Featured, from left; Anne Drescher, Chief-of-Staff; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and Aisa Showery, Legislative Director, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 in Edinburg. Guerra is carrying House Bill 1596, set for a public hearing in Austin on Thursday, March 19, to create the Hidalgo County Healthcare District.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
An effort to create the Hidalgo County Healthcare District, which would help support the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, provide health care for many residents who do not have health insurance, set a limit on the property tax rate that would come with its creation, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new jobs and businesses, will receive its first legislative hearing in Austin on Thursday, March 19. House Bill 1596, whose primary author is Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, is one of five measures set to go before the House Committee on County Affairs. The public hearing, which will be held in Room E2.016 of the Capitol Extension, will begin at 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment by the full House of Representatives. The event, which will be broadcast live and also be available for viewing afterwards, is accessible on the Internet. Information on how to access the live and recorded broadcasts are available by logging to http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/. The companion bill in the Senate, which seeks the same goals as HB 1596, is Senate Bill 626 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. Although no action has been set on SB 626, that measure is currently before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs, of which Lucio serves as Chair. In response to feedback received from voters, who in November 2014 narrowly voted against a different version of this legislation, Valley lawmakers have put safeguards into the current legislation in order to ensure the most protections for taxpayers. The name was changed to “Hidalgo County Healthcare District” to allow for a more comprehensive approach to the system which the Valley’s Hidalgo County state legislative delegation hopes to implement. Some of the key differences in this measure from the one last year are: the tax rate would be capped at 25 cents per $100 valuation; the budget must be approved by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to ensure proper oversight; all residence homestead exemptions will be provided, including an exemption for elderly and disabled residents as well as a total exemption for 100% disabled veterans and their surviving spouse; and all rollback tax provisions apply. Joining Guerra in support by signing on as Joint Authors are Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.
Mayor Pro Tem Noe Garza, featured third from left, helps Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured in dark jacket, on Thursday, January 18, as the city’s political and business leaders participated in the proverbial ribbon cutting at the $18.5 million, 117,000 square foot supercenter located at 2802 W. University Drive. Also included in the ceremony was Council member Alma Garza (no relation to Noe Garza), featured in the back row to the mayor’s left. With 40,000 items in stock, and an adjacent garden center, Lowe’s in Edinburg – which features appliances and products for home improvements – is predicted to create up to 175 direct and indirect jobs and have an annual economic impact of $25 million, according to Richard García, president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The store, which opened for business on January 13, helped Edinburg reach a record for new construction in 2006, said Ochoa. See story on the city’s construction activities later in this posting.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville (featured center), proudly displays a plaque of appreciation from Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College, and Paul S. Moxley, president and secretary of the board of directors for Texas State Bank, during a legislative breakfast on Friday, January 19, at the STC campus in south McAllen. Lucio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, were honored for their many contributions to STC by the STC Board of Trustee and area business and community dignitaries. Lucio was the author of the legislation in 1993 that created STC, along with then-Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, who sponsored the measure in the House of Representatives. STC, which was originally called South Texas Community College, has an estimated 18,000 students enrolled this fall, making it one of the largest institutions of higher education in South Texas.
Constructionin Edinburg sets new record with $191.7 million in 2006
Total construction activities in Edinburg during 2006 totaled almost $192 million, an increase of more than $22 million over the $169.3 million mark set 2005, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.
The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.
It is governed by a five-person board of directors, which includes Mayor Joe Ochoa,former mayor Richard García, who is the EEDC board president, and FredPalacios, Mike Govind, and George Bennack.
The construction level surpassed the previous record of $171.1 million, set in 2004.
New constructionof single-family homes and commercial buildings, not including government or religious facilities, led the way in 2006.
Single-family homes, which does not include apartments and other multi-family dwellings such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, accounted for almost $70.5 million of the total construction activities last year, up from more than $66.2 million in 2005.
In 2006, 765 new single-family homes were constructed, compared with 742 new homes in 2005.
New commercial buildings valued at almost $70 million were built in 2006, up considerably from the almost $40.2 million level reached in 2005.
Multi-family residences in 2006 accounted for more than $18.7 million in new construction, compared with more than $31.7 million in 2005.
The values of the construction are listed in building permits issued by the city’s Code Enforcement Division.
Construction activities of non-taxable facilities – government buildings, churches, schools, not including UT-Pan American – reached almost $9 million in 2006, compared with almost $17.5 million in 2005.
Building permits are permits taken out in order to allow excavation and to protect public safety.
Building permits represent the estimated cost of construction, not the selling price.
The building permits do not include the price of the lot.
A start in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building.
A building permit is permission issued by a city’s planning department to oversee and approve any changes to structures.
They are documents designed to guarantee that any construction work, from remodeling to demolition to building a new home or business facility, meets the city’s building codes.
•Doctors Hospital expansion continues
The continuing expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was reflected in its receipt of the most valuable building permit in December.
The medical complex, which is expected to invest as much as $150 million in its second site, received a building permit valued at $5 million for a medical facility, that is being built at 5502 S. McColl Road, in the Doctors Center Subdivision.
Walgreen’s was issued a building permit for the second-most valuable project in December for a new facility, valued at $1.7 million, that is being built at 1520 S. McColl Road in the Bond & Bond Subdivision.
The third-most valuable project approved for construction in December is a commercial building, owned by José Chapa, and valued at $720,000. It is being built at 1623 W. University Drive in the West Manor Unit 1 & 3 Subdivision.
Developer Juan Luis Alcorta received building permits in December for six multi-family developments, each valued at $200,000, located in the Summer Winds and Summer Winds II Subdivisions on Orlando, Phoenix, and Tampa streets.
The most valuable home authorized for construction in December is being built by Jaime Lozano. The house, whose construction value is listed at $200,000, is located at 2301 Big Valley Circle in the Big Valley Subdivision.
For the month of December, total construction activities, which include everything from installing plumbing to building the structures, saw building permits approved for $14,929,924 in governmental, residential and commercial construction, up from the December 2005 figure of $6,588,675.
For 2006, total construction activities were $191,782,397, compared with $169,589,043 in 2005.
A more detailed breakdown of the December 2006 figures for Edinburg features the following highlights:
In December, new construction of commercial buildings, not including multi-family residences, was reported at $8,235,950, compared with $547,000 for the same month in 2005.
In 2006, new construction of commercial buildings reached $69,775,422, compared with $40,266,530 in 2005.
Commercial alterations in December totaled $614,156, compared with $57,665 in December 2005.
In 2006, commercial alterations reached $10,617,621, compared with $9,461,295 in December 2005.
New construction of single-family homes in December 2006 reached $3,324,600, compared with $4,943,860 in December 2005.
In 2006, building permits were issued for residential homes valued at $70,446,664, compared with $66,205,764 in 2005.
In 2006, building permits were issued for the construction of 765 single-family homes, compared with 742 in 2005.
In December, work began on 33 single-family residences, compared with 51 homes in December 2005.
In December, alterations for single-family residences were valued at $388,218, compared with $108,150 for the same month in 2005.
In 2006, building permits were issued for residential alterations valued at $5,564,650, compared with $2,758,656 in 2005.
New construction of multi-family residences in December reached $2,367,000, compared with $867,000 for the same month in 2005.
In 2006, new construction of multi-family homes totaled $18,745,740, compared with $31,756,569 in 2005.
In 2006, building permits were issued for 182 multi-family residences, or 406 units, compared with 320 multi-family residences, or 739 units, in 2005.
For the month of December, building permits were issued for 21 multi-family residences, or 54 units, compared with 19 multi-family residences, or 40 units, in December 2005.
Alterations/repairs involving nontaxable facilities, such as churches and government buildings, but not including UT-Pan American, totaled $7,636,300 in 2006, compared with $1,654,229 in 2005.
The city does not issue permits for construction work at UT-Pan American.
•Top December construction projects
Highlights of construction in December of commercial buildings, not including multi-family residences, valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, 5502 S. McColl Rd ($5,000,000);
•Walgreen’s, 1520 S. McColl Road ($1,700,000);
•José Chapa, 1623 W. University Drive ($720,000);
•Dr. De Dios Cans, L.P., 206 Conquest Blvd ($370,000);
•Eddy Bentacourt, 1801 W. Trenton Road ($200,000).
Highlights of construction in December of multi-family buildings (duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings) valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Juan Luis Alcorta, 1410 Phoenix Street ($200,000);
•Juan Luis Alcorta, 1506 Phoenix Street ($200,000):
•Juan Luis Alcorta, 1408 Tampa Street ($200,000);
•Juan Luis Alcorta, 1525 Orlando Street ($200,000);
•Juan Luis Alcorta, 1510 Tampa Street ($200,000);
•Raúl Fabela, 1916 Upland Drive ($140,000);
•Raúl Fabela, 1910 Upland Drive ($140,000);
•Juan A. García, 2214 Candlelight Lane ($130,000);
•Thurmond Reed, 622 Logan Drive ($130,000);
•Thurmond Reed, 702 Logan Drive ($130,000); and
•Michael S. Campbell, 618 DFW Drive ($130,000).
Highlights of construction in December of single-family homes valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Jaime Lozano, 2301 Big Valley ($200,000);
•Eldwin R. Vargas and Thelma Caballero, 1821 Fawn Circle ($190,000);
•Michael Galola, 2611 María Luisa ($184,000);
•Jesús Ramos, 706 Amistad ($160,000);
•Jaime Lozano, 467 Dalabo Drive ($160,000);
•Carlos González, 3721 Inez Street ($136,900);
•Rey Benavidez, 419 Frio Drive ($120,000);
•Rey Benavidez, 3823 Inez Street ($115,000);
•Pilar Brito, 704 Steamboat Drive ($110,000);
•Pilar Brito, 712 Steamboat Drive ($108,000);
•Gilbert Vera, 3808 Inez Street ($105,000);
•Elias Lozano, 2607 Denise Circle ($100,000);
•Elias Lozano, 2613 Denise Circle ($100,000);
•Elias Lozano, 2609 Benji Circle ($100,000);
•Randy Rives, 3109 Kenyon ($100,000);
•Victor López, 1320 Hickory ($100,000); and
•Javier Moreno, 2624 Flipper Drive ($100,000).
Highlights of repairs or additions in December of commercial buildings valued at $100,000 or more include:
•Dan Gerlach, 3102 S. McColl Road ($350,000); and
•Lowes Home Center, Inc., 2802 W. University Drive ($135,956).
Three Valley senators land plum spots on powerful Senate Finance Committee
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has appointed three Valley state senators to the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which develops the state budget for the full Senate.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, whose district includes Starr County, were put on the powerful money committee by Dewhurst on Friday, January 12.
Zaffirini was named vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, while Lucio remained chair of the Senate International Relations & Trade Committee. Hinojosa was also named vice-chair of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee.
The Senate committee assignments come in advance of the highly-anticipated move, possibly this week, by Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, to appoint House members to their respective panels.
A legislator’s position on certain committees can significantly increase their influence in pushing measures for their home districts, such as more money for state universities and roadways.
Hinojosa, Lucio, and Zaffirini’s committee assignments follow:
• Hinojosa: Vice-chair, Jurisprudence; Criminal Justice; Finance; Natural Resources; and Subcommittee on Agricultural, Rural Affairs and Coastal Resources;
• Lucio: Chair, International Relations and Trade; Business and Commerce; Finance; Subcommittee on Emerging Technologies and Economic Development; and State Affairs; and
• Zaffirini, Chair, Subcommittee on Higher Education; Vice-Chair, Finance; Administration; Education; and Health and Human Services.
Dewhurst announced the 15 standing committees and five subcommittees, including a new subcommittee to address the critical issues of flooding and evacuations in Texas.
“It was important to me to get the Senate organized and moving forward by appointing committees by the end of the first week of the session. After personally contacting all 31 senators late Friday evening, I thanked them in advance for the hard work they will put in over the course of the next five months for the people of Texas. I believe the lineup of these committees puts the right people in the right places to work toward making Texas a better place to live, grow a business and raise a family,” Dewhurst said.
Senators serve on more than one committee. The Valley senators committee appointments follow:
What do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eliot Spitzer have that Rick Perry needs?
By State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
Governors across the country, including Texas’ own Rick Perry, are preparing their State of the State speeches. In fact, the recently reelected governor of California and the newly elected governor of New York have already delivered theirs. And each of them took the opportunity to announce that affordable health care will be top priorities for their administration in 2007, including comprehensive children’s health care initiatives and efforts to reduce the number of uninsured adults in their states.
What will we hear in Texas about these issues? After all, more of our residents are uninsured than anywhere else in the country and health care costs threaten to overwhelm middle-class families, small business owners, hospitals, physicians — and our future economic growth.
The need to fix our health care crisis transcends partisan politics. Gov. Spitzer is a liberal Democrat and Gov. Schwarzenegger – like Gov. Perry – is a conservative Republican.
Nor is it a matter of geography. California, Texas, and New York rank first, second, and fourth in the number of uninsured working-age adults. They also rank first, second, and fifth in the number of uninsured children. If anything, the problem is more pervasive here because the percentage of Texans without insurance coverage – 31 percent of working-age adults and 20 percent of children – places us far ahead of every other state in the nation.
It isn’t because health care providers haven’t raised the issue, either. In careful reports, a coalition of the state’s medical schools, the Texas Medical Association, and others have offered dire predictions if Texas fails to act now to stop the vicious cycle of uninsurance.
But where health professionals may have fallen short is in not partnering with the single most powerful force in Texas politics: the business community. By failing to make the business case for dealing with the uninsured, the issue was AWOL from the 2006 elections and is still a non-issue today, as lawmakers gather for the legislative session and Gov. Perry prepares for his third term.
Gov. Schwarzenegger calls his own state’s high number of uninsured residents “a hidden tax on every person in this state” and “a terrible drain on our economy.” Gov. Spitzer says that “expanding access to health care will reduce state spending significantly in the long run.”
Here’s the situation in Texas:
• One in every four Texans – 5.6 million people – is uninsured. In Houston, one of every three people has no access to basic health services.
• Taxpayers, Texans with insurance, and employers who offer health benefits pay extra for caring for the uninsured, adding $1,551 to the average Texas family’s private health insurance premium.
• Some 79 percent of uninsured Texans either work themselves or live with a family member who does. These employed but uninsured Texans work mainly in small firms, which are the largest generators of new jobs.
• Uninsured patients are more likely to forego or delay treatment for acute illnesses or injuries, or to go without needed treatment for chronic conditions or illnesses. For employers, that means their sick workers will get sicker and be off the job longer.
• Many uninsured patients are forced to get their health care in already overcrowded emergency rooms at three times the cost of a physicians office and often at taxpayer expense.
And here are a few steps for Gov. Perry and our state leaders to consider:
• Expand the “three share” pilot project in Galveston County, where employers, employees, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are picking up equal shares of health insurance premiums for workers in small businesses that can’t otherwise afford to provide health care benefits.
• Encourage doctor participation in Medicaid by raising reimbursement rates.
• Bring home the dollars we deserve from Washington, D.C., where hundreds of millions in available federal funds are waiting for us if we will simply take advantage of the generous federal matching funds for Medicaid and CHIP by enrolling all eligible Texans in those proven programs.
• Ease the burden on local taxpayers by aggressively pursuing available federal reimbursements for school-based Medicaid services.
• Invest in proven nursing programs at state colleges and universities to address the record nursing shortage.
• Pilot test other innovations that would help uninsured working Texans buy into various state-run insurance programs.
We don’t need to copy the California or New York models. This is Texas, after all. We have unique challenges and – of course – that huge share of our population without health insurance. What we need is a Texas plan. And we need our state leaders to champion it.
Without a comprehensive initiative to solve the health care crisis, Texas will not be able to sustain a healthy economy or build a future of progress and prosperity. Other states are moving forward with bold initiatives to reduce their uninsured. If Texas wants to remain an attractive place to do business, we should, too.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa represents Senate District 20, which stretches from the Coastal Bend to the Rio Grande Valley.
Estella L. Treviño honored by Legislature for her contributions on behalf of public housing, elderly
Mrs. Estella Lane Treviño, a statewide leader in public housing programs and for efforts to help the elderly, has been honored for her many contributions to Texas by the state House of Representatives.
House Resolution 57, authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, hailed Treviño for her “exceptional” work in helping tens of thousands of area and state residents during a public service career that spans more than three decades.
Treviño, a political activist and Edinburg icon whose career has included service as a justice of the peace, has brought positive recognition to herself and her community.
The legislative resolution, which was approved by the House of Representatives on January 11, reads as follows:
H.R. No. 57
R E S O L U T I O N
“WHEREAS, Estella L. Treviño received the 2005 Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Service from the Texas chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials in recognition of her exceptional contributions to public housing in the Edinburg community; and
WHEREAS, For the past 32 years, Ms. Treviño has served as the executive director of the Edinburg Housing Authority, where she has been a passionate advocate for public housing and the elderly; and
WHEREAS, Through the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, Ms. Treviño has broadened the agency’s mission to encompass helping residents acquire marketable skills, and she has enabled more than
60 families to achieve the American dream of home ownership in the agency’s Sunrise Estates subdivision; and
WHEREAS, Ms. Treviño has further enriched the quality of life for area residents by incorporating community rooms, learning centers, and educational and recreational programs into Edinburg
public housing; in 1973, she was instrumental in the development and construction of The Towers, a 100-apartment complex designated for the elderly; and
WHEREAS, Under Ms. Treviño’s leadership, the agency has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Outstanding Services Award, the Specific Activity Award for Outstanding Programs from the Drug Elimination Program, the Award for Excellence in Youth Sports, the Family Self-Sufficiency Program Award, and the Texas NAHRO Member of the Year Award; and
WHEREAS, “Ms. T,” as she is affectionately known to her legion of friends and admirers, is a long-standing member of the Texas Silver Haired Legislature; at the age of 83, she remains committed to providing decent, affordable housing and promoting the skills necessary to achieve home ownership to the citizens of Edinburg; and
WHEREAS, Representative Aaron Peña has justly recognized Estella Treviño by authoring this resolution in her behalf during the Regular Session of the 80th Texas Legislature; now, therefore,
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 80th Texas Legislature hereby congratulate Estella L. Treviño on her receipt of the 2005 Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Service from the
Texas chapter of the National Association for Housing and Redevelopment Officials and extend to her deep gratitude for her years of service to the community; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Ms. Trevino as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.”
Judge J.D. Salinas attends Lyceum meeting in Midland
While most of us huddled up in our homes during the recent cold weather snap, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas braved the weather to travel to Midland this weekend and attend a quarterly Texas Lyceum meeting.
Texas Lyceum, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, is made up of 96 men and women from throughout the state of Texas who have demonstrated leadership in their community. The diverse group is comprised of government officials, business owners, doctors, lawyers, academics and others who discuss and debate the most pressing issues facing Texas.
“Group meetings like this help us generate new ideas and help me make better decisions,” Salinas said. “Some of them have tried the things we’re thinking about doing and they know what works and what doesn’t.”
“The Texas Lyceum brings together some of the best experts and many different opinions on the most timely issues and helps us form an effective plan of action,” Salinas said. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone who attends and I appreciate both the opportunity to learn from their experiences and the chance to tell them what works for us here.”
Houston Mayor Bill White; Dr. George Martin, President, St. Edward’s University; David Gonzales, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility; and Dr. Mary Evans Sias, President, Kentucky State University, will be among the speakers Salinas was scheduled to hear this weekend.
State lawmakers conduct tour of South Texas, Edinburg
A group of state legislators visited Hidalgo and Starr counties, including Edinburg, from January 18 – 24, as part of a major tour, sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.
The visit was organized to lobby, educate and inform state leaders about deep South Texas..
Several members of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation, including Peña, Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, were on hand to personally escort many of their fellow lawmakers.
“The Partnership does a tremendous job every session putting this tour together,” said Peña. “It is such an important tool in showing our colleagues firsthand the tremendous potential and growth in the Rio Grande Valley.”
The Partnership scheduled visits to the new Weslaco City Hall, McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center and South Texas College, the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley in Pharr, Edinburg’s new Children’s Hospital and Museum of South Texas History.
On Saturday, January 19, the went to Mission to tour the Rio Queen Citrus processing facility, the Los Ebanos Ferry, and then the historic plaza of Rio Grande City. They wrapped up the evening visiting members of the Tamaulipas Legislature atop the Weslaco-Progreso International Bridge for a “Fiesta de Hermandad.”
Before departing back to Austin on Sunday the legislators were scheduled to make a trip into Cameron County to tour the Rio Grande Regional Seawater Desalination Pilot Plant and the Port of Brownsville.
“The Rio Grande Valley is set to assume a more prominent role in the leadership of this Texas Legislature,” said Peña. “We have a unique opportunity to ensure that our public schools and universities have the tools necessary to keep producing world class leaders. We are going to continue working hard to provide access to healthcare to the young and old. It is so important to keep showcasing our rich cultural vibrancy and robust economy. It is indeed a pleasure to welcome our colleagues to South Texas.”
The Rio Grande Valley Partnership has been organizing these legislative trips since 1975. In 2005 the legislators toured communities in the Cameron and Willacy Counties.
Gov. Perry calls on Texans to “imagine the possibilities“
In his third gubernatorial oath-of-office address, Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, January 16, called on Texans to embrace the ideals of freedom, equality and selflessness. He challenged Texans to imagine the possibilities of a Texas with limitless opportunity.
“Imagine the possibilities in a Texas where every child is educated, every graduate has access to a good job and every life deemed precious. Imagine the possibilities in a Texas blind to color, class and ethnicity and where no one is invalidated because of their heritage, but valued because of their humanity. Imagine the possibilities in a Texas where every man, woman and child is able to put behind the past, to grab hold of their promise, to press on to be who they were created to be,” Perry said.
Perry said that even though Texas has not had a history of complete solidarity, he called on all Texans to come together and embrace the common ideals of freedom, equality and selflessness.
“My vision for Texas is a tremendous tapestry of diversity woven together by common threads. We are of many faiths, traditions, heritages but we are all Texans. And in Texas, it is not your identity that matters most, but your ideals,” Perry said. “And even when we disagree, we can engage our differences in a discussion that unifies rather than divides and that lifts up the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all people without casting a single soul aside.”
The governor said that a free society has a responsibility to those in poverty, the young and the aged and to those who are sick and live with disabilities. He also said we have a responsibility to future generations to leave them a world that is safe, an environment that is healthy, an economy that is strong and a government that is honest.
“Young Texans must never be taught about rights without also learning about responsibilities,” Perry said. “For more than a generation our culture has emphasized a message of self-indulgence at the expense of social obligation. We have reaped the consequences in the form of teen pregnancies, divorced and broken families, and a cycle of incarceration that joins young men with their fathers behind bars.”
“The fabric of our society is not government or individual freedom; it is the family,” Perry said. “And the demise of the family is the demise of any great society.”
Perry addressed the divisive issue of border security and immigration by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “come now, and let us reason together.” “We are both a nation of laws and immigrants; the former protect us, the latter enrich us,” Perry said. “We must secure the border with manpower, not unmanned walls. We must have a guest-worker program that recognizes the economic contributions of foreign workers and the desperate conditions that bring them here. And we must oppose amnesty because those who come here illegally should not be able to receive citizenship ahead of those who migrate here legally.”
Finally, Gov. Perry outlined his bipartisan agenda for a new term. “Together, we must work to make our border more secure and our neighborhoods safer. We must find solutions to the high rate of the uninsured and to the high cost of health insurance. We must commit to excellence in higher education as it prepares the workforce of the future, and we must ensure that property tax relief is not only substantial but long-lasting. We must pass budget reforms that protect the taxpayers,” Perry said. “Texas is better off when Republicans and Democrats work together because our potential is too vast to be spoiled by a politics leavened with partisanship.”
Democratic Party leader Radnofsky takes aims at alleged Republican missteps involving Hispanics
By Barbara Ann Radnofsky
While national Republicans attempt to attract Hispanics to their party, Texas Republicans have no joint strategy and attack each other with increasing frequency. They start 2007 as the minority in DC, with loss of power base and torn between factions, as they shoot themselves in the foot.
1. The Republican governor of Texas hosted his good friend, singer Ted Nugent, as the finale for his innaugural ball. The entertainer used machine guns as his props as he wore the Confederate battle flag and attacked folks who don’t speak English as their first language. The governor’s spokesman: “Most people had a really good time and enjoyed the show.” Houston Chronicle, Jan 18 2007. The governor is rumored to be seeking the Republican vice presidential slot.
2. The two Republican senators from Texas, finding themselves in the minority, now backtrack from their repeated, on-the-record votes for a doubled walled border fence at the borders with Mexico. They hosted mayors from Texas border areas who’ve argued their areas from Brownsville to El Paso would be economically devastated by the double walled fence for which their senators voted. The senior senator is rumored to be seeking the Republican vice presidential slot.
3. The chairwoman of the Republican Party in Texas criticized favored RNC Chair-to-be Sen. Martinez, who was born in Cuba, for his pro-amnesty positions. She was reported as “definite Martinez ‘no’ vote.” (Houston Chronicle Jan 18, 07). No word on whether she also seeks the Republican vice presidential slot. It should suffice for today that the Republican governor and senior senator continue their long standing feud as they jockey for position in Republican leadership. The governor’s campaign ads attacked the inability of the state’s federal leaders to bring federal dollars to Texas.
Barbara Ann Radnofsky of Houston was the Texas Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006.
Border leaders’ input crucial to fence plan
By Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Securing our nation’s borders should be among the highest priorities of the new congressional leadership because continued failure to do so endangers our nation’s security.
This is not a question that affects only states that share an international border; it demands immediate attention because it affects every American.
Throughout last year’s debate on comprehensive immigration reform, I stressed the need to secure our borders — not only our border with Mexico, but also our northern border with Canada, our maritime borders, coastlines and ports of entry. I have consistently voted in favor of strong border security initiatives, including reinforced fencing in strategic areas.
Other measures should be taken as well, including the deployment of additional Border Patrol agents, port of entry inspectors, immigration and customs personnel and drug enforcement agents. I have also supported the purchase of additional equipment, such as encrypted two-way radios, body armor and night-vision goggles.
Not only fencing but additional physical barriers are needed. Improved roads for patrols, lighting, cameras, electronic sensors and other infrastructure upgrades are needed. Only with such a multitiered, layered system will we be able to achieve our objective.
It is essential that those who know the border best are part of the process. Security measures will be far more effective if those who live and work along the border have a say in critical decisions, such as the location of fences. Congressmen who live thousands of miles from the border have neither the expertise nor background to make such decisions unilaterally.
In that spirit, I have arranged for mayors from cities along the border to meet today with Sen. John Cornyn, myself and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to give the secretary insights that can be provided only by those immersed in border issues every day.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorizes 700 miles of fencing along our southern border, and the mayors attending today’s meeting represent more than 2.1 million Texans directly impacted by this law. It is imperative that the voices of all Texans be heard, including those of state and local governments, Indian tribes and private property owners.
Throughout the process that led to passage of the Secure Fence Act, Sen. Cornyn and I were frustrated that local officials representing areas specifically cited in the act — particularly in the El Paso, Del Rio-to-Eagle Pass and Laredo-to-Brownville sectors — did not have the opportunity to participate in decisions regarding the location of fencing and other physical infrastructure near their communities. We repeatedly attempted to remedy this omission during the 109th Congress, and today’s meeting with Secretary Chertoff is a result of those efforts.
Fencing has proven to be an effective deterrent to crime along the Texas-Mexico border. For more than a decade, we have had a border fence in El Paso, where apprehensions decreased dramatically following fence construction.
More recently, in May 2005, a fence was constructed in Laredo. About 1.2 miles of strategic fencing has kept the students and faculty of Laredo Community College and local residents safe from the perils of illegal narcotic trafficking.
Both fences were built because local communities, in collaboration with their Border Patrol sector chiefs, recognized the effectiveness of strategic fences in controlling illegal entry and narcotic and human trafficking.
The United States is bound to Mexico by ties of history, blood, culture and land.
Our expanding commerce, growing trade and history with Mexico are like the Rio Grande, which unites us. Our border should bring health and life to both sides. It must be a shared resource from which we both benefit. It can be a symbol of the heritage we will always share.
We do not need to isolate ourselves from our friends. We can secure our borders with infrastructure and technology that protect our sovereignty and citizens and that make economic sense.
We have a historic opportunity to repair our immigration system, and I look forward to playing a key role in shaping comprehensive legislation in the 110th Congress. We must secure our borders first; and to keep our borders secure and our economy strong, we must work toward a solution that addresses the needs of commerce.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a Republican U.S. senator from Texas
Lt. Governor Dewhurst sworn in for a second term
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was sworn in on Tuesday, January 16, to a second term as Texas’ 41st Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor also serves as President of the Texas Senate.
Dewhurst took the oath of office in the State Capitol Tuesday morning, using Sam Houston’s Bible and surrounded by his family. “When you elected me the first time, it had to be an act of faith. This time I trust I’ve earned your confidence,” said Dewhurst in his inaugural remarks.
Dewhurst has made putting Texas Children First the cornerstone of his second term. He is asking the Texas Legislature to pass tougher laws dealing with child predators, put defibrillators in public schools and take illegal steroids out through mandatory, random drug testing.
“Texas Children First is a package of legislation based on a simple, unassailable premise–that safe and healthy children learn. Safe and healthy children learn, they grow, and they go on to lead lives that strengthen our state and make us proud,” said Dewhurst.
Before taking office as Lieutenant Governor, Dewhurst served as Texas Land Commissioner. Dewhurst is a successful businessman, rancher and proud veteran. Before taking public office he was a civic leader in his hometown of Houston. Dewhurst has also served in the United States Air Force, Central Intelligence Agency and the United States State Department. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
Congressman Cuellar cosponsors bill to lower costs of student loans
On Wednesday, January 17, Congress passed HR 5, the College Student Relief Act, which was cosponsored by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen. This bill will help make higher education accessible and affordable by cutting the interest rates in half on certain subsidized student loans over the next five years. Interest rates on subsidized student loans for undergraduates would be cut from the current 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent.
“The cost of attending college has continued growing at an unprecedented rate,” noted Cuellar. “A college education is now out-of-reach for many working families. The cost of public universities has increased by 41 percent after inflation since 2001 and jumped by 17 percent after inflation for private universities.”
Once fully phased in, this bill would save the typical borrower, with $13,800 in subsidized federal student loan debt, approximately $4,400 over the life of the loan. Additionally, cutting interest rates has widespread bipartisan support, with 88 percent of the American public supporting interest rate cuts.
“Our economy relies heavily on having a highly-skilled and well-educated workforce,” continued Cuellar. “For America to remain the preeminent global economic player, we must ensure that our students have access to all levels of education. This bill is a step forward in helping working families send their children to college.”
Congressman Hinojosa hails cuts in interest rates for student loans
Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, January 17, ) addressed the U.S. House of Representatives on H.R. 5, the College Student Debt Relief Act of 2007. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in support of H.R. 5, the College Student Debt Relief Act of 2007.
Last year the 109th Congress cut $12 billion from the student loan programs. These savings were not re-invested in helping low and moderate income families send their children to college.
Instead, the $12 billion from the student loan program was used to underwrite the irresponsible deficit spending generated by tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Those cuts severely hampered our nation’s ability to close the college access gap for Hispanic and other low and moderate income students.
The 110th Congress has a new set of priorities. HR 5 will cut in half the interest on subsidized student loans by the year 2011. This legislation will save the average borrower $4,400 over the life of the loan.
The student loan programs have become an important piece of the access puzzle for Hispanic families. This interest rate reduction is part of the solution.
Hispanic students borrow less on average than other groups. The reluctance to assume debt that could be difficult to repay has pushed many Hispanic students into attendance patterns that jeopardize their ability to persist until graduation. Nevertheless, according to the report, How Latino Students Pay for College, Excelencia in Education, the average loan amounts exceeded the average grant amounts by more than $1800.
It is of critical importance to the Hispanic community that we provide assurances to borrowers that there are protections to help them meet their student loan obligations.
We are committed to addressing the other pieces of the access and affordability puzzle as well.
We will move forward to ensure that academic preparation is no longer a missing piece of the puzzle. Today, there are many gaps and leaks in the educational pipeline. For Hispanic students, the on-time high school graduation rate hovers around 50 percent and the college-ready rate is less than 20 percent.
We will make sure that the early awareness of the financial aid piece of the puzzle is not missing. A recent survey conducted by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute found that more than half of Hispanic parents and 43 percent of young adults could not name a single source of college financial aid. Certainly, we can do better.
Finally, and most importantly, we will invest in the most important piece of the puzzle – the Pell grant.
The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance estimates that in 2003, more than 400,000 college-qualified low-income students did not enroll in a four-year college, and 170,000 did not enroll in any college at all because of financial barriers.
The maximum Pell grant has remained frozen for 4 years. That must change.
But first, with H.R. 5, we will right a wrong and place savings from the student loan program where they belong – with our low and middle income students.
I urge all my colleagues to support this down payment on college access and affordability and to vote yes on H.R. 5.”
Perry designates property tax relief for senior citizens, tax rebates emergency items for Legislature
Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, January 12 declared legislation authorizing property tax relief for senior citizens and legislation authorizing state tax rebates as emergency items for the 2007 legislative session. The emergency designation will allow lawmakers to begin considering these issues in the initial 30 days of the legislative session.
“I want to see a constitutional amendment on the May ballot so that seniors get the maximum amount of tax relief on this year’s tax bill the same as other homeowners,” Perry said. “Just because senior citizens have their tax rates frozen doesn’t mean they should be left out in the cold when it comes to additional rate relief.”
“To keep government fiscally responsible, state leaders need the authority to rebate surplus funds directly to taxpayers,” Perry said.
The text of the Governor’s message to the House and Senate follows:
I, RICK PERRY, Governor of the State of Texas, pursuant to Article III, Section 5, of the Texas Constitution and by this special message, do hereby submit the following emergency matters for immediate consideration to the Senate and House of Representatives of the 80th Legislature, now convened:
Legislation authorizing the reduction of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for public school purposes on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect any reduction in the rate of those taxes.
Legislation providing that state appropriations made for the purpose of directly reducing local property taxes and state appropriations made for the purpose of returning state funds to the public do not count against the constitutional state spending limit and authorizing the legislature to provide for the grant of public money for the purpose of returning state funds to the public.
Statement from Speaker Tom Craddick
“I applaud the emergency declaration by the Governor. This will allow the legislature to consider these issues in an expeditious manner. If it is the desire of the members to pass such legislation, the opportunity exists that such constitutional amendments could be brought to the voters of this state for their consideration on a May ballot.”
Statement from Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City
“I fully support the effort to reduce school taxes on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled. The property tax cut passed last year must be applied fairly and equally to all taxpayers.”
Sen. Zaffirini wants state, school districts to provide online sites to warn young people of sexual predators
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has filed Senate Bill 120 to provide young people with Internet sites to help them avoid being lured by sexual predators and child molesters.
Her legislation follows:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
relating to the prevention and prosecution of and education concerning the offense of online solicitation of a minor.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
Title 1, Code of Criminal Procedure, is amended by adding Chapter 5A to read as follows:
ONLINE SOLICITATION OF MINOR
(a) The attorney general shall maintain on the attorney general’s Internet website a link that enables an Internet user to access free of charge information and educational materials designed to prevent the commission of the offense of online solicitation of a minor under Section 33.021, Penal Code, or any substantially similar offense.
(b) The information and educational materials described by Subsection (a) must be:
(1) appropriate for use in a classroom setting in a public primary or secondary school; and
(2) designed to educate minors concerning ways to avoid becoming a victim or perpetrator of the offense of online solicitation of a minor under Section 33.021, Penal Code, or a substantially similar offense.
(c) The Internet link maintained under Subsection (a) may link the Internet user to information and educational materials that are prepared by the attorney general, another state agency, or a private entity that operates in the computer or computing industry, including an Internet service provider or a computer software provider.
Section 37.083(a), Education Code, is amended to read as follows:
(a) Each school district shall adopt and implement a discipline management program to be included in the district improvement plan under Section 11.252. The program must provide for:
(1) prevention of and education concerning unwanted physical or verbal aggression, sexual harassment, and other forms of bullying in school, on school grounds, and in school vehicles;
(2) prevention of the offense of online solicitation of a minor under Section 33.021, Penal Code, or a substantially similar offense by educating students concerning ways to avoid becoming victims or perpetrators of that offense.
Section 33.021(f), Penal Code, is amended to read as follows:
(f) An offense under Subsection (b) is a state jail felony, and an offense under Subsection (c) is a felony of the second degree, except that an offense under Subsection (b) [or (c)] is a felony of the second degree and an offense under Subsection (c) is a felony of the first degree if the minor is
younger than 14 years of age or is an individual whom the actor believes to be younger than 14 years of age.
(a) The attorney general shall post the Internet link required by Article 5A.01, Code of Criminal Procedure, as added by this Act, not later than December 1, 2007.
(b) Each school district shall modify its discipline management program to comply with Section 37.083, Education Code as amended by this Act, as soon as possible after the attorney general posts the Internet link required by Article 5A.01, Code of Criminal Procedure, as added by this Act, and not later than the first day of the 2008-2009 school year.
(c) The change in law made by this Act in amending Section 33.021, Penal Code, applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For the purposes of this section, an offense was
committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense was committed before that date.