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U.S. Senate hopeful Sharp, a Democrat, backs VA Hospital plan for the Valley filed by Rep. Flores - Titans of the Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Committee has met and approved Private Pedro Cano of Edinburg as the posthumous recipient of the state’s highest military decoration. "I am pleased to report that the committee has made the formal selection of Pedro Cano to be the Legislative Medal of Honor recipient for the 81st legislative session," said Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg. "Pedro Cano’s heroism will always speak for him but the testimony given by our local veterans and the Cano family was instrumental in moving the committee’s formal nomination." Peña is the author of HCR 5 which would posthumously confer the Legislative Medal of Honor to the World War II hero. Members of the nominating committee are: Texas Adjutant General José Mayorga; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Speaker of the House Joe Straus; Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, who is chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee; and Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, who is chair of the House Defense & Veterans’ Affairs Committee. After review of testimony and evidence, Mayorga made the motion for the nomination of Pedro Cano. Cano was not the only candidate up for consideration at the hearing held on Friday, May 15. HCR 5 is a step away from being approved, with the Senate scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter on Wednesday, May 20, with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, serving as the Senate sponsor. Cano received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, for his heroism in WWII. Cano would be the second recipient from Edinburg to receive Texas’ highest military decoration. In 2007, Peña passed legislation posthumously conferring the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Freddy González, also of Edinburg. González was a Marine sergeant, killed in Vietnam, who was posthumously bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor.  


U.S. Senate hopeful Sharp, a Democrat, backs VA Hospital plan for the Valley filed by Rep. Flores - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, recently greeted a Rio Grande Valley delegation of veterans visiting the Austin Capitol to voice support for their issues, including a Veterans Hospital in the area. "The federal government received a clear message from the Texas Legislature that the Rio Grande Valley needs a hospital for veterans of South Texas," said Peña. "I offer my sincere appreciation to those veterans who traveled to Austin to testify on this legislation and to Sen. Lucio for his work on this issue. Together we are going to get this hospital built. "Featured, front row, from left: Ruben Cantú, Chapter 21 Commander, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), of Harlingen; Sen. Lucio; Rep. Peña; Emilio De Los Santos, Director, Hidalgo County Veterans Department, of Edinburg; Olie Pope, Veterans Service Officer, of Austin; and José A. Leal, Incoming Commander, DAV Chapter 121, of Harlingen. Center row, from left: Homer Gallegos, VFW Post 8788 Commander, of McAllen; and Rey Oropez, Assistant Veterans Service Officer, of Edinburg. Top row, from left: Mike Escobedo, America’s Last Patrol, of Donna; Antonio Arenas, VFW Post 8788, of McAllen; and Nicanoor R. Chávez, American Legion, of Raymondville. See story later in this posting. 


U.S. Senate hopeful Sharp, a Democrat, backs VA Hospital plan for the Valley filed by Rep. Flores - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, recently honored participants of the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run in Austin with a Senate Resolution honoring the yearly event and all Vietnam Veterans. Lucio presented Senate Resolution 863 that recognizes the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run held annually in March to pay tribute to Vietnam Veterans and their return home. "When I returned stateside, I recall that our military flight plane was forced to divert from its intended airport in California to Washington state due to anti-war protests at the original site," said Daniel D. Piñeda of Mercedes, a combat veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam in 1969. "Once back home in the Valley, for the most part, I, like most other Vietnam veterans, was shunned by the general public. There were no expressions of ‘welcome home soldier’ or anything of the sort." Piñeda explained that the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run "serves to help the Vietnam veterans who were never welcomed home decades ago, but rather, if you would, just swept under the rug. As we ride from town to town in Texas along U.S. Highway 83, we see people, complete strangers, lined up cheering, waving and shouting ‘welcome home.’  It’s the patriotic display of our nation’s people honoring its forgotten veterans." Featured, front row, from left: Marietta Johnston of Junction: Alex Armendáriz of Pflugerville; Brent Jackson, founder of the Run, of Wolfforth; Richard Scibek of Houston; and Hazel Webb of Slaton. Back row, from left: Keeton Johnston of Junction; Mr. and Mrs. Pablo Aguillón of Crystal City; Sen. Lucio; Stephen Arthur of Amarillo; Brenda Jackson, co-founder of the Run, of Wolfforth; Kim Felix of Austin; Lester Nye of Granbury; Chuck Bayes of Houston; and Woody Webb, of Slaton. See story later in this posting.


U.S. Senate hopeful Sharp, a Democrat, backs VA Hospital plan for the Valley filed by Rep. Flores - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, featured left, accepts the "Leadership Award", bestowed by The Rio Grande Council, Boy Scouts of America, from his mentor, former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, who is accompanied by Ernesto Carballo, Scout Executive and CEO for the Rio Grande Council, Boy Scouts of America. The public ceremony was part of a fundraiser dinner for scouting in deep South Texas. The event, which was part of the scouts’ national Centennial Celebration, was held on Thursday, May 14, at The Club at Cimmaron. The successful gathering helped raise about $50,000 for Valley scouting efforts. The “Leadership Award” has been designated by the Rio Grande Council, BSA as an award to be presented to a civic, community, or business leader who has demonstrated patriotism, leadership, and service at a local, state, or national level. Sharp, who served as the keynote speaker, later said he said Valley hopes for a Veterans Administration Hospital would be greatly improved if Texas had at least one Democratic U.S. senator in Washington. Sharp is an announced Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is expected to vacate her seat in the coming months in order to campaign for governor in the March 2010 Republican Party primary. See lead story on Sharp’s support for a state-federal partnership to build Valley VA Hospital, as envisioned by state legislation by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, and how Sharp says he can make a difference on that goal in securing federal funding because of his Democratic Party affiliation. 


U.S. Senate hopeful Sharp, a Democrat, backs VA Hospital plan for the Valley filed by Rep. Flores


U.S. Senate hopeful John Sharp on Thursday, May 14, said the Valley’s hopes for securing a full-fledged Veterans Administration Hospital would be more quickly achieved if Texas elects a Democrat, specifically him, to succeed incumbent Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. 

Hutchison has announced her intention to vacate her office – most likely in the coming months – in order to seek the Republican Party nomination in March 2010 for governor. 

Sharp, who was in Mission that evening to help raise money for the Rio Grande Valley Council, Boys Scouts of America and to honor Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, said Texas and the Valley would continue losing out on major federal initiatives – such as a VA Hospital for deep South Texas – because Democrats in the U.S. Senate aren’t about to help their Republican rivals look good. 

"If the U.S. Senate, which is now controlled by Democrats, are going to be having (private) meetings about I-69, about federal funding for a port facility in Brownsville, about UT-Pan American, about a Valley VA Hospital, Texas currently has nobody in that room, because (Sen.) John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Kay Hutchison are not invited any more than Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) when Republicans held power," said Sharp. 

Sharp said he has been closely watching impressive efforts at the Texas Capitol by the Valley’s legislative delegation to bring a VA Hospital to the Valley, including a plan by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, that would require Texas to begin negotiations with the Veterans Administration to bring the long sought-after military health center to the border region. 

For the first time, under Flores’ plan, Texas government would be required to invest key resources, including financial support, to help bring a VA Hospital to the Rio Grande Valley. 

Flores envisions a partnership where the state government provides the site and pays for the construction of a VA Hospital, and the U.S. Veterans Administration operates and maintains the medical complex. 

Flores’ measure, House Bill 2217, was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, April 23, and is currently working its way through the state Senate. 

But the Valley’s state legislators and its congressional delegation – all Democrats – are being hurt in this effort because Texas has no Democratic U.S. senator, said Sharp. 

"Right now, we have Democratic congressman who are taking care of this issue in the House of Representatives, but when it gets to the U.S. Senate, there is nobody in the room for us because the room is only Democrat. That’s just the way the system works," Sharp said. "Kay Hutchison and John Cornyn aren’t in that room, so they can’t lobby for us." 

If the Valley helps elect him as the first Democratic U.S. senator from Texas since Sen. Lloyd Bensten, who served from 1971 to 1993, that would mean "everything" for the Valley’s hopes for the VA hospital, said Sharp. 

"Let’s face it, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, whether you like it or not, Democrats run the U.S. Senate right now. Kay Hutchison and John Cornyn can be as supportive as they can, but that support means nothing if you can’t get in that room, and they aren’t invited," Sharp said. "We need a Democratic U.S. senator who can get in that room, and make it happen. 

Sharp, who as Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for eight years is credited with saving Texas taxpayers more than $8 billion and helped divert a state income tax, said as U.S. senator, one of his top priorities would be to move rapidly to balance the federal government’s budget. 

On April 11, the White House predicted that the U.S. budget deficit – brought about by the national recession, large taxpayer funded bailouts to banks, and other economic calamities that Democrats say were inherited from the Bush Administration – would reach $1.8 trillion. 

"We have to balance the budget, and figure out how to do it or we are going to ruin the economic system that built this country for our young people," said Sharp, who noted that a VA Hospital in the Valley would be a financial, as well as literal life saver for thousands of South Texans. 

The Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio, which at more than 250 miles from the Valley, is the closest VA hospital for thousands of area veterans. 

"Having a VA Hospital down here would save money, as opposed to all of the machinations involved in getting someone to San Antonio," Sharp said. 


UT medical school plan for Valley earns final approval from Legislature, says Rep. Martínez


A sweeping plan to create a University of Texas health science center for the Rio Grande Valley, which will feature a full-fledged medical school to help meet the growing demand for doctors in the border region, on Friday, May 15, received final legislative approval. 

It still needs Gov. Rick Perry to sign the measure into law, but given that the legislation was unanimously approved by both the House and Senate, the governor’s final blessing is confidently expected by area lawmakers. 

"This historic decision by the House is a huge victory for South Texas," said Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, one of the main House sponsors of the legislation, Senate Bill 98. "Our new health science center will not only be a state-of-the-art network of sophisticated, life-giving medical education and health care, it will be a giant economic development engine for South Texas." 

The nearest health science center – the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio – has forever improved the lot of the almost 1.7 million residents in Bexar County, he noted, predicting the same results for the Rio Grande Valley. 

Currently, the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio contributes nearly $1.3 billion to that region’s economy, has been a chief catalyst for the $16.3 billion biosciences and health industry in San Antonio, and is responsible for more than 12,000 jobs both on and off its campus, according to UT officials. 

"Those numbers are staggering, and that is what we have set in motion for current and future generations of Rio Grande Valley residents," Martínez said.  

Since such a dramatic transformation of the RAHCs networks may involve an estimated $100 million in financing within the next decade – plus securing vital accreditations with the state and federal governments – the legislation gives the UT System six years to get the Valley medical school’s academic and financial affairs in order.  

The new medical education system, officially designated as The University of Texas Health Science Center—South Texas, will represent a major upgrade and consolidation of the three UT Regional Academic Health Centers, more commonly known as RAHCs, including the biomedical research component in Edinburg. 

The existing RAHCs will serve as anchor sites for the new South Texas new health science center.

The Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville RACHs, whose creation was first authorized in 1997 under legislation authored by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and then-Rep. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, are essentially branch campuses of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and the UT Health Science Center at Houston. 

(RAHC is the most familiar acronym for the area’s three Regional Academic Health Centers. An acronym is a word formed from the first letter of several words in a name.) 

Edinburg medical school option remains 

The Mid-Valley lawmaker noted that the legislation keeps the option to offer medical school education in Hidalgo County at the Edinburg RAHC – formally known as  The Regional Academic Health Center (E-RAHC), Medical Research Division for The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in Edinburg. 

"Earlier this spring, Valley legislative leaders were informed that the RAHC in Edinburg, which currently focuses on advanced biomedical research, has the physical infrastructure in place so that it can be significantly enlarged in order to provide the first two years of the traditional four-year medical school education," Martínez said. "This would make the presence of a UT medical school, and the advanced academic and medical resources it would represent, even more accessible to the people of Hidalgo and Starr counties."  

Hinojosa, who along with Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is a co-author of SB 98, shares Martínez’ vision for the Edinburg biomedical research campus. 

"The Edinburg RAHC is well-positioned to not only produce biomedical scientists, who focus on cutting-edge medical research, but also to provide, with the assistance from UT Pan American, the first two years of a medical student’s education," Hinojosa would later say. "In combination with the outstanding resources of the RAHC in Harlingen, which provides the third and fourth years of a medical student’s education – and medical residency programs – the Edinburg RAHC can expand to provide the first two years of medical education, effectively creating a full-fledged UT medical school for the Valley."

On April 4, 

Dr. Slaga laid out blueprint  

On Wednesday, March 4, Thomas J. Slaga, Ph.D., the interim director of the E-RAHC – provided an expert overview on how the local facility could be converted into a medical school.  

During a comprehensive update about the E-RAHC before the city-council appointed Edinburg Community/Health Medical Care Advisory Committee, he laid out a blueprint for bringing a major medical school component to the three-time All-America City.  It would involve enlarging the E-RAHC, which currently features 12 state-of-the-art laboratories with sophisticated technology.  

"I know you have seen the building from outside. Probably by this time next year, this facility will have all the labs occupied, and I estimate by next year the total number of people here will be between 80 and 100," Slaga told the medical advisory panel. "What we are trying to do is get the state to build the other part of this, which will be another 60,000 to 70,000 square-feet."  

The buildup could continue, with help from the Texas Legislature, the UT System, and other resources, including from the Edinburg Community Health/Medical Care Advisory Committee, Slaga added.  

Once the E-RAHC is enlarged by the additional 60,000 to 70,000 square-feet, the current site could still handle another 120,000 square-feet of laboratory and classroom facilities, dramatically transforming the existing facility into a 250,000 square-foot medical education complex, he said.

"Eventually, this will be the basis for the first two years of a medical school," Slaga envisioned. 

In general, medical school students in the United States spend their first two years predominantly in the classroom and laboratory, and the last two years mostly in the hospital, according to, an Internet-based educational website. Also, according to, the classes in medical school vary from place to place, but there are some that everyone takes in their first two years, no matter where they are. The amount of lab work varies from class to class and school to school, although some classes (like gross anatomy) feature as much lab work as students have time for.  

Bill Analysis 

A digest of the legislation, prepared by the research arm of the House of Representatives – The House Research Organization – includes the following highlights: 

Senate Bill 98 would authorize the board of regents of the University of Texas  System to establish the University of Texas Health Science Center-South  Texas within The University of Texas System, with its main campus and  administrative offices in Cameron County. The bill would authorize the  transition of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) to the University of Texas Health Science Center-South  Texas (UTHSC-South Texas), to be a component institution of the  University of Texas System.      

The health science center would consist of a medical school — The  University of Texas Medical School – South Texas, which would offer  degree programs in medicine and other health-related programs — and  other facilities. The board of regents would be authorized to include  facilities located in Bee, Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Starr, Willacy, Jim Wells, and Zapata counties to operate programs and  related activities.      

UTSCH-South Texas would be eligible to participate in the AUF if the bill  received a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. It would also be eligible for  funding from the Permanent Health Fund for Higher Education. Tuition  revenue bonds authorized for the RAHC would be transferred to UTHSCSouth Texas.      

The UT board of regents would be authorized to make joint appointments  in the health science center, its component institutions, and other  institutions under the board‘s governance; to accept gifts and grants; and  to enter into agreements under which additional facilities used for teaching  and research could be provided by public or private entities. A teaching  hospital provided by a public or private entity would be authorized, but  could not be constructed, maintained, or operated with state funds.      

Establishing the health science center would be subject to available  funding, either through appropriations or other sources. No funds for a  state fiscal biennium ending on or before August 31, 2015, could be  appropriated for establishing the health science center.  

The bill would require that UTHSC-South Texas be subject to the continuing supervision of THECB and related rules be adopted.      


Legislature approves Martínez/Nelson measure to boost medical services for uninsured Texans

A state program designed to help non-profit organizations, including numerous Valley groups, to provide affordable, high-quality medical care to thousands of uninsured residents in Texas has been approved by the Texas Legislature and is on the way to the governor for his approval. 

Senate Bill 526, sponsored by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, will also help reduce the number of medical patients from having to use much-more expensive hospital emergency room services. 

SB 526, whose Senate author is Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would authorize the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to continue a successful, multi-million dollar seed funding program that helps local community health centers – known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) – to obtain significantly-larger federal grants. 

Martínez said he carried the legislation because the state program which provides the seed-money to attract matching federal funds, and the local government and non-profit agencies which serve uninsured and low-income Texans, have proven themselves over the years. 

Plus, local taxpayers also benefit from continuing the state’s involvement with Federally Qualified Health Centers, he added. 

"The high number of uninsured threatens the financial viability of local  health-care systems," Martínez explained. "FQHCs treat people without insurance and help relieve the burden on emergency rooms in terms of both service levels and  uncompensated care costs." 

The legislation will have statewide impact, including in deep South Texas, where dozens of clinic sites are operated by area non-profit organizations which are classified as Federally Qualified Health Centers. 

Nuestra Clinica del Valle, which has offices in McAllen, Edinburg, Alton, Donna, Mercedes, San Juan, Edcouch and Mercedes, the Brownsville Community Health Clinic, and the Community Action Council of South Texas, which serves Starr and Willacy counties, are among the Federally Qualified Health Centers based in the Rio Grande Valley. 

The Martínez/Nelson legislation was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday, May 11, and approved by the Senate on Thursday, May 14. 

The grants reauthorized by the Nelson/Martínez bill would help local community  health centers build the infrastructure needed to obtain federal grants. For  those centers that do not receive federal grants following receipt of a startup grant, SB 526 would allow DSHS to make grants to support new  or expanded services at facilities qualified to be FQHCs.  

"The grant process is competitive, and Texas must fight for limited funding with applicants  from other states," said Martínez. "The continued investment in expanding services at  certain health centers would ensure that Texas could benefit from more facilities receiving federal grant money."    

The need to help current FQHCs and encourage the creation of new ones in Texas is significant, he said, noting that more than 200 Texas counties are designated as medically underserved areas.    

FQHCs provide health care services not only to low-income and uninsured residents, but also to families in communities which are designated as medically underserved communities.   

The 78th Legislature, Regular Session, 2003, enacted SB 610 directing the Department of State Health Services to create the federally qualified health center incubator program to make grants to establish new or expand existing facilities that can qualify as federally qualified health centers.  Set to expire in September, that bill would do away with that deadline.

According to the The Texas Association of Community Health Centers, a lobby group for Federally Qualified Health Centers:

FQHC is a federal designation from the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that is assigned to private non-profit or public health care organizations that serve predominantly uninsured or medically underserved populations.

FQHCs are located in or serving a Federally designated Medically Underserved Area/Population (MUA or MUP).

All FQHCs must operate under a consumer Board of Directors governance structure, and provide comprehensive primary health, oral, and mental health/substance abuse services to persons in all stages of the life cycle. FQHCs provide their services to all persons regardless of ability to pay, and charge for services on a Board approved sliding-fee scale that is based on patients’ family income and size. FQHCs must comply with Section 330 program expectations/requirements and all applicable federal and state regulations. 


Sen. Lucio passes House resolution petitioning Congress for U.S. veterans hospital for the Valley


On Wednesday, May 6, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, passed House Concurrent Resolution 86 he carried for Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, in the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee after it passed out of the House of Representatives urging Congress to support the establishment of a Veterans Hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. 

"While a large number of veterans’ medical needs can be handled in our Valley hospitals, the Valley Baptist Health System in Cameron and the South Texas Health System in Hidalgo, plus our two outpatient facilities in Harlingen and McAllen, we still need a hospital to fully meet the needs of our more than 100,000 veterans," said Lucio. 

He explained that when veterans require procedures like organ transplants, bone marrow transplants and chemosurgery, they must travel to the Audie Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio, a five-hour trip that is especially difficult for those who are very ill, aging and of limited resources. 

"The medical personnel at mainstream hospitals and facilities usually lack the necessary expertise in treating the injuries and psychological trauma sustained by combat veterans," he added. "Veteran Valley residents, Winter Texan veterans and U.S. veterans who reside in Mexico comprise the Valley’s veteran population. All of them deserve and need a fully staffed, full-service veterans hospital." 

Peña said the symbolism of the legislative resolution was significant. 

"The federal government received a clear message from the Texas Legislature that the Rio Grande Valley needs a hospital for veterans of South Texas," said Peña. "I offer my sincere appreciation to those veterans who traveled to Austin to testify on this legislation and to Sen. Lucio for his work on this issue. Together we are going to get this hospital built. 

A group of Valley veterans attended the hearing, including Homer Gallegos, chairman, Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley, and Emilio De Los Santos, director, Hidalgo County Veterans Services. Both men testified for HCR 86. 


Congressman Hinojosa votes to "green" schools, create new jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil 


Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Thursday, May 14, voted in favor of legislation that will improve public schools, create clean energy jobs, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and lower energy costs for taxpayers. The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act passed by the House will invest in American schools in order to boost the national economy now and help prepare U.S. children for the jobs of the future. 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed this legislation to modernize, upgrade, and green America’s schools by a vote of 275 to 155. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration. 

Hinojosa praised the bill: “Our schools should be safe and healthy learning environments for our children. This bill gives us a chance to upgrade our school buildings and boost student achievement while creating good local jobs in new, clean energy industries.” 

The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act authorizes over $6 billion in federal funds to upgrade school buildings to make them more energy efficient and more reliant on renewable sources of energy. If fully funded, Texas will receive approximately $620,820,000 in funding; approximately $53 million would be going to schools in the 15th congressional district. The bill also generates long-term savings for schools by reducing energy expenses. Green schools reduce pollution by using about 30% less water and energy than conventional schools, and emit almost 40% less harmful carbon dioxide. 

The bill encourages energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools by: 

  • Requiring the majority of funds (100 percent by 2015) to be used for projects that meet green building standards; 
  • Allowing states to reserve one percent of funds to administer the program and to develop a plan a statewide database of school facilities, including their modernization and repair needs, energy use, carbon footprints, and an energy efficiency quality plan; 
  • Requiring school districts to publicly report the educational, energy and environmental benefits of projects, how they comply with the green building requirements, and the percentage of funds used for projects at low-income, rural and charter schools; 
  • Requiring the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to disseminate best practices in school construction and to provide technical assistance to states and school districts regarding best practices. 

“This is exactly the kind of smart legislation we need to get out of this economic crisis,” explained  Hinojosa. “This bill saves money for our schools, creates jobs and gets us closer to our goal of providing every child with a world class education by giving more students and teachers a safe, environmentally-friendly learning environment. At the same time, it modernizes our schools and prepares our workers for a new, clean American energy economy.” 

According to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute, this legislation’s construction funding would support as many as 136,000 new jobs – many in areas that will give workers the valuable skills they need to excel in a clean energy economy. 

“Schools in South Texas are hundreds of billions of dollars short of the funding needed to bring them up to good condition,” said Hinojosa. “Our children deserve schools of the highest quality to ensure they have a healthy and stimulating learning environment.  The legislation we passed today provides the necessary funds to build the kind of safe, healthy, clean schools that will prepare our students for the 21st century.” 


Senate gives tentative approval to higher green energy standards, places limits on eminent domain


Texas would continue to add to its lead in renewable energy under a bill given tentative passage by the Senate on Monday, May 11. Senate Bill 541 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would increase the amount of wind generated energy in Texas over the next decade, and would also encourage the development of other forms of renewable energy, like solar, geothermal and biomass generation.  

"Texas has the sun, the wind, the people and the demand," said Watson, referring to a statement by a solar generation company. "This is where [the renewable energy industry] wants to be if there is a long term commitment." 

The bill would create two tiers of green energy standards in the state.  

Tier 1 generally refers to large scale wind farms, already found throughout west Texas. Tier 2 energy generation would refer to wind generation under 150 kilowatts, in addition to biomass, solar, and geothermal energy. The bill would increase the goal of tier 1 renewable energy capacity by 5000 megawatts by 2015, and 10,000 megawatts by 2025. The goals for tier 2 generation are more modest, 1500 megawatts by 2020. 

Utilities that are required to purchase renewable energy could elect to pay an alternative fee rather than generating tier 1 or tier 2 energy. This fee would go toward the solar rebate program passed by the Senate earlier this year. The bill would also give the Public Utilities Commission flexibility to end the program if it isn’t working by 2016. In that event, alternative payments made under the program go for rebates on residential and industrial electric bills. The bill will likely see a final vote later in the week. 

Another bill passed by the Senate would give voters the choice to limit the power of eminent domain. Senate Concurrent Resolution 42, by Duncan, would propose a constitutional amendment, for the November ballot, that would prevent the taking of private land for the purposes of economic development or increased tax revenue. That measure now heads to the House for further consideration. 

Two measures that could affect many Texas drivers and their passengers also were approved by the Senate last week.  

The first, SB 1317 by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, would require first time driver’s license applicants aged 18-20 to take a driver’s education course before they could be licensed. Current law requires a written and a driving test, but Wentworth says that people who haven’t taken an education course are among the riskiest drivers. He added the course can be taken at one of 300 approved instruction sites, or online, and the course takes about 6 hours and costs less than $40. 

The second measure would require everyone riding in a car to buckle up, not just the driver or front seat passengers. Current law requires that anyone aged under 15 that is in a seat with a seatbelt use it, but SB 1028 by Watson would extend that requirement to passengers of all ages. If the bill becomes law, Texas would join 35 other states in requiring all passengers to wear a seatbelt. 

Other bills passed by the Senate last week include: 

– SB 2573, by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would require all state entities currently engaged in biomedical research to report to the Legislature on any research involving stem cells or human cloning, 

– House Bill 205, sponsored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, would exempt farm guard dogs from leash laws, 

• HB 1510, sponsored by Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Port, which seeks to educate new parents about the risks of sudden infant death syndrome. 


Edinburg schools to receive more than $7 million from U.S. education bill, says Congressman Cuellar


Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, May 14, joined a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which makes critical investments to modernize, upgrade, and repair school facilities across the country.   

The bill authorizes an estimated $569 million in new funding for Texas schools, including $46.6 million for school districts in Hidalgo County, and more than $7 million to the Edinburg school district. 

These are estimates only based on available and current data, and may not reflect the exact allocations that school districts will receive. The legislation will now head to the U.S. Senate for further action. 

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of $46.6 million to our local schools and our area economy,” said Cuellar. “Not only will this investment create jobs right away, but it will resonate for years to come as Hidalgo County children grow into better-educated, more productive adults.” 

The legislation authorizes $6.4 billion for school facilities projects for FY 2010 to create healthier, safer, and more energy-efficient teaching and learning climates. Research has demonstrated that better school facilities result in improved student achievement and teacher recruitment and retention: 40 percent of teachers who transferred schools and 39 percent who left teaching cited the need for significant school repairs as a source of their dissatisfaction. 

Also included in the bill are two provisions authored by Cuellar. 

The first, coauthored with Congressman Bobby Bright of Alabama, would set aside five percent of the bill’s overall funding – about $320 million – for areas recovering from a natural disaster or suffering severe economic distress. 

“As the chairman of the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee, I’ve seen firsthand how challenging it can be for local governments to rebuild and repair schools after a natural disaster,” Cuellar said. “No bill can erase the pain and suffering caused by a natural disaster, but this provision will at least ensure that students in disaster areas always have a decent place to learn.” 

Cuellar’s second amendment, a bipartisan provision coauthored with Congressman Phil Roe of Tennessee, will study the impact of the bill’s repair and modernization efforts on student performance. 

“This amendment provides for an ongoing, in-depth examination of which specific school improvements produce concrete gains in student achievement,” Congressman Cuellar explained.  “It will provide a roadmap for future spending to ensure that education dollars are invested as efficiently and effectively as possible.” 

Detailed estimates of the bill’s impact in Hidalgo County are as follows: 

  • Donna ISD: $4,473,000     
  • Edcouch-Elsa ISD: $1,856,000     
  • Edinburg ISD: $7,027,000    
  • Hidalgo ISD: $981,000
  • La Joya ISD: $7,296,000     
  • La Villa ISD: $237,000
  • McAllen ISD: $4,823,000     
  • Mercedes ISD: $1,657,000     
  • Mission ISD: $3,938,000     
  • Monte Alto ISD: $228,000
  • Pharr/San Juan/Alamo ISD: $6,771,000     
  • Progresso ISD: $694,000
  • Sharyland ISD: $752,000
  • Valley View ISD: $854,000
  • Weslaco ISD: $4,988,000       

Henry Cuellar is a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Government Oversight & Reform Committees in the 111th Congress. Accessibility to constituents, education, health care, economic development, and national security are his priorities.  Cuellar is also a Senior Whip and member of the Blue Dog Coalition. 


Sen. Lucio honors Vietnam Veterans and the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run


On Thursday, May 7, the Texas Senate joined Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, in honoring Vietnam War Veterans who never received a proper welcome when they returned home. 

Lucio presented Senate Resolution 863 that recognizes the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run held annually in March to pay tribute to Vietnam Veterans and their return home. 

"Our Texas Vietnam Veterans deserve respect for their service, and I am pleased to honor their service and give them a true hero’s welcome home," said Lucio. "They laid their lives on the line just as every American soldier in war has." 

Also known as the Welcome Home Run, the event was established in 2003 to give Texas Vietnam War veterans the appropriate welcome they deserved when they returned many years ago but in most cases, never received. 

"When I returned stateside, I recall that our military flight plane was forced to divert from its intended airport in California to Washington state due to anti-war protests at the original site," said Daniel D. Piñeda of Mercedes, a combat veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam in 1969. "Once back home in the Valley, for the most part, I, like most other Vietnam veterans, was shunned by the general public. There were no expressions of ‘welcome home soldier’ or anything of the sort." 

Piñeda explained that the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run "serves to help the Vietnam veterans who were never welcomed home decades ago, but rather, if you would, just swept under the rug. As we ride from town to town in Texas along U.S. Highway 83, we see people, complete strangers, lined up cheering, waving and shouting ‘welcome home.’  It’s the patriotic display of our nation’s people honoring its forgotten veterans." 

The riders follow the Texas Vietnam Veterans Highway, which is the portion of U.S. Highway 83 in Texas and extends from the Oklahoma state line at the top of the Texas Panhandle to Brownsville. The Run began with five riders and this year 106 participated.  

"I have been riding in the Welcome Home Run for the past five years," Piñeda added. "In 2005 and 2006, I was able to do only part of the run. However, each year since 2007, I have ridden the entire distance from the start of the run in Perryton, Texas all the way to Brownsville." 

The riders are welcomed by speeches, handshakes, meals and prayers unlike upon their initial return home from serving their country. Calling it a healing process, Piñeda added that the event is about "veterans bonding with other veterans, being welcomed by the different civic, church and service organizations in many Texas towns along the route of the run. There is a tremendous sense of pride knowing that so many people go out of their way to acknowledge that America’s veterans are truly appreciated." 

Brent Jackson of Wolfforth, founder of the Welcome Home Run, also extended his appreciation to the war veterans. 

"Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I am a child of the Vietnam era," said Jackson. "I am forever grateful to those who did serve and especially to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We will work hard to see that they are never forgotten."  


Rep. Gonzáles’ plan for border region economic development think-tank approved by Texas House


The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 12, unanimously passed House Bill 4067 by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, that would create the Bureau for Economic Development of the Border Region, a public-private partnership geared at spurring the economy of the Texas and Mexico border. 

Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, and formerly of Mercedes, are joint authors of the Gonzáles measure. 

"The border region is an economic driver of the state of Texas, and we need to capitalize on all the area has to offer," Gonzáles said. "The bureau will provide recommendations, direction and leadership to ensure our border communities make the best economic development decisions." 

St. Mary’s University in San Antonio has agreed to house the bureau that will research and study the border’s economy, evaluate tax-funded economic development projects and provide reports to state leaders on how to improve the economy, develop transportation infrastructure and improve trade. The bureau will consult with state agencies regarding border-related tourism and provide the legislature with reports on the region’s opportunities. It will also provide border residents economic and financial education. 

The bill creates an appointed seven member steering committee serving two-year terms that will provide expertise in education, financial planning, development, construction and engineering. The bureau will be funded through a combination of state money, federal grants and private funding. 

Three members would be appointed by St. Mary’s University administration, and one member appointed each by the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House.  

The remaining two members would be the chairperson of the House Committee on Border and Intergovernmental Affairs – which is currently Gonzáles – and the Senate committee to which border affairs are referred – which is currently Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. 

HB 4067 now heads to the Senate for consideration. 


Gov. Perry approves bill to helps journalists protect  confidential sources; law takes effect immediately

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, May 13, signed House Bill 670, which provides a qualified privilege to prevent journalists who receive a subpoena from having to testify or produce documents gathered while acting as a journalist. The bill also allows journalists to protect their sources in certain cases. 

“This was a complex issue that required thoughtful consideration, and I am pleased that lawmakers were able to strike a balance between protecting the rights of the people and the press,” Perry said. “I want to thank Rep. (Trey) Martínez Fischer (D-San Antonio) and Sen. (Rodney) Ellis (D-Houston) for their work on this bill.” 

Exceptions to the bill include instances when the requestors have proven that they have exhausted all reasonable efforts to get the information elsewhere, the subpoena does not ask for more than is necessary, and the interest in obtaining the information outweighs the public’s interest in protecting journalists. 

Journalists are also required to identify a confidential source in a criminal case if the source was observed by the journalist committing a felony, confessed to the journalist that he committed a felony, or if there is probable cause to believe that the confidential source committed a felony and the prosecutor has exhausted all efforts to obtain the source’s identity. The journalist could also be made to reveal the source if disclosure is necessary to prevent certain death or substantial bodily harm. 

This bill takes effect immediately. 


Honoring the memory, sacrifice of our fallen heroes


The fabric of Texas’ rich history is woven with legendary stories of sacrifice and remarkable acts of valor. From the battle of the Alamo, when Colonel William Barret Travis and his men stood their ground, declaring “no retreat, no surrender” and sacrificed all for the freedom of their nation – to the young men and women who are laying down their lives on foreign battlefields today – generation after generation, our state’s men and women have exhibited the indomitable Texas spirit of service and patriotism. 

Stretching back to the American Indian Wars, 70 Texans have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their heroic service. And many of them died earning that distinction. 

During World War II, a young B-24 pilot from Fort Worth named Horace Carswell was flying a single-craft mission to take out a convoy of Japanese ships in the South China Sea. After scoring direct hits on the target, Major Carswell’s aircraft was badly damaged. Through skillful flying, he kept the staggering bomber in the air long enough to make it to land so his crew could safely parachute onto the Chinese shore. Major Carswell and his copilot were killed in the crash landing, but through his courageous actions, the rest of his crew survived. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and Carswell Air Force Base outside of Fort Worth was named in his honor. 

Another Texan who made an indelible mark on our nation’s history is Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, a daring and fearless soldier in Vietnam from Cuero. Sergeant Benavidez and his soldiers were ambushed on a secret mission in Cambodia, and despite suffering a broken jaw, sustaining 37 bullet wounds, and being stabbed with a bayonet, he exposed himself repeatedly to enemy fire and carried gravely wounded soldiers in his arms to safety. He was so badly maimed that his commander nominated him for a Distinguished Service Cross award because the Army was afraid he wouldn’t survive long enough for the extensive Medal of Honor process to be completed. But he did survive, and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor. MSG Benavidez made service to his country his life’s work. A bust of MSG Benavidez is on display at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where it serves as a tribute to his life and an inspiration to future leaders. 

Preserving these legacies is critical, because, as President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” 

Today, a new generation of patriots is serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like many before them, some are paying for our freedom with their lives. In the early days of the war in Iraq, a 23-year-old Texan named James Kiehl was killed when his convoy was ambushed near al Nasiriya. His remains were brought home to Comfort, Texas, and on the day of his funeral something remarkable happened. Hundreds of men, women, and children from across the community lined the streets to honor their hometown hero and show support for his family as the funeral procession wound its way through the small town. He was one of the first Texans to lay down his life in combat. To date, more than 400 Texans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Many of today’s military heroes have not yet made it into the pages of history. But they are already solidifying a legacy of valorous service. Unlike many of the wars that were fought in previous generations, none of the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were drafted into service. Every single one of today’s soldiers stood and volunteered to go. If you ask one of our troops or the family of one of our fallen heroes why they volunteered, their responses are almost always rooted in patriotism and the desire to be a part of something greater than themselves. 

Every day, I think of those Texans who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I think about the loved ones who miss them. It is fitting for our nation to pause and remember them on Memorial Day. But to truly honor their service, we must always cherish liberty, work to keep America free and strong, espouse the values for which our troops have fought and died, and pass down their memory to future generations. 


UTPA to receive $25,000 grant to help recover costs from Hurricane Dolly, says Congressman Hinojosa


Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, announced Wednesday, May 13,  that the University of Texas – Pan American will be receiving a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of its Higher Education Disaster Relief Program.  The grant will enable the university to recover lost revenue resulting from when Hurricane Dolly made landfall in the Rio Grande Valley in July 2008. 

“The impact of Hurricane Dolly on the Valley is still seen today and I am glad that the University of Texas – Pan American has been awarded this grant from the Department of Education” said Hinojosa. "The Higher Education Disaster Relief Grants Program is in place precisely to help institutions like UTPA weather the storm when disaster strikes.” 

According to the Department of Health, The Higher Education Disaster Relief  Grants Program was developed to assist Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) that are located in areas affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods that occurred in 2008.  The program instructs that funds may only be used to defray the expenses incurred by IHEs that were forced to close, or relocate, or whose operations were impaired as a result of damage directly caused by such natural disasters. Funds may be used to cover lost revenue, reimburse expenses already incurred, and for construction.  They may also be used to provide grants to students who attend the IHE for academic years beginning after July 2008.  

Dr. Richard Costello, Director of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Texas Pan American added “Hurricane Dolly cost UTPA over $300,000; the result of direct damages to the buildings, the cancellation of some educational and athletic related camps, and expenses associated with the sheltering rescue groups such as the National Guard, and HEB who were on campus to assist the Valley wide hurricane recovery effort. The grant monies will be used to offset those expenses. The UTPA is pretty appreciative of these grant monies because it ultimately goes towards our primary mission – educating the Rio Grande Valley community.  A sincere thank you to Congressman Hinojosa.” 

Hinojosa concluded, “I want to thank the Department of Education for responding to the needs of The University of Texas – Pan American. I am confident that funds will be put to good use by helping the university recover from last year’s disaster and once again return to the all-important work of providing our community with a path towards educational success.”  


Pre-K programs increase students’ academic success


As the United Way says, "Learning knows no boundaries; children begin a lifetime of learning from their earliest moments." 

Quality pre-kindergarten programs encompass those "moments".  I am a strong proponent of teaching children as early as is deemed beneficial to improve their potential for academic success. 

Texas currently requires school districts to offer a half-day Pre-K program if at least 15 children in the district are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, homeless, previous or current foster care participants, or from military families. 

For the 2007-08 school year, 182,000 four-year-olds were enrolled in these programs, which is roughly 50 percent of the estimated 362,000 four-year-olds in the state. Although districts get state funding for the required half-day program, many offer full-day Pre-K or expand eligibility to additional children, without sufficient funding. They must raise the money locally or obtain grants, such as the Texas Education Agency’s Early Start Grant. Now revised rules are phasing out many previous recipients of the grant, while hundreds of districts that have never received the money will remain ineligible. 

This legislative session, I am co-authoring a bill by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and other fellow legislators – the House also introduced this proposal – that would provide state funds so districts can voluntarily expand pre-kindergarten programs to a full day for eligible four-year-olds. 

Besides providing funding, the bill’s intent is to require school districts to implement quality preschool standards that include class size ratios, highly qualified teachers, approved curriculum and school readiness components. 

As we approach the end of the 81st Legislative Session, both bills are undergoing the normal process and both are meeting opposition from those who disagree that public preschool programs could greatly minimize, and in some cases eliminate, academic failure for many students who start out as full-day pre-kindergarteners. This is flawed thinking. 

The 2009 report Leadership Matters: Governors’ Pre-K Budget Proposals FY10, by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center, reveals that these programs "prepare children to succeed in school, achieve higher levels of education, and become self-reliant citizens who earn more in adulthood and contribute to our national prosperity." 

That is what our legislation wants to accomplish in Texas. Also requiring our districts to partner with local Head Start or licensed child care providers, our bill would promote collaboration and build on existing high-quality early childhood programs in our communities, avoiding the need for additional pre-k facilities in most cases. While the Early Start Grant would focus on low-performing pre-k programs, our legislation would fund districts that are prepared to offer a high-quality program on a full-day basis. 

Texas would join the national trend. In its study, The State of Preschool 2008, the National Institute for Early Education Research noted that enrollment increased nationally by more than 108,000 children. Over 1.1 million children attended state-funded preschool education and 33 of the 38 states with state-funded programs increased enrollment. Funding for state pre-k from all reported sources exceeded $5.2 billion, an increase of nearly $1 billion (23 percent) over the previous year. 

However, the study also found that due to the economy and declining state revenues, "the immediate future of state-funded preschool is uncertain. In most states, expenditures on pre-k are entirely discretionary and therefore easier to cut than expenditures for K-12 education and other programs." 

Unlike the Early Start Grant that provides professional development and technical assistance to low-scoring schools for three to five years, our legislation would provide permanent funding for districts ready to expand their programs permanently. 

The future of our state demands that we expand, not cut, preschool education. A 2006 report by the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University indicates that every dollar invested in high-quality early education programs yields a return on investment of at least $3.50. 

The anti-crime organization, Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, declared in 2008 that participation in high-quality pre-kindergarten increases high school graduation rates by as much as 44 percent. Research shows that, compared with half-day pre-k, full-day quality programs are a significant factor in closing the educational achievement gap. 

Expanding enrollment and increasing the program to full-day, pre-kindergarten in Texas can save children from a lifetime of despair, poverty and even crime.  


Geraldo Rivera, Ysabel Durón and Juan Gonzáles to be inducted into Hispanic journalists’ Hall of Fame


Three enduring pioneers for equality and truth in storytelling will be inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Hall of Fame during the NAHJ Annual Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico in June, where hundreds will converge to create a critical mass of journalists skilled in multimedia. 

Geraldo Rivera, host of Fox’s newsmagazine “Geraldo-at-Large”; KRON "Weekend Morning News" anchor Ysabel Durón; and Juan Gonzáles, founder and editor of El Tecolote newspaper and professor of journalism at City College of San Francisco, will be inducted into the NAHJ Hall of Fame. This year’s Hall of Fame Gala starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 26 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center during the 27th Annual NAHJ Convention and Media & Career Expo in San Juan set for June 24-27, 2009. 

“Each of the three nominees has done valuable work advancing the interest of journalism and the interest of Latinos in journalism,” says Ricardo Pimentel, NAHJ President and editorial page editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I congratulate them all. Mostly, I thank them for paving the way for the Latino journalists who wisely held them up as role models and then began careers of their own.” 

Rivera was the first Latino correspondent at a national news network for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Rivera launched the long-running talk show “Geraldo” and was a senior correspondent for “20/20.” Shortly after September 11, 2001, Rivera joined Fox News Network as a war correspondent and now hosts “Geraldo-at-Large.” Rivera has won more than 170 journalism awards and is a founding member and the largest benefactor of NAHJ. 

Durón is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and storyteller who broke ground as the first Latina anchor in Chicago mainstream news. Durón has anchored the "Weekend Morning News" for KRON in San Francisco for nearly two decades and has been a fierce advocate for providing resources for cancer education and treatment to underserved communities. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in 1998, Durón produced an award-wining series chronicling her winning battle with the disease and founded Latinas Contra Cancer. 

Gonzáles founded El Tecolote in 1970 – a bilingual, non-commercial newspaper in San Francisco’s Mission District that continues to advocate for justice and serves as a canvas for budding journalists. In addition to editing El Tecolote, Gonzáles chairs the Department of Journalism at the City College of San Francisco, where he taught the first college-level course on Hispanic journalism titled La Raza Journalism. Gonzáles also chairs the Voices for Justice project commemorating the bicentennial of Latino Newspapers in the U.S. 

Created in 2000, NAHJ’s Hall of Fame is reserved for journalists and industry pioneers whose national or local efforts have resulted in a greater number of Latinos entering the journalism profession or have helped to improve news coverage of the nation’s Latino community. 

With the induction of Rivera, Durón and Gonzáles, there are now 25 NAHJ Hall of Famers.  

Past honorees include such pioneering journalists as Rubén Salazar, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the news director of KMEX who was covering the Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium rally when he was killed by a tear-gas projectile fired by a deputy sheriff into a bar in East Los Angeles, and Ignacio E. Lozano, Sr., who founded La Opinión, the nation’s largest Spanish-language daily newspaper. Last year’s inductees were Juan González, New York Daily News Columnist; Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez, Ph.D., professor at the University of Texas at Austin; and Francisco P. Ramírez, editor of El Clamor Público, Los Angeles’ first Spanish-language newspaper. 

The NAHJ Hall of Fame Gala is being co-sponsored by Continental Airlines. For more information about the Gala and the Convention which will take place from June 24-27, 2009 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, please visit

Founded in 1984, NAHJ’s mission is to increase the percentage of Latinos working in our nation’s newsrooms and to improve news coverage of the Latino community. NAHJ is the nation’s largest professional organization for Latino journalists with more than 2,300 members working in English and Spanish-language print, photo, broadcast and online media. NAHJ is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. For more information, visit


Titans of the Texas Legislature

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