Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, greets constituents at the Boggus Ford Events Center in Pharr during the Hidalgo County Democratic Party 2014 statewide and regional elections returns festivities on Tuesday, November 4.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
On Friday, February 27, a bipartisan plan to fully fund TRS-Care, which is the health insurance program for retired public school employees of Texas, including retired classroom teachers, was praised by Canales, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. The three men said they will vote for the measure developed by the House Committee on Appropriations, of which Muñoz and Longoria are members, when the funding legislation hits the House floor as part of the state budget later this spring. “The health insurance program for more than a quarter-million Texans and their dependents was in danger of running out of money, which could have forced insurance premiums to go up or benefits to be reduced, which are unacceptable options,” said Canales. “Through this action, we can protect this vital program for the next two years, giving the Legislature time to develop a long-term strategy to make sure we can keep health insurance protections affordable for retired teachers now and in the future.” TRS-Care is a self-funded retiree group health benefits program administered by the Teacher Retirement System. TRS retirees who are not eligible for the Employee Retirement System (ERS), University of Texas System or Texas A&M System health benefit coverage may be eligible for TRS-Care. “TRS-Care is one of the benefits that have been earned, through years of public service to Texas, by the dedicated professionals who educate millions of students and help ensure the future of all of us,” said Muñoz. “The House Committee on Appropriations, through the leadership of our chairman, Rep. John Otto (R-Dayton), has made keeping this fund solvent one of our top priorities.” As of December of 2014 TRS-Care had approximately 250,949 participants (retirees and their spouses and dependents) in Texas. For Hidalgo County, as of December 2014, TRS-Care covered approximately 9,219 participants, according to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. “TRS is one of our state’s greatest programs, offering support to the thousands of retired teachers in Texas. I am very pleased that Chairman Otto and my fellow Appropriation Committee and House colleagues support the continual funding of TRS,” said Longoria. “We all know a hard working teacher or retiree who has made a difference in our life and it is imperative that we continue to support and protect their right to TRS.” Since 95 percent of Texas’ retired school employees do not receive Social Security benefits, securing this funding will prevent any drastic change in access to affordable health care to retired public school employees, House leaders emphasized. In addition to Muñoz and Longoria, all other House Democrats on the Appropriations Committee played key roles in protecting TRS-Care.
Artist’s rendition of $68 million, 8,500-seat Bert Ogden Arena set to open in southeast Edinburg in October 2016.
Graphics Courtesy RIO GRANDE VALLEY VIPERS
The NBA Development League Rio Grande Valley Vipers, along with the City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and Cantú Construction on Thursday, February 26, broke ground on a new, state-of-the-art arena located at Interstate 69-Central and Alberta Road in Edinburg. Bert Ogden Auto Group was also announced as the arena’s naming rights sponsor. With a capacity of 8,500 seats, Bert Ogden Arena will be the largest entertainment venue in South Texas and is slated to open in October 2016. “Today is the biggest day in franchise history for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. We are excited to break ground and be the anchor tenants of Bert Ogden Arena,” RGV Vipers president Bert García said. “A few miles away, we are wrapping up construction on a state-of-the-art practice facility and community center. Not only does Edinburg serve as the county seat, but now, it is also becoming the sports and entertainment hub of the Rio Grande Valley.” The RGV Vipers will serve as the anchor tenant of Bert Ogden Arena and will tip off the team’s 10th season in the facility in the fall of 2016. In addition to being the home of the RGV Vipers, Bert Ogden Arena will host a variety of musical and entertainment acts year round.“This joint venture is a tremendous opportunity for the City of Edinburg to improve the quality of life for residents without having to pay a single penny up front or take any away from other projects,” said Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García. “This is definitely a triumph for our residents. We are very excited about this project.” Bert Ogden Arena will be funded by Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) sales taxes. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs) are special zones created by a governmental body, such as a city council, to attract new investment to an area. TIRZs help finance the cost of redevelopment and encourage development in an area that would otherwise not attract sufficient market development in a timely manner. Taxes attributable to new improvements (tax increments) are set-aside in a fund to finance public improvements within the boundaries of the zone. “The arena from day one brings $30 million in private dollars into our community. A recent study conducted at the University of Texas-Pan American identified $95 million in direct economic impact in the first year and $45 million every year after, while creating more than 150 jobs for the area,” said EEDC Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García. Gus García, Bert García and Mayor Richard García are not related. The RGV Vipers are in their eighth season in the RGV and currently play at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo. The team will fulfill its current contract with State Farm Arena before moving to Bert Ogden Arena in the fall of 2016. The arena’s namesake, the late Bert Ogden, established his first dealership in Edinburg in 1970. He and his wife, Dorothy, passed away several years later, but his daughter, Janet, and son-in-law, Robert Vacker, continued with the family business, which has evolved into one of the most successful vehicle dealerships in the nation. In addition to being one of the largest privately-owned dealer groups in the United States, with 22 complexes Valley-wide, including seven dealerships in Edinburg, the family business employs more than 1,000 people in deep South Texas.
Featured, from left: Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.
Texas juveniles who are placed by a court on deferred disposition or community supervision for illegal drug use, but who have not been convicted of that crime, could be required to participate in state-approved substance abuse education programs, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured right, has proposed. The House District 40 lawmaker on Wednesday, February 19, filed House Bill 642, which would give a presiding judge the authority to require a young offender, under age 18, to learn about the terrible consequences of unlawful drug abuse as a requirement for avoiding a harsher penalty or permanent criminal record. “Currently, minors who are convicted of drug offenses can be required to attend an alcohol awareness program. These programs are designed to help increase a minor’s awareness of the potential dangers and detriments of alcohol use,” Canales explained. “Unfortunately, this requirement does not extend to minors who are placed on deferred disposition or community supervision for drug-related offenses.” Deferred Disposition is a form of probation, which allows for dismissal of a charge if certain criteria(s) are met. Community supervision means the placement of a defendant by a court under a continuum of programs and sanctions, with conditions imposed by the court for a specified period. But, many young people who commit these offenses – often minor in nature – are entering pre-trial programs where they are not actually convicted of the crime, the House 40 state lawmaker continued. “A large percentage of juvenile crimes are misdemeanors involving kids with small amounts of drugs. These kids do not need to go to jail. They need an approach tailored to their issues,” Canales said. “Judges need more power to require local programs aimed to help our youth.” His legislation also comes as a major national study, with a conservative Texas point of view, shed more light on the need to provide juvenile offenders with local rehabilitation efforts in or near their home regions. That first-of-its-kind investigation comparing Texas youth with nearly identical characteristics shows that juveniles treated by court-approved programs closer to home “are far less likely to reoffend than those incarcerated in state correctional facilities,” the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with Texas A&M University, announced on Thursday, January 29. Featured with Canales as part of a visit to the Texas Capitol in early February by Edinburg leaders is City Councilmember Richard Molina. Molina is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Joint Forge-Bosnia and was honorably discharged. Molina was an employee of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department and later served as an Edinburg Police Sergeant for 11 years. Molina is now the owner and manager of Molina Rental Properties in Edinburg.
Featured, seated, from left: Linda Tovar of Edinburg, Senior Manager of Public Affairs, H-E-B; Jo Ann Gonzáles Gama of Edinburg, Co-Founder, President, and Superintendent, IDEA Public Schools; and Carmen Pagan of McAllen, Co-Owner, Milestone Therapeutic Associates. Standing, from left: Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, Attorney-at-Law, García, Quintanilla and Palacios; and former Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz, Law Offices of John David Franz.
Photograph Courtesy THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-PAN AMERICAN
Edinburg’s retail economy for the 2014 was 8.62 percent better than 2013, generating $18,935,258 in local sales taxes last year, compared with $17,433,116 the year before, Mayor Richard García has announced. The mayor also is President of the Board of Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. The amount of local sales taxes collected helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends. The $18.9 million annual figure was reached after the city’s economy in December 2014 generated $2,087,133.29 in local sales taxes, keeping pace with the December 2013 output of $2,140,298.48. This latest data was released on Wednesday, February 11, by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The local sales tax figures represent December 2014 sales reported by monthly tax filers as well as October, November and December sales by businesses that report tax quarterly. The December 2014 local sales taxes were sent to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in January, and returned as sales tax rebates to the respective local government entities in February. The local sales tax is used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the EEDC uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city. The sales tax, formally known as the State Sales and Use Tax, is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services. Texas cities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts have the option of imposing an additional local sales tax for a combined total of state and local taxes of 8 1/4% (.0825). Edinburg’s local retail economy has shown positive growth since 2008, increasing in its market share in the Valley from 8.05 percent in 2008 to 9.45 percent in 2014, according to Valley-wide data compiled by http://www.MyHarlingen.US, which is the official website for the City of Harlingen. In this image, Garcia is featured with four other area leaders who will be honored as “Presidential Pillars” on Thursday, February 27, as outstanding alumnus of The University of Texas-Pan American. The gala, which raises money for scholarships, is sold out. It is being held at the Boggus Ford Events Center, formerly the Pharr Events Center, beginning at 6:30 p.m. More details about the achievements of García, Franz, Tovar, Gama, and Pagan are available online at: http://www.utpa.edu/news/2015/01/gone-country-bling-it-up-for-final-alumni-ball-feb-27.htm
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at The University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.
Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA
The public’s right to know about how executions take place in Texas – including current, controversial secret information regarding the lethal drugs used to administer the death sentence – would be dramatically strengthened under legislation filed on Friday, February 20, by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. House Bill 1587 by Canales would require the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide details about the names of the drugs used in the lethal injections, along with the identity of their manufacturers, the expiration dates of the deadly concoction, the results of laboratory tests performed on those ingredients, and pertinent information relating to the toxic substance. “In Texas, we do not give the bureaucrats the absolute authority to decide what the public can and cannot know about what their government is doing,” said Canales. “When it comes to the death penalty, Texans will not allow state government to keep secrets about this drug, which wields the power of life and death.” His support of disclosing such details in the name of open government has drawn strong support from Kelley Shannon, Executive Director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. “The people of Texas need information to scrutinize their government and hold it accountable,” said Shannon, who helps lead the non-profit 301(c)(3) organization, which is devoted to promoting open government, freedom of speech, and freedom of press. “With the death penalty, we are talking about the ultimate punishment for a crime. The people have the right to know how their state is carrying out punishment by lethal injection.” On January 23, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review later this year the drug protocol increasingly used across the country to determine whether the use of lethal injections, under certain circumstances, constitute cruel and unusual punishment. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming case will deal with the very important American protection against cruel and unusual punishment, which is a very complicated issue,” Canales said. “House Bill 1587 deals with the people’s right to know where Texas taxes are being spent to buy lethal drugs to use in executions. I will always fight for the people’s right to know about what their government is doing in their name.”