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Importance of UTRGV, including $42 million in state funding for its School of Medicine, is featured in the proposed state legislative agenda set for a vote on Tuesday by the Edinburg City Council - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is flanked by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, in front of the Texas Capitol in Austin. “This afternoon, I had the opportunity to personally thank some of the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers who have helped ensure the safety of the Texas Capitol,” said Canales. “Legislators and staff have been extremely concerned about the safety of the building due to events that happened at our nation’s Capitol (on Wednesday, January 6, 2021). We are in good hands here in Texas thanks to these exceptional law enforcement officers.”

Photograph Courtesy REP. CANALES FACEBOOK

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Importance of UTRGV, including $42 million in state funding for its School of Medicine, is featured in the proposed state legislative agenda set for a vote on Tuesday by the Edinburg City Council

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

Key needs for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, including securing $42 million in state funding for its School of Medicine, are featured in a proposed state legislative agenda set for a vote on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, by the Edinburg City Council.

The meeting, which is open to the public – with COVID-19 public safety restrictions in place, such as in-person capacity, the required use of face masks, social distancing, etc. – begins at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber at Edinburg City Hall.

The Tuesday, February 2, 2021 meeting will be broadcast live to Edinburg residents who have Spectrum Cable 1300, and to anyone who has access to the Internet by logging onto the city’s website athttp://www.CityofEdinburg.com

To see the meeting live through the Internet, go to the “Government” section of the city’s website and click the category titled “Live ECN 12 Television Stream”.

To see the videotaped version of the meeting, go to the following link on the city’s website: 

https://cityofedinburg.com/government/agendas_and_minutes/city_council_videos.php

The priorities, which are part of the city’s requests for the ongoing 87th Texas Legislature, will be presented through a city resolution for final review and approval by the mayor and the four city councilmembers. 

The final city resolution will be immediately delivered to the city’s state legislative delegation: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen.

The proposed city resolution is mostly general in nature – it doesn’t identify legislation by bill number, but by subject matter. 

For example, the language in much of the proposed city resolution reads like this: “support legislation which creates greater healthcare systems and improved access to suitable, low-cost, and preventative health care coverage and resources”, to “oppose legislation that would erode municipal authority, would impose an unfunded mandate, or would otherwise be detrimental to cities”.

The bill number is the unique number assigned to each bill filed with the Secretary of the Senate or the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives. A bill’s number remains the same throughout the legislative process.

A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, followed by action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.

Presumably, city staff members will be involved in monitoring legislation and advising or working with state lawmakers in providing research and testifying on proposed measures that most directly affect the city government’s best interests. 

So far, the city has not hired a lobbyist to take the lead on its state legislative agenda. 

However, the Edinburg Economic Development Department, which is part of the city bureaucracy, has $90,000 (ninety thousand) set aside in its current operating budget for “Legislative” under its “EDC Programs, Properties, Projects” category. 

In 2019, during the 140-day regular session of the 86th Texas Legislature, the city government laid out an ambitious and successful legislative agenda that focused on higher education, economic development, environmental issues, transportation, and health care.

City leaders came away with increasing the ability to use the Hotel Occupancy Tax for the creation of more jobs in the community, and well as helping protect or secure state funding for:

• The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine;
• A Level 1 Trauma Center;
• A cervical dysplasia and center clinic and cancer immunology program; and
• The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg.

Miriam Cepeda, Governmental Relations Liaison for the City of Edinburg, Elvia López Caballero, Legislative Consultant for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (now the Edinburg Economic Development Department), and Edinburg City Attorney Omar Ochoa in 2019 worked on the city’s measures with key state lawmakers, the mayor, the four city councilmembers, and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors

The Edinburg Economic Development Department is governed by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, whose members serve in advisory capacities, and make their recommendations known to the mayor and city councilmembers. 

The Edinburg City Council – which includes the mayor and four city councilmembers – has the last say during open, public meetings of the Edinburg City Council,  on all major undertakings of the Edinburg Economic Development Department.

On Thursday, January 28, 2021, during a noon public workshop hosted by the mayor and city councilmembers at Edinburg City Hall, City Manager Ron Garza provided details on several of the city’s needs that could be addressed by the Texas Legislature, which began its 140-day regular session in early January 2021, and will end its efforts in late May 2021.

The video of that workshop will soon be available online at:

https://cityofedinburg.com/government/agendas_and_minutes/city_council_videos.php

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine, which have major components in Edinburg of that higher education system, was among one of the most specific concerns identified by Garza during that workshop, and in “Edinburg’s 2021 Legislative Agenda for the 87th Texas Legislature” set for action in the upcoming Tuesday, February 2, 2021, public meeting of the city council.

According to a segment of the proposed city resolution dealing with UTRGV and its School of Medicine:

• The City of Edinburg is a proud partner and supporter of UTRGV (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) and its School of Medicine (SoM), both of which have a large presence in our city. The SoM has been instrumental in the fight against the COVID-19 health pandemic, with COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV);

• The SoM is on its way to full accreditation but is still a young medical school. Accordingly, non-formula start-up funding of $42M (million) over the biennium (two years) is critical to the SoM’s continued success and is supported by the City of Edinburg as is the SoM’s request for $1M (million) annually in non-formula funding for cancer research, which is critical to the RGV, a region with higher than average cancer rates. UTRGV’s general academic institution continues to grow and educate RGV students across the entire region; and

• The City of Edinburg supports UTRGV’s requests to: 

1) fully fund the formula (funding);
2) restore the 5% budget reduction; and
3) maintain base-funding for non-formula support, especially Institutional Enhancement which is used to expand educational opportunities such as the Doctorate in Pediatric Medicine which would be the first such degree program offered in the State of Texas.

In general, formula funding is defined as how state higher education institutions fairly distribute available state funds. They give a minimum level of funding primarily based on enrollment. The formula is calculated by the Higher Education Coordinating Board and its recommendations are presented to the Legislative Budget Board in June of even years.

https://www.texasexes.org/get-involved/advocate-ut/higher-education-funding-101

“Topics for the 87th Legislature”, recently published by the House Research Organization, provides an easy-to-understand, trustworthy guide of the hottest state issues facing Texans in 2021, said Ochoa.

The House Research Organization is a nonpartisan independent department of the Texas House of Representatives. It provides impartial information on legislation and issues before the Texas Legislature.

“This report, which is available online at no charge, does an excellent job of educating anyone about a variety of major subject matters, including legislation responding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, education, and the economy,’” Ochoa cited the introduction to the 16-page document. 

“Topics for the 87th Texas Legislature” is available online at:

https://hro.house.texas.gov/pdf/focus/topics87-1.pdf

Major issues facing public higher education in Texas, including UTRGV and its School of Medicine, are highlighted by “Topics for the 87th Legislature”:

Higher education

Higher education funding, including formula funding, capital projects, student financial aid, and the proposed 5 (five) percent budget cuts to institutions of higher education could be considered by the 87th Legislature. Proposals could emerge to retrain adult workers, some of whom may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, with skills needed by Texas employers.

Funding 

Proposals to restore proposed budget cuts to higher education institutions could be considered. Most institutions of higher education have reported pandemic-related revenue losses and increased expenses and also have been subject to 5 (five) percent reductions in their legislative appropriations requests due to expected state revenue declines in fiscal 2022-23.

Lawmakers might consider changes in higher education funding formulas. They may also consider the use of tuition revenue bonds to fund institutions’ infrastructure needs, including building and technology upgrades related to COVID-19, and whether direct appropriations could be an alternative to tuition revenue bonds for these needs.

Student financial aid 

Student financial aid also could remain an ongoing topic for the Legislature, including whether need-based financial aid should be part of the 5 percent budget reduction directive. Proposals could emerge to expand aid to help students stay on track with their education during disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Workforce development 

The use of employer-based learning for community college and high school students could be a topic for the 87th Legislature. Lawmakers could consider proposals to improve access to liability insurance and tax credits for private employers who provide opportunities for individuals to train at their facilities. 

In addition, shifts in the employment market related to the pandemic are expected to result in the need for adult workers to attain new skills. Lawmakers could consider proposals to help Texans who have earned some college credit return to college to complete a degree or credential valued by employers.

Medical residency 

Lawmakers could consider funding for additional medical residency positions to align with the increase in state medical school graduates. Additional funding would be needed for fiscal 2022-23 to continue providing the current ratio of first-year residency positions for Texas medical school graduates.

Whereas medical school teaches physicians a broad range of medical knowledge, basic clinical skills, and supervised experience practicing medicine in a variety of fields, medical residency gives in-depth training within a specific branch of medicine, according to Wikipedia, which also noted:

“Medical residency or postgraduate training is specifically a stage of graduate medical education. It refers to a qualified physician, podiatristdentistpharmacist, or veterinarian (one who holds the degree of MDDPMDDSDMDDVMPharmDDOBDS, or BDent; or MBBS, MBChB, or BMed) who practices medicine, usually in a hospital or clinic, under the direct or indirect supervision of a senior medical clinician registered in that specialty such as an attending physician or consultant. In many jurisdictions, successful completion of such training is a requirement in order to obtain an unrestricted license to practice medicine, and in particular a license to practice a chosen specialty. An individual engaged in such training may be referred to as a resident, registrar, or trainee depending on the jurisdiction. Residency training may be followed by fellowship or sub-specialty training.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residency_(medicine)

The legislative resolution set for action by the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, follows:

A RESOLUTION OF THE 
CITY COUNCIL OF THE 
CITY OF EDINBURG, TEXAS, 
ADOPTING PRIORITIES FOR 
THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE’S 
87th LEGISLATIVE SESSION;

WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature meets in regular session once every two years for 140 calendar days beginning on the second Tuesday in January each odd-numbered year; and

WHEREAS, the 87th Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature began on January 12, 2021 and will end on May 31, 2021; and

WHEREAS, during the legislative session the Texas Legislature will make many significant decisions affecting Texas cities including the City of Edinburg; and

WHEREAS, it is anticipated that legislation filed will propose changes that directly impact the health, safety, and welfare of Edinburg residents or impact municipal services and finances; and

WHEREAS, it is important to establish the City of Edinburg’s priorities and positions and to communicate them to the legislature;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT
RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL
OF THE CITY OF EDINBURG, TEXAS:

SECTION 1: INCORPORATION OF RECITALS. The City Council finds that the statements set forth in the Recitals of this Resolution are true and correct and the City Council hereby incorporates such Recitals as part of this Resolution.

SECTION 2. The following priorities are adopted by the City Council for the 87th Regular Legislative Session:

1. The City supports legislation which provides the highest level of community safety to all Edinburg residents:

a. Increased community and neighborhood policing resources;
b. Intervention and victim protection programs;
c. Expanded social services, and
d. Emergency management recovery assistance.

2. The City supports legislation which creates greater healthcare systems and improved access to suitable, low-cost, and preventative health care coverage and resources:

a. Removal of healthcare barriers for low-income, socially at-risk, venerable, genetically predisposed, and individuals with chronic mental or health conditions;

3. The City supports legislation and funding to address the need for critical community development infrastructure:

a. Resources for added flood mitigation & drainage improvements;
b. Transportation & Mobility Expansion (airport, road, hike/bike, and transit);
c. Environmental quality & waste management.

4. The City supports legislation which advances access to quality education, from preschool through higher education where each student has the educational resources to achieve success:

a. Expanded broadband coverage;
b. Suitable education facilities and properly trained/paid educators;
c. Increased access to student meal programs, and
d. Additional higher education programs aligned with in-demand, local occupations.

5. The City supports legislation which strengthens the local economy by providing resources to attract and retain competitive-wage employers, supporting locally-owed small businesses, and creating a more resilient, revenue-diversified city:

a. Maintaining state economic development incentives;
b. Expanding workforce and skills training programs, and
c. Further Supporting the full recovery (due to Covid-19) of sectors such as tourism, entertainment, and the hotel industry.

6. The City supports legislation which contributes to the expansion of “quality of life” resources and infrastructure providing numerous health, economic, and development benefits to the city:

a. Expanded funding for parks & recreational facilities;
b. Additional hike n’ bike trail systems;
c. Expansion of museums and cultural arts amenities, and
d. Preservation and expansion of green space.

7. The city supports the continued ability to equitably collect tax revenue and implement local decisions, ordinances, and policies to address the specific and individualized needs of its community:

a. Oppose legislation that would erode municipal authority, would impose an unfunded mandate, or would otherwise be detrimental to cities;
b. Oppose legislation that negatively impacts home rule municipal authority or local control including development standards and processes.

SECTION 3. The City will monitor legislation that impacts:

1. COVID-related economic assistance and economic recovery,
2. Public safety funding and tactics,
3. Emergency authorization authority,
4. Redistricting House, Senate or Congressional districts in Hidalgo County,
5. LCRA and water supplies (including groundwater issues),
6. Emergency Service Districts (ESD), Water Supply Corporations (WSC), and any other special purpose districts (such as MMDs or MUDs), and
7. Funding for Texas Department of Transportation Projects impacting the City of Edinburg.

SECTION 4. The City of Edinburg is a proud partner and supporter of UTRGV and its School of Medicine (SoM), both of which have a large presence in our city. The SoM has been instrumental in the fight against the COVID-19 health pandemic, with COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and vaccinations in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). 

The SoM is on its way to full accreditation but is still a young medical school. Accordingly, non-formula
start-up funding of $42M over the biennium is critical to the SoM’s continued success and is supported by the City of Edinburg as is the SoM’s request for $1M annually in nonformula funding for cancer research, which is critical to the RGV, a region with higher than average cancer rates. UTRGV’s general academic institution continues to grow and educate RGV students across the entire region. 

The City of Edinburg supports UTRGV’s requests to 

1) fully fund the formula;
2) restore the 5% budget reduction and
3) maintain base-funding for non-formula support, especially Institutional Enhancement which is used to expand educational opportunities such as the Doctorate in Pediatric Medicine which would be the
first such degree program offered in the State of Texas.

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(For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)

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