Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Elsa Mayor Al Pérez; Edcouch-Elsa ISD School Board Trustee Víctor “Hugo” De la Cruz; Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González; Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Middle row, from left: La Villa City Manager Arnie Amaro; Edcouch Alderwoman Verónica Solis; Edcouch City Manager Noé Cavazos; Edcouch Alderwoman Rina Castillo; La Villa Commissioner Rosie Pérez; and Edcouch Alderman Danny Guzmán. Back row, from left: Elsa City Manager Juan Zuniga; and La Villa Commissioner Mario López. The lawmakers and constituents posed for this portrait inside the Texas Capitol following House passage on Friday, May 8, of House Bill 382, which proposed creating a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County. Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
House Bill 382, which requires the South Texas College leadership to create a plan to expand courses leading to associate degrees in Edcouch or Elsa by Fall 2019, is awaiting action by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Texas Legislature on Sunday, May 31, approved that measure, authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. Canales on Friday, June 19, called on Abbott to show his support for education in deep South Texas by publicly endorsing the measure with a gubernatorial signature. “The support for HB 382 is documented and widespread, and it sends a very clear message that South Texas College has a responsibility to spread its resources throughout Hidalgo County, just as other major community college systems in Texas, such as Austin Community College, which has 11 campuses in a geographic region much smaller than Hidalgo County,” said Canales. The state representative also warned STC bureaucrats to stop lobbying the governor to kill the measure, noting that state law prohibits such actions. “Chapter 556 of the Government Code clearly lays out that is a violation of the law for an institution of higher education to use tax funds to ‘influence the passage or defeat of a legislative measure’, yet in at least two instances, STC President Shirley Reed registered before a House committee in favor of a certain measure, and in the case of HB 382, she used STC resources to lobby against the STC Delta Region branch campus proposal,” said Canales. The Delta Region, which features Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, Monte Alto, and San Carlos, is connected by East Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. HB 382 states that “the board of trustees of the South Texas Community College District shall adopt and implement a plan expanding opportunity for instructional programs consisting of postsecondary courses leading to an associate degree offered in a classroom setting within the corporate city limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.” As part of his strategies to increase higher education opportunities for Hidalgo County residents – without raising property taxes – Canales laid out the option for Texas State Technical College to expand into Hidalgo County. “Texas State Technical College is the only state-funded technical college system in Texas. TSTC offers new, emerging and customized curriculum at four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater,” Canales said. “Both TSTC and STC are creations of the Texas Legislature, and it is the Texas Legislature, if it so chooses, that has the final say on their issues.” Canales said the governor already has signed into law House Bill 658, authored by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, that will established a much-needed Texas State Technical College campus in Fort Bend County, one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas. The House District 40 lawmaker reminded STC officials that South Texas College began as a branch campus of TSTC-Harlingen located in McAllen. Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected. “The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A greater STC presence in the Delta Region would serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg, and would prepare STC for the future. Northern Hidalgo County is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years.” Canales emphasized that he is a very strong supporter of STC, its faculty, staff and students, crediting them with lifting tens of thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents into the middle-class, while their respective campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City have brought civic pride, economic development, and job creation to those respective communities. “On every issue that counted for STC, I supported this outstanding institution of higher education, not only with HB 382, which extends its reach to areas that need it, but also on HB 1887, of which I was a joint author – and for which Dr. Reed was registered ‘for’ the bill – that creates the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in the great city of Pharr,” said the House District 40 lawmaker. Requiring STC to expand in the Delta Region comes as the two-county higher education system begins spending almost $160 million for new construction, narrowly approved by voters, at its existing campuses. That funding, which was supported in the bond election by the Delta Region, includes construction in only one new location – Pharr – while STC’s existing campuses and sites in Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Weslaco will receive most of that money.
Featured, from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, after addressing the South Texas College Board of Trustees at the Pecan Campus in McAllen.
Photograph By STEVE TAYLOR
Legislation proposing the creation of a South Texas College extension facility in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday, May 8, is set for a Senate committee hearing on Monday, May 18, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. Originally filed to create a branch campus of STC in the Delta Region, Canales changed the language of House Bill 382 to instead call for the creation of an extension facility in order to dramatically reduce the financial cost to the state, which significantly improves its chances of legislative passage. “By requiring an extension facility, STC would be directed by the Texas Legislature to set up a physical presence in the Delta Region, a move that can eventually lead to a branch campus,” Canales said. “What we are wanting to do is move this one step further down the line. We believe that whatever concerns the college may have about the fiscal viability of this program will be shown dramatically to be unfounded because it will quickly flourish.” According to the Texas Higher Education Agency, a branch campus is a major, secondary location of an institution offering multiple programs, usually with its own administrative structure and usually headed by a Dean. A branch campus must be established by the Legislature or approved by the Coordinating Board. He said that STC has an obligation to spread its resources to areas of Hidalgo County which have the population base and geographic location to deserve an extension facility, and eventually, a branch campus. “The Delta Region has historically been a neglected area that can see a positive change from this bill. The area needs better access to higher education to have the same opportunities (as other communities with STC campuses and sites),” Canales said. But times are changing, and for the better, in the Delta Region, further justifying predictions that STC would also grow with those communities. “If we talk about demographics and you look at companies and ask, ‘What are the demographics there?’ Well, they just opened up a Walmart Supercenter, and a new H.E.B., and those businesses conduct incredible demographic studies before they make those multi-million dollar capital investments,” he continued. Canales also spoke about ongoing plans by the state transportation leaders to connect FM 1925, known as the Monte Cristo Road project, between Edinburg and South Padre Island, a thoroughfare which will go through the Delta Region. “The Texas Department of Transportation has opted to expand what is the existing Monte Cristo Road into a highway that will go all the way to Cameron County,” Canales said. “That is why Rep. Lucio and his father, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., and Rep. René Oliveira, support this bill.” The public hearing will take place before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, whose chairman is Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. The meeting, which is open to the public, was at 8:30 a.m. in Room E1.028 of the Texas Capitol complex. The session is available for live viewing on the Internet, or afterwards as a video recording in its entirety, by logging on to http://www.senate.state.tx.us/bin/live.phpby , find the desire program at the bottom of that web page, and click the “play” button. The live programs are listed by their scheduled start time. Lucio is the Senate sponsor of the measure, House Bill 382, of which Canales is the primary author. Canales’ proposal also enjoys vital support from House legislators from the two South Texas counties – Hidalgo County and Starr County – which STC serves. Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, are joint authors of Canales’ HB 382. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday, May 8, would require STC, which has campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City, to establish an extension facility in either Elsa, which is in Canales’ House District 40, or in Edcouch, which is in Longoria’s House District 35. Under the proposal, the STC Board of Trustees are directed to set up the extension facility beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year. The legislation does not authorize STC to increase its property tax rate.
Featured on Wednesday, February 26, 2o14 accepting a Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court proclamation in support of the creation of a South Texas College branch campus for the Delta Region are, front row, from left: Cynthia (Cindy) Garza-Reyes, Interim District Director of the Edinburg Office for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; and Alex Ríos, District Director for Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. Back row, from left: Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; and Hidalgo County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Jr.
Photograph By HIDALGO COUNTY PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIVISION
Legislation proposing the creation of a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County, with the proposed site to be located in Elsa or Edcouch, is scheduled for a public hearing before the House Committee on Higher Education for Wednesday, April 22, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. “South Texas College, which receives significant funding from all property taxpayers in Hidalgo and Starr counties, has an obligation to bring higher education opportunities and invest more of its resources in communities, such as in the Delta Region, which would most benefit from seeing a STC facility in its own backyard,” said Canales, whose House District 40 features portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. The measure, House Bill 382, would require STC “to operate a branch campus within the corporate limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.” The legislative committee hearing on Wednesday comes as Rio Grande City, McAllen, Weslaco and Pharr are positioned to reap the benefits of a $159 million bond election for new construction that was narrowly approved in early November 2013 by voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties. Canales’ proposal is listed as the second measure on the committee’s meeting agenda, and is one of several House bills that will have a direct impact on South Texas College. The committee is scheduled to begin its meeting at 8 a.m., and if needed, continue later in the afternoon once the full House of Representatives, which begins its work at 10 a.m., finishes up for that day. The session will be available for live viewing on the Internet, or afterwards as a video recording in its entirety, by logging on http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/ by clicking the House Committee on Higher Education. For the past few years, Canales has been working with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, to convince STC to establish a physical presence in that region. Longoria’s House District 35 includes Edcouch, La Villa, and Monte Alto. Hinojosa’s Congressional District 15, which covers Brooks, Duval, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak, and Wilson counties, includes Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, and Monte Alto. Both Longoria and Hinojosa have ties to the STC Board of Trustees – Hinojosa was a founding member and first Chairman of the STC Board of Trustees, and Longoria served on the STC Board of Trustees before being elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2012. Canales, Hinojosa and Longoria first publicly brought up the need for the Delta Region branch campus when they addressed the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. “We outlined a proposal that would benefit the people in the Delta Region. The presentation included statistical data from the U.S. Census Bureau highlighting population pockets within our district and their needs,” said Hinojosa. “During the (March 25) presentation, trustees heard well-formulated plans to create a STC satellite campus in the Delta region. With a college anchored in the Delta Region, students from surrounding communities such as La Blanca, San Carlos, Hargill, Faysville, Linn, San Manuel and Puerto Rico will also have the opportunity to attend a campus that is more accessible.” The Delta Region communities are connected by East State Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected. “The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A STC campus in the Delta Region would be able to expand in order to serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg and for future students from northern Hidalgo County, where much of our population increases will occur in the coming years.”