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STC Delta Region legislation awaits action by Gov. Abbott; Rep. Canales lays out option for TSTC to expand into Hidalgo County

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

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.

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Protections for low-income Texas homeowners, including thousands who live in colonias, approved by the Legislature, says Rep. Canales

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Featured: Lucille D. Wood, Clinical Professor at The University of Texas School of Law, whose research in a 2012 study helped lead to the passage of House Bill 311 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. HB 311 will help protect thousands of low-income families, especially those who live in colonias, who purchase their homes through non-traditional financing known as contracts for deed. Photograph Courtesy THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW

 

Thousands of Texans who purchase their homes through non-traditional financing known as contracts for deed would be better safeguarded from losing their investment under legislation by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, which was approved by the Legislature on Saturday, May 30. The measure, House Bill 311, whose Senate sponsor was Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott for his approval. “I am honored to announce that House Bill 311 has been passed by the Texas Legislature, ” said Canales. “This important legislation will help protect Texas homebuyers from unscrupulous sellers. For most Texans, our home is the most expensive purchase we will make in our lifetime and it is paramount that we protect that investment.” Contracts for deed oftentimes are used when traditional financing, such as mortgages through a financial institution, is not available. Many of the estimated half-million Texans who live in colonias are at risk because they buy their homes through a contract for deed. The legislation’s major goals include streamlining the title conversion process for contracts for deed so title is conveyed to the purchaser, giving the purchaser protection, and the seller still retains a lien on the property at the same terms of the original contract. “This puts these properties back into the real estate market, allowing them to be properly sold and allows the homeowner to take out a loan on them,” Canales said. HB 311 also will encourage contracts for deed to be recorded so that other buyers, lenders, and title companies know that a property has been sold. Contracts for deed, also known as executory contracts, are contracts for the sale of land – usually residential property – where the seller keeps title to the property until the buyer has paid the full contract price. “Most of these contracts are long-term arrangements, lasting eight to 10 years on average,” Canales, an attorney, explained. “In that time, lots of things can go wrong. Sellers die, get divorced, or just disappear. Buyers have a difficult time getting homestead exemptions for their taxes, buying insurance, refinancing, or doing other things property owners with a deed can do.” A deed is a written instrument that, when executed and delivered, convey (transfer) title to or an interest in real estate. HB 311 would automatically require contracts for deed to convey (transfer) the title to the homebuyer, and would encourage these contracts to be legally recorded, which establishes ownership of the residence. Canales said HB 311 would help improve “an outdated system of property transactions. Unfortunately, contracts for deed are structured in a way that allows for abusive practices to arise,” the House District 40 lawmaker explained. “Buyers who complete their payment are not guaranteed the conveyance of title, and if the buyer defaults, they may lose any payment that they have already paid. When not recorded, buyers face less protection and risk losing their property.” Robert Doggett, an attorney with Texas Family Council, which supported the legislation, agreed that the legislation modernizes this type of residential real estate transaction.“For many decades these transactions have caused problems for Texas homeowners because they delayed the buyer receiving title to their property for many years. Buyers who had to move in the middle of their contracts lost the value of all improvements and any equity they achieved because there was nothing for them to sell,” said Doggett. “Thanks to the continued efforts of Rep. Canales and his staff both this session and last, Texans with these contracts will actually become Texas homeowners simply by filing their contracts. HB 311 will truly help make the problems caused by contracts for deed a relic of the past.” Canales thanked the Texas Family Council and Randy Lee with Stewart Title Guaranty Company for endorsing the legislation, which Canales first filed in 2013. But the South Texas lawmaker also praised a 2012 study commissioned by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which contracted with Peter M. Ward, C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in US-Mexico Relations at the LBJ School; Heather Way, ’96, director of the Law School’s Community Development Clinic; and Lucille Wood, 2011–2012 Research Fellow at the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, to direct the study. Their “invaluable research” found that despite these reforms, contracts for deed continue to be problematic transactions for consumers, the South Texas legislator noted. The research was extensive, according to a December 10, 2012 feature story by UT Law, The Magazine of the University of Texas School of Law, which chronicled the in-depth look at the problems of contracts for deeds among lower-income families ( http://www.utexas.edu/law/magazine/2012/12/10/colonias-contracts/ ).

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Almost $100 million in key funding secured for UT-RGV medical school and RAHC, DPS training facility, Edinburg airport hangar, and STC law enforcement center in final state budget, says Rep. Canales

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured, from left: Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Alma Ortega-Johnson, Area President South Texas Region for Wells Fargo; and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, following the State Legislative Session Wrap-Up Luncheon, sponsored by the City of McAllen and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, at the McAllen Country Club. Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

 

Several key projects vital to the Edinburg region – specifically the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, the UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, a Texas Department of Public Safety multi-use training facility, a hanger for emergency first responder capabilities at the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, and the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr – are included in the $209.4 billion two-year state spending plan that was approved by the Legislature on Friday, May 29, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. Those legislative priorities represent almost $100 million in state investments, beginning on September 1, 2015, that will be coming to the Rio Grande Valley in addition to a separate but enormous infusion of other state funding for the major functions of state government in the Rio Grande Valley. “The Valley legislative delegation played our roles in generating the political support from our 172 other colleagues in the Legislature for securing additional state funding for exciting new projects for House District 40 and for the rest of deep South Texas,” said Canales, who represents House District 40. House District 40 includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. “The special appropriations totaling almost $100 million were secured by Valley legislators, led by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who was the only South Texas lawmaker to serve on a 10-member Senate-House panel that came up with the final version of the state budget,” said Canales. “Having Sen. Hinojosa on the conference committee was invaluable. He deserves congratulations for a job well-done.” Hinojosa, D-McAllen,was one of only five Senate appointees – and the only Democrat – selected on Thursday, April 23, by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to serve on the Senate/House Conference Committee that came up with a final state budget for the 2016-17 biennium. A conference committee is a special legislative panel appointed by the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House when there are differences between a Senate bill and a House bill that deal with the same issue, such as the proposed state budget that has been approved by the Senate and the proposed state budget that has been approved by the House of Representatives. Edinburg, where a major campus of the UT-RGV School of Medicine, now under construction, and the adjacent UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division are located, will see those two cutting-edge facilities share in $91.7 million in state funds over the next two years. The UT-RGV School of Medicine also includes a major presence in Harlingen, with the UT-RGV RAHC Medical Education Division, while the UT-RGV School of Medicine in Edinburg will provide the first two years of a medical student’s education, along with the groundbreaking studies at the neighboring UT-RGV RAHC Medical Research Division. From the $91.7 million in state funding, more than $60 million will go towards the School of Medicine, while $31.4 million will be invested in the UT-RGV Regional Academic Health Centers. The leadership of UT-RGV will decide what portions of that money will be invested in each of the facilities and their programs. New money for public safety and law enforcement – not counting hundreds of millions of dollars for border security measures that will come into the Valley – was approved for the Edinburg region. The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg picked up $3 million to help expand its hangar capabilities, which are needed by the Texas Department of Public Safety for emergency and first responders for staging and storage purposes. That money is coming out of a state highway fund that is reserved for public safety efforts at local airports throughout Texas. Also, $2 million has been set aside to build a Department of Public Safety multi-use training facility to be used by DPS, the Texas military forces, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, and any other military or law enforcement agencies, including agencies of the federal government, for training purposes. It is the intent of the Legislature that the governing body of the County of Hidalgo or the City of Edinburg may donate 200 acres of real property to DPS for the training facility. If donated, DPS shall accept 200 acres of donated land from the governing body of the County of Hidalgo or the City of Edinburg for the purpose of constructing the training facility. Edinburg’s neighboring community, the City of Pharr, picked up more than $1.5 million, effective on September 1, 2015, to help in the construction of the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. That complex, to be built on a 50-to-60 acre tract of land to be donated by the City of Pharr, will “increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, whose House District 36 includes most of Pharr. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” The state money would be in addition to $4.2 million already set aside by South Texas College for the construction of a 16,000 square-foot facility to include a vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, classrooms and administrative offices. “The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellent will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” The state funding comes as part of House Bill 1887, which is well on its way to being approved by the Legislature. HB 1887, authored by Muñoz and sponsored by Hinojosa, amends the Education Code to create the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence to provide education and training for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley. “Having such an educational facility for our current and future law enforcement officials will be a tremendous benefit for the delivery of justice and the protection of all of us in deep South Texas,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes 19 percent of the City of Pharr. “I appreciate Rep. Muñoz allowing me to sign on as joint author of HB 1887, and I appreciated working with him and the leadership of Pharr and South Texas College on this most important legislative effort.” Along with Canales, the other joint authors of HB 1887 are Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City.

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Digital driver’s license on cell phone, with privacy protections, could be coming to Texas in next few years through Rep. Canales’ legislation

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Digital driver’s licenses, such as now set up in Iowa, could be studied for use in Texas under a bipartisan measure being considered by the Texas Legislature.

Photograph By DIGITALTRENDS.COM

Texans could one day soon have the option of carrying virtual version’s of their driver’s license on their smartphone under legislation by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, that is making its way through the state legislature. His proposal, originally contained in his House Bill 640, was attached as an amendment to Senate Bill 1934 on Monday, May 25. An amendment is a proposed change – either by adding new language and/or deleting existing language – to a bill or resolution as it moves through the legislative process. Canales was successful in adding the entire text of HB 640 to the language of Senate Bill 1934, by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, which deals with changing requirements for driver’s licenses, personal ID information. “Recently enacted legislation allowed drivers to show proof of auto insurance on their smartphones and reports indicate that other states have passed similar laws,” Canales said of his HB 640. “In an effort to continue this digital trend, my legislation requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a study concerning the use of a digital image for identification and proof of licensure purposes.” Now, through SB 1934, which is awaiting a final vote by the House of Representatives, Canales’ idea would result in Texas developing a system where such digital driver licenses could become a reality in Texas within the next few years. “Other major states are looking at this option, and my amendment to SB 1934 would give us until the fall of 2016 to come up with the pros and cons, anticipate and fix any shortcomings, and protect the privacy of individuals who prefer to have digital versions of their driver license, rather than the plastic type,” said Canales. Iowa and Delaware are the first two states to set up such a system, while this spring, as of March 10, 2015, other states are also looking at similar measures, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Tennessee. Under Canales’ amendment to SB 1934: The DPS would be required to conduct a study determining the feasibility of establishing a system to allow a person to use a digital image displayed on an electronic device for identification purposes or to prove that the person has a driver’s license; The DPS would evaluate risks to personal information security that such a system might create; The DPS would survey and evaluate digital identification and proof of licensure policies in other states; and The DPS would be required, not later than September 1, 2016, to submit a detailed report of its findings and recommendations to the legislature.

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STC Regional Center for Public Safety, to be headquartered in Pharr, set for hearing before Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday, May 20

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Featured, from left: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives in March 2015.

Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

House Bill 1887 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, which would allow South Texas College to create the multi-million dollar Regional Center for Public Safety on a yet-undisclosed 50- to 60-acre site to be donated by the City of Pharr, is set for a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, May 21. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is serving as the Senate sponsor of HB 1887, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, April 29. “HB 1887 would increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Muñoz, who is the primary author of the legislation. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” According to the bill analysis of the legislation, HB 1887 would amend the Education Code to create the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence to provide education and training for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley. “Having such an educational facility for our current and future law enforcement officials will be a tremendous benefit for the delivery of justice and the protection of all of us in deep South Texas,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes 19 percent of the City of Pharr. “I appreciate Rep. Muñoz allowing me to sign on as joint author of HB 1887, and I look forward to working with him and the leadership of Pharr and South Texas College on this most important legislative effort.” Muñoz’ House District 36 includes 76 percent of the City of Pharr. South Texas College has agreed to fund $4.2 million for construction of a 16,000 square-foot facility to include a vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, classrooms and administrative offices. The instruction provided by the regional center would include: education and training toward an associate of applied science degree or certificate or another public safety or law enforcement- related associate degree or certificate; a baccalaureate degree for applied science or applied technology authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) officer certification; and a continuing education certification. During the Tuesday, April 7 public hearing on the bill by the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety, STC President Shirley Reed and Pharr Police Chief Ruben Villescas testified for the bill. Also listed as supporting the measure during the House committee meeting, but not testifying, were Sergio Contreras, representing the City of Pharr, Lon Craft, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Texas Municipal Police Association, and Elizabeth Lippincott, representing the Texas Border Coalition.

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