforce our commitment to the principles and policies that helped create it. State leaders must continue to be fiscally disciplined, we must continue to set clear but limited priorities, and we must remember that every expenditure affects not only those who receive a government service, but also the taxpayers who pay for it.”
Statement on Monday, January 8, by Speaker Craddick on Comptroller Combs’ biennial revenue estimate
Speaker of the House Tom Craddick has issued the following statements:
"The Comptroller’s revenue estimate is great news for Texas, and is evidence of the hard work that has been put forth over the past few sessions. Since 2003, we have gone from a $10 billion deficit to a $14.3 billion surplus – that is a $24.3 billion upswing.
In addition to this increase in general revenue projections, $4.3 billion is expected to accumulate in the Rainy Day Fund by the end of fiscal year 2009 which helps ensure ample revenues are reserved to deal with any future crises. Due to tax and fiscal policies implemented by the Legislature in recent years, Texas continues to see strong economic development, job growth and a booming economy."
Proposal filed in Congress to bring $42 million to help address water problems in South Texas
Congressman Rube?n Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, January 9, introduced legislation that will authorize more than $42 million for the development and improvement of water delivery and transportation systems along the Texas border and in rural counties. The legislation, entitled the Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Resources Conservation and Improvement Act, passed the House of Representatives during the last Congress, but the Senate did not take action on it before the adjournment of the 109th Congress.
Congressmen Solomon Orti?z, Ciro Rodri?guez, Silvestre Reyes, and Henry Cuellar are original co-sponsors of this legislation.
This legislation amends the bill Hinojosa and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison passed in December 2000. The original legislation authorized the federal government to fund $10 million to South Texas for the implementation of new water resources projects.
The new legislation will authorize the Secretary of the Interior to construct 20 additional specified projects in Texas and authorizes the use of $42 million dollars in federal funding to Texas. The legislation mandates a 50% non-federal match for each project.
"I have been working with my colleagues in the Texas State Legislature and South Texas municipal representatives to secure the matching funds for this project. All together, this bill will spark over $85 million of water infrastructure improvements for border and rural regions in Texas," said Hinojosa.
The South Texas water infrastructure system currently loses 25% of the transported water to evaporation and seepage. This legislation would allow the Bureau of Reclamation to conduct projects that would significantly improve the conservation of our scarce water resources.
"I hope that this legislation will help ebb the devastating agricultural and economic losses our community and our farmers have had to endure over the last decade. Economists have estimated that the water shortage has cost the Texas economy almost one billion dollars in the last ten years, and cost are now mounting at a pace of up to $400 million annually," said Hinojosa.
"This legislation is one more step in solving our water shortage issues. I remain dedicated to helping our community address this problem by every possible method," concluded Hinojosa.
Projects included in this act:
• $1,425,219 for the Bayview Irrigation District No. 11, Cameron County
• $722,100 for the Brownsville Irrigation District, Cameron County
• $4,173,950 for Harlingen Irrigation District No. 1, Cameron County
• $8, 269,576 for Cameron County Irrigation District No. 2, Cameron County
• $5,607,300 Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6, Cameron County
• $2,500,000 for Adams Gardens Irrigation District No. 19, Cameron County
• $8,929,152 for the Hidalgo and Cameron Counties Irrigation District No. 9, Hidalgo and Cameron Counties
• $8,000,000 for the Delta Lake Irrigation District in Hidalgo and Willacy Counties
• $5,312,475 for Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2, Hidalgo County
• $5,595,018 for Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 1, Hidalgo County
• $3,450,000 for Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 6, Hidalgo County
• $4,609,000 for Texas Santa Cruz Irrigation District No. 15, Hidalgo County
• $2,251,480 for the Engelman Irrigation District, Hidalgo County
• $500,000 for the Valley Acres Water District, Hidalgo County
• $1,500,000 for the Hudspeth County Conservation and Reclamation District No. 1, Hudspeth County
• $10,500,000 for the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, El Paso County
• $2,500,000 for the Donna Irrigation District, Hidalgo County
• $2,800,000 for the Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 16, Hidalgo County
• $6,067,021 for the United Irrigation District, Hidalgo County
Sen. Zaffirini begins session as 2nd-highest ranking senator
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, became the second highest-ranking Texas state senator on Tuesday, January 9, during Opening Day Ceremonies officially gaveling to order the 80th Texas Legislative Session. She returns as the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region, including Starr County.
"I truly am delighted to renew my unwavering support of all families in Senate District 21," Zaffirini said. "I especially look forward to prioritizing higher education, health and human services and ensuring the health and welfare of all persons living in my district and throughout our great state."
First elected in 1986, Zaffirini begins her 20th year in the Texas Senate.
Zaffirini’s work ethic is reflected in her100 percent perfect attendance and voting record in the Texas Senate since 1987. She has cast more than 34,000 consecutive votes and has sponsored and passed 515 bills and 51 substantive resolutions and co-sponsored and passed another 253 bills.
Her most recent legislative successes include sponsoring and passing HB 153, which authorizes Texas universities to issue $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds for capital improvements. This was the largest single investment Texas has ever made for higher education. What’s more, in August, 2006, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed Zaffirini Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education.
"Higher education is my passion and my highest legislative priority," Zaffirini said. "I am grateful that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst named me chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that higher education is made affordable, accessible and provided to all students with the utmost quality and assurance of excellence."
Zaffirini also will prioritize health and human services, early childhood education, finance and government efficiency. Access to quality health care for Texas communities is a top priority. She will work to expand statewide health services, support and enhance community health services and improve overall health and human services for every family living in Texas.
Zaffirini pre-filed 25 bills before the session began, ranging from modifying State classification processes of colonias to creating tax-free periods for buying college textbooks.
Zaffirini’s new Capitol office is located in the Senate’s east wing, 1E.14. The 80th session will adjourn on May 28. Live sessions of the Senate and its committee hearings are available via <a href="http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/" target="_blank"><font color="#0000ff" size="2">www.capitol.state.tx.us</a>. The website offers information regarding the legislature and other government agencies.
Information about the status of bills is available online via the Legislative Reference Library’s toll-free Texas number, 877/824-7038.
"I look forward to working with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and my Senate colleagues to pass legislation that places families first, improves public and higher education and increases access and availability of quality health services," Zaffirini said. The lieutenant governor is expected to appoint new Senate committees this month.
Gov. Perry orders flags at half-staff in memory of former Texas Speaker Bill Clayton
Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, January 9, directed that Texas flags be flown at half-staff in memory of Bill Clayton, former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
“We will lower our flags in remembrance of an influential Texan, who exemplified leadership and true public service as a member and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives,” Perry said. “Anita and I extend prayers of comfort to Speaker Clayton’s family during their time of grief.” The governor’s directive applied to the flag of the State of Texas.
Texas flags were lowered immediately to half-staff on the state Capitol Building and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex, and upon all state buildings, grounds, and facilities throughout the state until sunset on the day of his interment, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007.
Individuals, businesses, municipalities, counties, and other political subdivisions were encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect. On Dec. 27, Perry ordered all U.S. and state flags under the control of the state be lowered to halfstaff for 30 days in memory of former President of the United States Gerald R. Ford.
STC receives $700K grant to address shortage of computer and information technology professionals
South Texas College was one of 72 community colleges from across the nation recognized by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) to receive the highly competitive President’s CommunityBased Job Training Grant. STC was awarded $708,476 to support training in Computer Science and Information Technology Programs as a result of the shortage of professionals in these areas in Hidalgo and Starr Counties.
In 2004 President Bush introduced the Community-Based Job Training Grant as an opportunity for community colleges to prepare and train professionals in skills that their local workforce demands in order to grow and flourish.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2015, computer science and information technology-related positions will increase by 58 percent in Hidalgo and Starr Counties, including computer support specialist positions that require two-year degrees.
“As new companies continue to pop up in the area we want to make sure that we are offering them the home-grown talent to support their computer and information technology needs,” said Mario Reyna, division dean of Business, Math, Science and Technology for STC. “It is important that we provide this critical man power from our community, or we risk losing jobs to vendors and suppliers outside of the Valley, as well as losing the interest of prospective businesses that may be looking at multiple sites. Computer and information technology are mission-critical to any business in this age of 24-7 customer service. If we want to compete at the national level and bring our Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) to a new level, our community, our public and private schools must emphasize to students the need to acquire the skills in this field. Not having enough personnel for this career field is becoming a national security issue.”
“Information technology is an area that has been quickly growing in these two counties and we need to help those interested in this field get into the program and prepare to address the challenges of this fast-paced industry,” said Meliton Hinojosa III, project director for the grant for STC. “Currently we have more than 600 students in our Computer Science and Information Technology programs, but this does not begin to address the needs of the counties we serve. This new generation is growing up pretty computer savvy, but you still need to learn IT skills and earn industry certifications to prepare you for the job market.”
Through the support of this grant, STC hopes to recruit and maintain approximately 1,225 students between its Computer Science and Information Technology Programs, create a network of academic and personal support services for these students and offer tuition assistance for computer science and information technology professional development training for students and faculty in the program.
“The college’s recognition by the DOL was due in part to STC’s innovative strategies and programs to create more job opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley in addition to the support of several key partners and colleagues including, the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, WorkFORCE Solutions and area ISDs involved in our dual enrollment program,” said Luzelma Canales, director of grant development, accountability and management services for STC. “These partners truly understand the ripple impact of computer and information technology on business development and sustainability and we know that this grant would not have been possible without their support.”
Computer Science and Information Technology courses are currently being offered at the college’s Pecan Campus and Technology Center in McAllen, Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco and Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City. For additional information contact Saeed Molki, chair of the Computer Science Program for STC, at 956-872-8236 or Adolfo Lozano, chair of the Information Technology Program for STC, at 956-872-6175 or visit <a href="http://www.southtexascollege.edu/business/" target="_blank"><font color="#0000ff" size="2">http://www.southtexascollege<wbr></wbr>.edu/business/</a>.
Congressman Hinojosa on anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act: "We still have a long way to go"
Congressman Rube?n Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, a senior member of the House Education & Labor Committee, on Tuesday, January 9 released the following statement regarding the fifth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act:
"Five years ago, the Federal Government made a solemn promise to our children. Academic achievement and grade level proficiency are the right of every child regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, or the language spoken at home. With the No Child Left Behind Act, we pledged to hold ourselves accountable for measurable results towards that goal. The bargain was increased resources for increased expectations and increased accountability.
"On this fifth anniversary, we must acknowledge that we have a long way to go. The law is currently funded at only half of its authorized level. While the number of children living in poverty has climbed, many schools and districts have seen a decrease in funding from Title I, the core program in NCLB.
Two Government Accountability Office Reports call into serious question the implementation of NCLB for English language learners. Five years into the law, there is little valid and reliable information about the achievement of English language learners. Reading First, a $5 billion federal investment to improve reading instruction and achievement in the early grades, has been rife with scandal and conflicts of interest.
"We must do better. As we work to reauthorize NCLB, we must extend the culture of accountability to the federal government. We must hold ourselves accountable for providing the financial resources and for fully implementing the law for all students – especially English language learners and students with disabilities who do not fit neatly into current state assessment and accountability systems. Finally, all of us at the federal level must exhibit same transparency and integrity as we are demanding from states and schools as they implement the law and report the results. To do less would be to violate the spirit and the promise of the No Child Left Behind Act."
Workshop to examine broadband connectivity competition issues, including network neutrality
The Federal Trade Commission will host a two-day public workshop on “Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy” in Washington, DC, on February 13 and 14, 2007.
The workshop will bring together experts from business, government, and the technology sector, consumer advocates, and academics to explore competition and consumer protection issues relating to broadband Internet access, including so-called “network neutrality.”
The workshop will explore issues raised by recent legal and regulatory determinations that providers of certain broadband Internet services, such as cable modem and DSL, are not subject to the Federal Communications Commission’s commoncarrier regulations.
Agenda items for the two-day workshop include:
• Technical Primer on the Internet;
• What is the debate over “network neutrality” about?
• Discrimination Against and Blockage of Content and Applications;
• Network Operators Charging Fees for Prioritized Delivery of Data;
• Current and Future State of Broadband Competition;
• Consumer Protection Issues in Broadband Internet Access; and
• What framework best promotes competition and consumer welfare? Industry and academic/ policy views.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the FTC’s satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC. Members of the public and press who wish to participate but who cannot attend can view a live Webcast of the workshop on the FTC’s Web site.
For further information about the workshop, including a draft agenda, as well as instructions for pre-registering and submitting written comments on the topics to be addressed at the workshop, please consult the FTC Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/opp/workshop/broadband/index.html.
City Council to hold 6:30 p.m. Tuesday workshop on new development codes prior to 7 p.m regular session
EDINBURG CITY COUNCIL
CITY OF EDINBURG,
HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS
Location: University of Texas – Pan American
International Trade and Technology Building
1201 West University Drive
300 Block, Dr. Miguel Nevarez Drive
JANUARY 16, 2007
Presentation and Update on Unified Development Code (UDC) by Bret Keast, Kendig Keast Collaborative.
REGULAR MEETING AGENDA
I. CALL TO ORDER, ESTABLISH QUORUM.
B. Pledge of Allegiance by Councilmember Gus Garcia.
II. CERTIFICATION OF PUBLIC NOTICE.
III. PUBLIC COMMENTS.
IV. MAYOR’S REPORT.
V. CITY MANAGER’S REPORT.
Presentation on Rio Metro Transit Services by Tom Reyna, Transit Planner, LRGVDC.
VII. PUBLIC HEARINGS/ORDINANCES.
Hold Public Hearing and Consider Ordinances Providing for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment from Urban Residential Uses to Industrial Uses and the Rezoning Request from R-A1, Single Family Residence District to M-2, Industrial District (General), being all of Lots 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, and 9 acres out of Lot 33, Santa Cruz Gardens Unit No.1 Subdivision, located approximately 2,100 feet west of U.S. Highway 281 on the north side of Palm Drive, as requested by Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. (Remove Item from Table-CC Mtg. 12-05-06)
VIII. AWARDING OF BIDS/CONTRACTUALS/RESOLUTIONS.<wbr></wbr>
A. Consider Awarding Bid No. 2007-27, Geosynthetic Material Supply, To GSE Lining Technology, Inc., of Houston, Texas and Environmental Specialties International of Baton Rouge Louisiana, in the Amount of $726,239.21, Plus Bonds.
B. Consider Awarding Bid No. 2007-37, Uninterrupted Cleaning and Inspections of Water Storage Tanks, in the Amount of $24,475.
C. Consider Awarding Bid No. 2007-38, Urethane Roof Replacement for Ebony Golf Course to Rio Grande Urethane Roofing & Installation, in the Amount of $23,900.
D. Consider Awarding Bid No. 2007-42, Reconstruction of One (1) Residence in the Housing Assistance Program to Quality Investments.
E. Consider Awarding Bid No. 2007-43, Reconstruction of One (1) Residence in the Housing Assistance Program to Quality Investments.
F. Consider Rejecting Bid Number 2007-41, Reconstruction of One (1) Home in the Housing Assistance Program.
G. Consider Authorizing Interim City Manager to Enter Into An Inter-local Agreement for Cooperation and Joint Sponsorship for Rio Metro-Edinburg Bus Shelters.
H. Consider Authorizing Interim City Manager to Enter Into a Two Party Contract with Evergreen Valley, Inc., Developer, to Participate in the Oversizing of a 36” Drain Line for Santa Gloria Subdivision, for an Amount Not-to-Exceed $23,689.50.
I. Consider Resolution Authorizing the Creation of the “City of Edinburg Texas Local Government Finance Corporation” to Assist with Financing and Constructing Economic Development Projects Within the City, and Approving the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for the Corporation.
IX. CONSENT AGENDA.
A. Consider Authorizing City Manager to Amend the Professional Engineering Services Agreement with Melden & Hunt, Inc. for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion Project – Stage II, in the Amount Not-to-Exceed $415,000.
B. Consider Transfer of Funds in the Fiscal Year 2006-2007 Budget Within the Following Account: &nbs p; &nbs p;
Airport: From Materials-Equipment Account to Rents and Contracts Account, in the &nb sp; &nb sp; <wbr></wbr> Amount of $575.
X. EXECUTIVE SESSION.
The City Council will convene in Executive Session, in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Vernon’s Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated, Government Code, Chapter 551, Subchapter D, Exceptions to Requirement that Meetings be Open, §551.071, Consultation with Attorney; Closed Meeting.
1. Legal Discussion-On Construction Status of Lift Station No. 25.
2. Legal Discussion – Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Requested by First Hartford Realty Corporation.
3. Discussion of Status of Litigation IN RE: ABSOLUTE WASTE ACQUISITIONS, INC., Debtor Case No. 05-22374-c-11; United States Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Texas Corpus Christi Division.
4. Discussion Regarding The Construction Agreement With Velasco Construction Development L.P. For The Public Safety Complex Addition And Renovation.
The City Council will convene in Open Session to take necessary action, if any, in accordance with Chapter 551, Open Meetings, Subchapter E, Procedures Relating to Closed Meeting, §551.102, Requirement to Vote or Take Final Action in Open Meeting.
I hereby certify this Notice of a City Council Meeting was posted in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, at both bulletin boards located at the main entrances to the City Offices of the City of Edinburg, and at the 210 West McIntyre entrance outside bulletin board, visible and accessible to the general public during and after regular working hours. This notice was posted on January 12, 2007 at 6:05 p.m.
BY: /s/ Myra Garza,
City Secretary &nb sp;
City of Edinburg, Texas & nbsp;
IF ACCOMODATIONS FOR A DISABILITY ARE REQUIRED, NOTIFY THE CITY SECRETARY DEPT. AT 383-5661 PRIOR TO THE MEETING DATE. WITH REGARD TO ANY ITEM, THE CITY COUNCIL MAY TAKE VARIOUS ACTIONS; INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO RESCHEDULING AN ITEM IN ITS ENTIRETY FOR A FUTURE DATE OR TIME. THE CITY COUNCIL MAY ELECT TO GO INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION ON ANY ITEM WHETHER OR NOT SUCH ITEM IS POSTED AS AN EXECUTIVE SESSION ITEM AT ANY TIME DURING THE MEETING WHEN AUTHORIZED BY THE PROVISIONS OF THE OPEN MEETINGS ACT.
With his wife, Janie, looking on – and holding the Bible used in the ceremony – Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, left, takes his oath of office on Monday, January 1, from his mentor and friend, former Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts John Sharp. "Embracing change means accepting risk, taking bold steps, using failure as a lesson and not as an excuse," Salinas, a former Hidalgo County County Clerk, said during the event. Among his first acts as judge was to reject a pay raise given to the county judge’s position late last year by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, which also received salary boosts. Ramón García, who was county judge at the time, did not request the $20,000 annual pay raise, which went into effect on January 1. On January 2, Salinas expanded the operating hours of the county’s judge’s office to better serve the public. His office hours are now 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information on Salinas’ first week is included later in this posting.
Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, takes the oath of office for his sixth term from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, as the congressman’s wife, Martha, holds the Bible with their two daughters, Kaity and Karen, proudly looking on. More information on Hinojosa’s swearing-in is included later in this posting.
The Texas Tornados baseball club, which features some of Hidalgo County’s best young athletes from Palmview, Sharyland, Pharr, and Edinburg, were honored recently by the Edinburg City Council for winning the state championship in mid-November in Round Rock against teams from Houston, the Woodlands, San Antonio, and Round Rock. The baseball squads feature players age 5 to 7 years. The area team, which was presented a congratulatory proclamation on behalf of the Edinburg City Council by Mayor Joe Ochoa, will play in the first World Series for that age group in July 2007. Area businesses who served as financial sponsors for the team were Big Engineering, Deseo Construction, Tejas Reprographics, ECISD board member Greg García, Inter National Bank, Triple C Transport, JLV Utility Construction, Phoenix Agency, Vital Health Care, Superior Oil Express, Rapid Mortgage Company, and Gilbert Enríquez. Featured in this portrait with the mayor (listed in alphabetical order, not in physical order) are: Coach Ramiro Amador of Edinburg; Ramsey Amador of Edinburg; Adam Alviso of Edinburg; Alec García of Sharyland; Coach Michael Granados of Edinburg; Ismael López III of Edinburg; R.J. Ochoa of Edinburg; Rubén Ortega IV of Pharr; Félix Ramírez of Edinburg; Coach J.R. Ramírez of Edinburg; Coach Juan Ramírez of Edinburg; Alex Rodríguez of Edinburg; Eli Rodríguez of Palmview; Coach Ronnie Rodríguez of Edinburg; and Jaime Silva of Edinburg.
New Hidalgo County Judge Salinas rejects higher salary approved last year by county commissioners court
In his first week as Hidalgo County Judge, J.D. Salinas seen his share of housekeeping chores, helping office visitors and slashing budgets.
But one of the more significant actions he took, which received little media play, is that while presiding over his first commissioners’ court meeting on January 1, Salinas rejected a high salary offered to him.
"The position of county judge was budgeted at $105,000," Salinas said. "I have officially rejected that salary and filed the proper paperwork with the auditor’s office."
Instead, Salinas will earn a salary of about $86,000, saving taxpayers $19,000.
"It was the right thing to do," Salinas said of his action.
During his first week in office, Salinas saw 16-hour days, with 15-minute lunch breaks taken inside the office.
"We have had a lot of visitors," Salinas said. "So many residents have come by asking for help with housing problems, road problems and with questions.
"It’s our job to help them resolve these issues," he added, "And we’re getting it done."
Visitors to the county administration building last week were able to see Salinas at work through huge windows looking into his conference room and inner office.
"The offices are being cleaned, the blinds have been pulled back and they will remain open," Salinas said. "We want the people of Hidalgo County to know we are here working hard for them, and we want them to feel welcome to come in and ask for help."
City of Austin web site to provide live coverage of Texas House of Representatives during regular session
The City of Austin’s Office of Communications and Public Information announced on Friday, January 5, that cable Channel 6 will provide coverage of the House of Representatives during the 80th session of the Texas Legislature.
Channel 6 is available to Austin-area viewers on both the Time Warner and Grande cable systems. In addition, Channel 6 programming is accessible via live streaming on the City of Austin Web site: http://www.cityofaustin.org/channel6
Coverage from the State Capitol will begin with the session’s opening gavel at noon Tuesday, Jan. 9.
Channel 6 will air live House proceedings every day representatives are in session, except on those Thursdays when the Austin City Council meets. Travis County Television (TCTV) Channel 17 will offer coverage of House every Thursday. And as they have done since 1999, the Austin Independent School District’s Channel 22 will again offer coverage of the Texas Senate.
The Texas Legislature meets in regular session for 140 days every odd-numbered year. This year’s legislative session is scheduled to run through May 28, 2007.
Created in 1985, Channel 6 is responsible for televising gavel-to-gavel coverage of Austin City Council meetings. In addition, the municipal government channel offers coverage of City-related news conferences and events, as well as various boards, commissions and task force meetings.
Contact: Communications and Public Information Office, (512) 974-2220
Congressman Rube?n Hinojosa sworn in for 6th term by Speaker Pelosi
Congressman Rube?n Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Thursday, January 4, was sworn into office for his 6th term by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, shortly after she was elected the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pelosi, the nation’s first female Speaker of the House, returns Democrats back in the leadership chair for the first time in more than a decade.
“I am excited about the new era that was just ushered into action in Washington, DC. With Democrats back in charge, the people’s priorities will come first once again,” said Hinojosa.
Hinojosa commenced his 11th year as the U.S. Representative for the 15th Congressional District of Texas, which includes Edinburg.
“With each new session comes new opportunities, but the 110th Congress will yield more than most. The first 100 hours will bring integrity and honesty back to Congress with the passage of the new rules package," he said.
"Within the first full week of session, Democrats will enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations, increase the minimum wage, allow stem cell research, and authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices,” added Hinojosa. “Rounding out the first month, Congress will also cut interest rates on student loans making higher education attainable to an even greater degree of Americans."
To help advance the goal of making a quality education available to every American student, before the end of January, Hinojosa plans to introduce several key bills that will curb the student dropout rate, help schools improve their science laboratories, and provided needed resources for English language learners.
"To help our colleges and universities, I will work to establish a grant program that will help increases graduate programs at Hispanic Serving Institutions. In the coming year, I will also work to expand adult education programs at all levels to help make education a lifelong endeavor,” said Hinojosa.
As a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Hinojosa will bring these ideas to the table and work with committee chairman George Miller, D-San Francisco, to get them addressed in the 110th Congress. For the first time in my career, I will seek a Subcommittee Chairmanship in the House Education and Labor Committee,” continued Hinojosa.
To help rural communities, within the first month, Hinojosa will introduce legislation that: crafts a $30 million national grant program to help create and improved rural rental housing units; authorizes the Rural Housing and Economic Development grant program; makes permanent a yearly $15 million funding stream for the Housing Assistance Council; expands financial literacy training and resources; and recognizes April as financial literacy month and a financial planning week in October.
Edinburg economy continues key advances, with more than 5 percent growth since 2005
Edinburg’s economy, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, was up 5.26 percent over the previous 12-month period, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.
The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.
It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Joe Ochoa, former Mayor Richard García, who serves as board president, Fred Palacios, Mike Govind, and George Bennack.
The figure translates into more than $12.1 million generated in local sales taxes that went into the city government’s treasury, which is used to help pay for dozens of major city services, ranging from new streets to city personnel.
During 2005, the city’s economy generated slightly more than $11.5 million in local sales taxes.
For November, the latest month for which local sales tax figures are calculated by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Edinburg’s economy generated $930,412.70 in local sales taxes.
That figure is up 1.89 percent over November 2005, which reported $913,388.39 in local sales taxes.
Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said on December 8 that the state collected $1.73 billion in sales tax in November, up 9.4 percent compared to November 2005. The comptroller sent local governments $403.8 million in December sales tax allocations, up 8.4 percent compared to December 2005.
Edinburg remained firmly entrenched as the second strongest economy in Hidalgo County.
According to the comptroller’s office, Hidalgo County also showed continued prosperity. For 2006, all cities in Hidalgo County generated more than $109 million in local sales taxes, up almost 10.75 percent over 2005, which reached $98.5 million.
For the month of November, all cities in Hidalgo County registered almost $8.4 million in local sales taxes, up almost 8 percent over the November 2005 figure of more than $7.7 million.
Neighboring Cameron County also registered economic growth, according to the state figures.
For 2006, all cities in Cameron County generated $57.9 million in local sales taxes, up 10.81 percent over last year’s figure of $52.3 million. For November, all cities in Cameron County reported $4,247,450.46 in local sales taxes, up 7.57 percent over the November 2005 figure of $3,948,017.53.
"The final sales tax allocation of 2006 brings total local sales tax revenue for the calendar year to a record $5.2 billion," Strayhorn said. "This marks the first time local sales tax revenues have reached $5 billion in a single year."
"In 1999, in my first year as comptroller, I distributed $3.5 billion in local sales tax. Compared to that year, annual local sales tax revenue is up 47.8 percent," Strayhorn said.
"Texas’ population growth, diversity and economic strength have helped the state recover from the ’02-’03 economic slowdown that followed the triple economic whammy of 9/11, the Enron and WorldCom scandals and the high tech bubble bursting. Local communities have bounced back from economic setbacks and natural disasters like Hurricane Rita," said Strayhorn.
Strayhorn sent Texas cities December sales tax allocations of $273.1 million, up 8 percent compared to December 2005. City sales tax allocations during calendar year 2006 totaled $3.5 billion, up 13.5 percent compared to calendar year 2005. Counties’ December sales tax allocations were $24.8 million, up 13.9 percent compared to December 2005. Counties received $312.7 million in sales tax during calendar year 2006, up 16 percent compared to last year.
Ten local transit systems received December sales tax allocations of $93.2 million, a 7 percent increase over December 2005. Sales tax allocations to transit systems in 2006 totaled $1.2 billion, up 14.1 percent compared to the 2005 total. December sales tax allocations of $12.5 million went to 115 special purpose taxing districts, an increase of 17.6 percent compared to last December. Special purpose districts received $153.1 million during 2006, up 17.1 percent compared to 2005.
For details of December sales tax payments to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, locate the Monthly Sales and Use Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports on the Comptroller’s Web site http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html
The Comptroller’s next local sales tax allocation will be made on Friday, Jan, 12.
By DAVID A. DIAZ
For more information on the people and politics that impact Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com
Passports required for air travel to United States as of January 23, 2007
The Departments of State and Homeland Security announced today that the requirement for citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda to present a passport to enter the United States when arriving by air from any part of the Western Hemisphere will begin on January 23, 2007.
This change in travel document requirements is the result of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, which Congress subsequently passed into law in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. These new travel document requirements make up the Departments’ Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). In order to obtain national security benefits as quickly as possible, and to expedite the processing of arriving passengers, the plan will be implemented in two phases.
The first phase involves travel by air and requires all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or re-enter the United States from within the Western Hemisphere. The final rule for the air phase of the WHTI rule will be published in the Federal Register on November 24, where it can be viewed at http://www.regulations.gov. That rule is also available on the Department’s consular web site, travel.state.gov and on the Department of Homeland Security’s web site, http://www.dhs.gov
A separate proposed rule addressing land and sea travel will be published at a later date proposing specific requirements for travelers entering the United States through land and sea border crossings. As early as January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea could be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible.
The Department has dedicated additional resources and personnel to meet the increased demand for passports generated by these requirements. In Fiscal Year 2006, the Department issued a record 12.1 million passports to American citizens, and anticipates issuing 16 million passports in Fiscal Year 2007. U.S. citizens can find information about how to apply for a passport at travel.state.gov or by calling 1-877-487-2778.
Attorney General Abbott, takes oath of office, begins second four-year term
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, last week formally began his second term as the state’s chief law enforcement official when Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson administered the oath of office at a ceremony performed at the Office of the Attorney General in the presence of agency employees.
After swearing to defend the laws and constitution of the State of Texas, Abbott renewed his commitment to tough law enforcement and thanked agency employees for their service to Texas citizens.
"Texans are blessed to have hard-working men and women who have committed their lives to serving the Office of the Attorney General and the State of Texas," said Abbott. "Whether arresting child sex predators, collecting child support, cracking down on senior abuse, or preserving taxpayer dollars, our dedicated employees make a difference in the lives of their fellow Texans in countless ways. It is truly an honor to work side-by-side with these public servants as we strive toward a safer, more just Texas."
Accomplishments during Abbott’s first term as Attorney General include:
- $7 billion collected in child support
- $300 million awarded to or on behalf of crime victims
- $175 million recovered in Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse
- 500 child predators arrested
Abbott added: "The entire agency can be proud of our accomplishments, but our successes are not measured by numbers, arrests or money recovered. Rather, the greatest measure of our success is the Texans whose lives are improved by our service to the state."
Prior to his election as Texas’ 50th Attorney General on November 5, 2002, Abbott served as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court and as a State District Judge in Harris County.
A native Texan, Abbott was born in Wichita Falls and raised in Duncanville. After graduating from the University of Texas with a B.B.A. in Finance, he received his law degree from Vanderbilt University.
Shortly after graduating from law school, he was partially paralyzed by a falling tree while jogging.
He and his wife, Cecilia, a former school teacher and principal, have been married for 25 years. They live in Austin with their nine-year-old daughter, Audrey.
For more information, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at http://www.oag.state.tx.us or call (800) 252-8011.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs succeeds former Comptroller Strayhorn, takes oath of office in House of Representatives chamber
Susan Combs, a Republican, was sworn in on Tuesday, January 2 as Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in a public ceremony in the House Chamber by Governor Rick Perry. Combs was sworn in privately on January 1.
She succeeds Carole Keeton Strayhorn, also a Republican, who did not seek reelection, instead running as an independent candidate for governor against Perry, a Republican.
In her inaugural speech, Combs stated that she was honored by the great privilege of holding public office and humbled by this trust.
“All of us in public office are elected to serve the public interest and to do what is right for the citizens of this great state. Their vote is the gift of their trust and confidence and we must be true to that.
“This office is a unique state agency with a legendary reputation for outstanding service. We will preserve that reputation and build on it.”
Combs saluted the employees of the agency. “I have been privileged to already meet many of the wonderful people at the agency, and have stated that it is my policy there, as it was at the Department of Agriculture, that family is first. State employees create a family within each agency, but they also have families outside, and our policies must reflect that understanding.”
On policy, Combs said that she would bring 21st century technology to the agency. “Technology will increase efficiency and effectiveness,” Combs said. “It will help deliver information and service, make government more transparent and help provide data for economic development across the state.
“We will also work hard to protect your tax dollars from fraud by employing sophisticated technologies to deter those who would cheat the public,” Combs said. “We will make it easy to pay taxes and hard to cheat.”
In closing she added, “Every Texan will be welcomed. Every Texan will be treated fairly. Issues will be studied and evaluated based on their merits.”
Legislative Budget Board reschedules session on local property tax relief until January 14
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick released the following statement on Wednesday, January 3, regarding the Thursday, January 4 scheduled Legislative Budget Board meeting:
"We are firmly committed to delivering the nearly $14 billion in local school property tax relief approved by the legislature last May and promised to the people of Texas for the next biennium. It is clear, however, that we need more time to discuss the options for setting a new spending limit to allow for this tax relief with members returning to Austin next week. For this reason, we have decided to postpone tomorrow’s Legislative Budget Board meeting until January 11, at which time we will adopt the lowest spending limit recommended by the LBB."
The LBB is authorized to meet during the legislative session to set a new spending limit as long as no budget action has been taken.
Gov. Perry named one of nation’s most influential leaders in the Latino community
Gov. Rick Perry has been named one of America’s 101 most influential leaders in the Latino Community, according to Latino Leaders magazine.
In its December-January edition, the national publication noted that Gov. Perry “regularly reaches out to Hispanic voters” and “has the ability to influence the lives of millions of Hispanics, many of whom live in terrible conditions in ‘colonias’ along the U.S.-Mexican border.”
“Perry’s inclusive cultural approach to politics will work in his favor. His recognition of the Latino presence in Texas builds bridges in an age of increasing tension towards immigrants and border cities.”
Perry, who ranked 72, was one of ten Texans included on the magazine’s list of 101, and was the highest ranked of three border state governors.
Latino Leaders is a nationally distributed bimonthly magazine that focuses on the contributions of notable U.S. Hispanics.
PEW survey: Hispanics favor troop withdrawals from Iraq even more strongly than general public
Two out of every three Latinos now believe that U.S. troops should be brought home from Iraq as soon as possible and only one in four thinks the U.S. made the right decision in using military force, according to a new survey released Thursday, January 4, by the Pew Hispanic Center.
Hispanics have generally expressed more negative views toward the war compared with the rest of the population. The latest survey, however, shows even stronger opposition on the part of Latinos, especially when it comes to keeping troops in Iraq.
Two-thirds of Hispanics (66 percent) now favor bringing troops home as soon as possible, up from 51 percent in January 2005. Conversely, Latinos who favored keeping troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized have declined from 37 percent to 19 percent.
Native-born Hispanics are generally more supportive of the war than are their foreign-born counterparts. But in the latest survey, the native born are almost as adamant about bringing troops home as the foreign born (62 percent vs. 68 percent respectively).
The general public also is more inclined to bring the troops home, but not to the same extent as Hispanics. A survey of the general population by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in December found that one in two Americans (50%) favored bringing troops home as soon as possible, up from 41 percent in January 2005.
The changing attitude toward the war is also evident in the answer to a basic question: Do you think the U.S. made the right decision or the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq? Since 2004, a third or more of Latinos responded that using military force was the right decision. In the latest survey, only 24 percent of Latinos agreed with that assessment. That is down from 39 percent in April/June 2004 and from 31% in August/October 2006.
By comparison, 42 percent of the general public believes the U.S. made the right decision in using military force, according to the survey by Pew Research Center.
Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas elects officers, directors for 2007
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, a First Amendment organization that educates, protects and advances the rights and responsibilities of the public to access government information and meetings, elected its 2007 officers and added five new board members on December 22.
The following officers were elected: Timothy M. Kelly, editor of The Beaumont Enterprise, president; Laura Lee Prather, a partner in the law firm of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, L.L.P., vice president; and Dale Leach, chief of bureau for The Associated Press, treasurer. Keith Shelton, retired journalist in residence for the University of North Texas, was re-elected secretary.
New directors elected to the board included: Donnis Baggett, editor and publisher of The Eagle in Bryan-College Station; Russ Coleman, vice president, general counsel and assistant secretary for Belo Corporation; Brian Collister, investigative reporter for WOAI TV in San Antonio; Bill Cornwell, publisher of The Facts in Clute; and Jennifer LaFleur, computer-assisted reporting editor for The Dallas Morning News
The following directors were re-elected to the board: Libby Averyt, editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times; David H. Donaldson, attorney with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, P.C.; Joe Larsen, attorney with Ogden, Gibson, Broocks & Longoria, L.L.P.; Tony Pederson, Belo distinguished chair of journalism at Southern Methodist University; James Sibley, president of Title Data, Inc.; Nick Voinis, senior associate athletics director for communications at the University of Texas at Austin; Paul Watler, attorney with Jenkins & Gilchrist, P.C.; Joel White, with the law firm of Joel White & Associates; and Thomas Williams, attorney with Haynes and Boone, L.L.P.
The FOIFT is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization supported through grants from private citizens, corporations, foundations and tax-deductible donations. For more information, call 214.977.6658, visit our Web site at http://www.foift.org or write to FOIFT, 400 S. Record St., Suite 240, Dallas, Texas 75202
Dr. Lino García, Jr., speaks January 14 to explain Don Quixote’s influence
For 38 years Dr. Lino García, Jr., has taught college classes about the world’s greatest novelist and his literary work Don Quijote de la Mancha (the Spanish spelling), and on January 14 at 2 p.m. he will make a presentation in Spanish on this novel and on the author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.
His talk will connect the human qualities of the early Tejanos who came into South Texas in 1749, colonizing it and established the prevalent culture and traditions, with the internal human qualities of the character Don Quijote de la Mancha.
Since the novel was first published in Spain in 1605, and it arrived in New Spain in 16i08, it is presumed that the early Tejanos had read this monumental work and were motivated by this fictional yet universal character to seek new adventure in a brave new land—South Texas.
“The book ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha’ (the Spanish spelling) is connected with the Rio Grande Valley,” García said. “This talk will attempt to connect the human qualities of the early Tejanos who came into South Texas, colonizing it and establishing the prevalent culture and traditions.”
“The title of my talk, Los Tejanos Y Don Quixjote de la Mancha, will connect the trajectory of early settlers of South Texas, which was then called New Spain (La Nueva España).
García is a Professor of Spanish Literature, with specialization on the Golden Age of Spain, and on the novel, “Don Quijote de la Mancha,” a literary work he has taught at the University of Texas-Pan America for over 36 years. He has done extensive lecturing on this work of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra here and in Mexico. He has published on this work and is a founding member of the Academia Cervantina Internacional of the Universidad de Guanjuato, Mexico. He holds a doctorate from Tulane University, and has taught at UTPA for 40 years.
An eight-generation Tejano, García is a direct descendent of Don José Matías Longoria Chapa of Porción 93, received in 1767, and of the Longoria and Chapa families, original founders of what is now Matamoros, when all of Tejas and Mexico were then part of New Spain. He has done research on early Spanish Texas History and genealogy.
His talk will connect the human qualities of the early Tejanos who came into South Texas, colonizing it and establishing the prevalent culture and traditions. His talk will connect the early settlers of South Texas, with many of them presumably having read the monumental literary work by Cervantes Saavedra published in 1605-15 in Spain. It was possible that these early Tejanos settlers were motivated by this fictional yet universal character to seek new adventures a brave new land.
“It is said Don Quixote made the world a little bit more compassionate,” García said, “because of his chivalry, courtesy, good manners, reverence for females regardless of who they were, one extreme to the other, plus the treatment of human beings including his enemies.”
This lecture will be in the Courtyard Gallery at the Museum in downtown Edinburg. There is no extra charge for the program as it is included in the regular admission fee, $4 for adults, $3 for seniors 62 and over, $2.50 for students (with I.D. for college students) 13 and over. Children 12 and under are $1.50 and children 3 and under are free.
Phone 383-6911 for more information about the Museum located in Downtown Edinburg, or visit the Museum’s website:
Federal Trade Commission reaches “New Year’s” resolutions with four major weight-control pill marketers
The FTC has filed complaints in four separate cases alleging that weight-loss and weight-control claims were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Marketers of the four products –Xenadrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa, and One-A-Day WeightSmart – have settled with the FTC, surrendered cash and other assets worth at least $25 million, and agreed to limit their future advertising claims.
“You won’t find weight loss in a bottle of pills that claims it has the latest scientific breakthrough or miracle ingredient,” said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. “Paying for fad science is a good way to lose cash, not pounds.”
Two marketers of Xenadrine EFX will pay at least $8 million and as much as $12.8 million to settle FTC allegations that Xenadrine EFX’s weight-loss claims were false and unsubstantiated. The funds will be used for consumer redress. In a bankruptcy case not involving the Commission, the defendants have also agreed to pay at least an additional $22.75 million to settle claims brought by creditors and consumers, including personal injury claims for an earlier ephedra-based product.
Xenadrine EFX, which contains, among other ingredients, green tea extract (EGCG), caffeine, and bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), was advertised heavily in print and on television, including in such publications as People, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Fitness. Xenadrine EFX advertising also appeared in Spanish-language publications.
The FTC’s complaint alleged that the defendants made false or unsubstantiated claims for Xenadrine EFX, including that it was clinically proven to cause rapid and substantial weight loss and clinically proven to be more effective than leading ephedrine-based diet products. According to the complaint, Robert Chinery commissioned several studies of Xenadrine EFX, none of which showed substantial weight loss. The complaint alleged that in one of these studies, subjects taking Xenadrine EFX lost an average of only 1.5 pounds over the 10-week study, while a control group taking a placebo lost an average of 2.5 pounds over the same period.
The complaint also alleged that Xenadrine EFX advertisements falsely represented that persons appearing in the ads achieved the reported weight loss solely by using Xenadrine EFX. According to the FTC complaint, consumer endorsers lost weight by engaging in rigorous diet and/or exercise programs. In addition, the endorsers were paid from $1,000 to $20,000 in connection with their testimonials; according to the complaint, Xenadrine EFX advertisements failed to disclose those payments.
The stipulated federal court order with Robert Chinery, Jr. and RTC Research & Development, LLC (“RTC”) prohibits certain claims regarding Xenadrine EFX and prohibits all claims regarding the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any weight-loss product, dietary supplement, food, drug, or device, unless the representation is true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The settlement also prohibits misrepresentations about any test or study. In addition, the order prohibits misrepresentations of the actual experience of any user or endorser and requires clear and prominent disclosure of any relationship that would materially affect the weight or credibility given to a user testimonial or endorsement. Finally, Robert Chinery and RTC cannot use their settlement with the Commission as a basis for seeking a cash refund of Xenadrine EFX-related income taxes that they previously reported as paid.
CortiSlim and CortiStress
The seven marketers of CortiSlim and CortiStress will surrender, in total, assets worth at least $12 million to settle FTC charges that they made false and unsubstantiated claims that their products can cause weight loss and reduce the risk of, or prevent, serious health conditions. In the final three settlement agreements announced today, the FTC will recover $8.4 million in cash, along with proceeds from the sale of a residence acquired with CortiSlim profits. The settlements also require the two individual defendants to liquidate tax shelters and transfer to the Commission any funds that remain after paying taxes and penalties. In two earlier settlement agreements, the defendants turned over $1.5 million in cash, a boat, a truck, a real estate interest, and proceeds from a tax shelter. The funds recovered from the seven defendants will be used for consumer redress.
The advertising campaign for CortiSlim ran nationwide, including ads on broadcast and cable television, radio, print media, and the Internet. The FTC’s complaint alleged that advertising claims about CortiSlim’s ability to cause rapid, substantial, and permanent weight loss in all users were false or unsubstantiated, as were claims about CortiStress’s ability to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The FTC also alleged that CortiSlim and CortiStress infomercials were deceptively formatted to appear as talk shows rather than advertisements.
The final settlements announced today are with Stephen F. Cheng and his company, Window Rock Enterprises, Inc., and with Gregory S. Cynaumon and his company, Infinity Advertising, Inc. All of the settlements bar misrepresentations of any tests or studies and prohibit claims about the performance, effects on weight, or other health benefits of any dietary supplement, food, drug, cosmetic, or device unless the claims are true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The stipulated orders prohibit the use of deceptively formatted television and radio advertisements. In addition, the defendants cannot use their settlement with the Commission as a basis for seeking a cash refund of income taxes that they reported as paid.
The marketers of TrimSpa will pay $1.5 million to settle FTC allegations that their weight-loss claims were unsubstantiated. According to the FTC’s complaint, the marketers had inadequate scientific evidence to support their advertising claims that TrimSpa causes rapid and substantial weight loss and that one of its ingredients, Hoodia gordonii, enables users to lose substantial amounts of weight by suppressing appetite.
Many ads for “TrimSpa Completely Ephedra Free Formula X32” featured testimonials. Celebrity Anna Nicole Smith claimed to have lost 69 pounds in eight months by using TrimSpa.
Other advertising claims included “Your high speed dream body diet pill” and “It makes losing 30, 50, even 70 pounds (or however many pounds you need to lose) painless.”
TrimSpa ads appeared on television, in magazines, on radio, and in local newspapers. TrimSpa was also promoted on a Web site, at some NASCAR events, and other live events.
The FTC consent agreement requires TrimSpa’s marketers – Goen Technologies Corp., Nutramerica Corp., TrimSpa, Inc., and Alexander Szynalski, also known as Alexander Goen – to pay $1.5 million. The agreement also prohibits the marketers from making any claims about the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of TrimSpa, Hoodia gordonii, or any dietary supplement, food, drug, or health-related service or program, unless the claims are true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The Bayer Corporation will pay a $3.2 million civil penalty to settle FTC allegations that advertisements for One-A-Day WeightSmart multivitamins violated an earlier Commission order requiring all health claims for One-A-Day brand vitamins to be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Bayer ran a national advertising campaign for One-A-Day WeightSmart, which contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a green tea extract. Bayer also advertised on television, radio, and the Internet, and in newspapers and magazines, such as RedBook, Family Circle, and TV Guide
Advertising claims included statements such as:
“Just in! Most women over 30 can gain 10 pounds a decade, due in part to slowing metabolism.… So eat right, exercise, and take One-A-Day WeightSmart. The complete multi-vitamin with EGCG to enhance metabolism.”
“One-A-Day WeightSmart. The first and only complete multivitamin with an ingredient to enhance your metabolism. EGCG, a natural green tea extract, to help you while you manage your weight.”
The complaint alleges that Bayer Corporation marketed One-A-Day WeightSmart with unsubstantiated claims that it
- increases metabolism;
- enhances metabolism through its EGCG content;
- helps prevent some of the weight gain associated with a decline in metabolism in users over age 30; and
- helps users control their weight by enhancing their metabolism.
The FTC alleges that these unsubstantiated claims violate a 1991 Commission order against Bayer’s predecessor, Miles Inc., that require all claims about the benefits of One-A-Day brand products to be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
In addition to the $3.2 million civil penalty, Bayer is prohibited from violating the FTC order and from making unsubstantiated representations regarding the benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any dietary supplement, multivitamin, or weight-control product.
The FTC acknowledges the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus for its referrals of some of these cases.
The Commission vote to accept the Bayer settlement was 5-0. At the Commission’s request, the Department of Justice filed the complaint and proposed consent decree on January 3, 2007, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
The Commission vote to accept the TrimSpa consent agreement, subject to public comment, was 4-0, with Commissioner Rosch recused. The FTC will publish an announcement regarding the agreement in the Federal Register. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and ending February 5, 2007. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC requests that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.
The Commission votes to authorize staff to file the CortiSlim stipulated final orders were both 5-0. The stipulated final orders for permanent injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on October 3, 2006 for Stephen Cheng and Window Rock Enterprises, Inc. and on January 3, 2007 for Gregory Cynaumon and Infinity Advertising, Inc.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the Xenadrine EFX stipulated final order was 5-0. The stipulated final order for permanent injunction was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on December 26, 2006.
NOTE: The proposed consent decree and the stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute admissions by the settling defendants of law violations. They are subject to court approval and have the force of law when signed by the judge. Likewise, the administrative consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent agreement on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the documents for these cases are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov . The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.