Hidalgo County filing into the 21st century

Katie Lopez, Valley Central
Processing paper files can be a time consuming and costly task, but Hidalgo County is looking to kick that way of doing business to the curb.

"There was a court mandate that is now mandating all civil filings, short of juveniles and child welfare cases, be filed electronically come January 2014," District Clerk Laura Hinojosa said. "Hidalgo County is in the top ten counties that will start the e-filing on January 2nd." 

The county could soon add another type of e-filing to the list---criminal cases.

Recently, State Representative Terry Canales' bill to move all criminal filings electronically passed the Texas House.



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Bill by Canales protects homeowners.

Homeowners to be better protected under legislation by Rep. Canales that is approved by House committee

By DAVID A. DÍAZ, My Harlingen News

Legislation filed by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, would help protect thousands of Texans who purchase their homes through contracts for deed from losing their investments.  Contracts for deed oftentimes are used when traditional financing is not available. 

Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, is a joint author of the measure, known as House Bill 2091. 

The House Committee on Business and Industry on Thursday, April 11, unanimously approved HB 2091. HB 2091 is awaiting action by the House Committee on Calendars, which decides which major bills are scheduled for debate and vote by the full House of Representatives. 

HB 2091 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. 


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In Case of Fire: Officials hoping to improve water access in rural areas.

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Canales works to improve water access in rural areas.

In Case of Fire: Officials hoping to improve water access in rural areas

by Nadia Galindo. Valley Central

The Edinburg fire chief along with a state representative are pushing to pass a bill that will help protect homes from fires in rural areas.

The bill is said to encourage water supply corporations to improve firefighters access to hydrants.

In the state of Texas, a hydrant is considered non-working if it pumps less than 250 gallons per minute.

If a hydrant is not up to standards, it must be painted black indicating it’s not working or the water corporation is liable in the case of a fire.

City water supply companies are protected from liability.


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New efforts could improve fire response in rural areas.

Jared Janes, The Monitor

In rural Hidalgo County, Edinburg firefighters come prepared.

No response to any verified fire is complete without a veritable convoy: a rescue truck, pumpers and tankers filled with fire-squelching water. The full-fledged response is partly the learned mentality of a profession where seconds count, but it’s also the result of a persistent threat they’ve learned to live with.

But even on rural streets lined with expansive houses, there’s no guarantee of fire hydrants.

“We can’t run a truck out there and say, ‘Don’t worry. We’ve got water here,’” said Edinburg fire Chief Shawn Snider, whose department responds under a contract with the county to fires in unincorporated northern Hidalgo County. “Our expectation is we take everything with us. If we’re blessed with water resources (on site), we use them. If not, we’ve got it with us.”


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Fire Safety Protection Improved by Canales' Legislation

Thousands of homes and businesses in rural areas of the Valley would see fire safety protection improved by Canales’ legislation

David Diaz, The Valley Voice

Thousands of homes and businesses in rural and unincorporated areas of the Rio Grande Valley could be better protected during fire emergencies under legislation filed by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

His measure, House Bill 1768, would encourage private utilities, such as a water supply corporation, to improve firefighters’ access to hydrants by shielding those firms from unfair liabilities if a hydrant malfunctions or provides inadequate water supply during a blaze.

His legislation was introduced as a response to unintended results from a law, enacted by the Texas Legislature six years ago, that affected fire hydrants in rural or unincorporated areas of the state.

In Texas, a device is considered non-functioning if it pumps less than 250 gallons of water per minute, according to the State Fire Firefighter’s and Fire Marshal’s Association of Texas. This is a minimum requirement based on uniform standards adopted by the National Fire Protection Association and used across the country.


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Canales: Record custodial interrogations

Grits for Breakfast

Yesterday I testified on behalf of the Innocence Project of Texas in support of Rep. Terry Canales' HB 1096 requiring recording of custodial police investigations, which is one of the outstanding recommendations of the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions the Legislature has not yet acted upon. Rodney Ellis is carrying the companion bill in the Senate.

Nationally, false confessions occurred in about 25% of cases resulting in DNA exonerations. (Notably, causes of false convictions can overlap: Someone misidentified by an eyewitness may plea guilty to avoid a harsher sentence or the death penalty.) While most DNA exonerations involved sexual assault cases, however, false confessions were particularly prevalent in murder cases, which account for 75% of false confessions listed in the National Exoneration Registry.

The legislation protects both innocent defendants as well as protecting law enforcement from false accusations. It also generates better evidence for prosecutors and avoids spurious suppression hearings over alleged coercion.

Texas has had a number of high-profile cases involving false confessions, including the Yogurt Shop murders (where dozens of people falsely confessed), Christopher Ochoa (who falsely implicated an innocent co-defendant, Richard Danziger), and Stephen Brodie, a deaf man exonerated last year after 17 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit for a 1992 sexual assault conviction. Texas law requires recording of oral confessions already, but not of the interrogation leading up to it. So a statement may be recorded saying "I did it," but if the jury can't see the hours-long discussions that led up to it, they've little context for understanding whether a false confession was likely.


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Canales co-authors bill to name highway after trooper.

Bill would designate part of U.S. 83 to fallen trooper

Gail Burkhardt, The Monitor

Enrique Chavez takes comfort in the fact that his son will not be forgotten.

Former State Trooper Eduardo Chavez died in a car wreck while reporting to the scene of a drug bust on May 2, 2006. Now, seven years later, local state legislators have introduced a bill that would rename a 5-mile stretch of U.S. 83 that surrounds the area where he died, after Trooper Chavez.

“You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a son,” Enrique Chavez said in Spanish. “It’s not easy…There is a phrase in the Army, ‘We do not forget.’ It’s very important to see that they aren’t forgetting him they are remembering him well.”

Chavez’s two other sons, Enrique Jr., whose friends call him Henry, and German, who also work with the Texas Department of Public Safety.


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Gun Education Bill goes through Committee Hearing.

Harwell-inspired bills go through committee hearing

Elizabeth Findell, The Monitor

EDINBURG — Superintendent Rene Gutierrez tried to explain to Austin lawmakers Thursday just how often gunfire from hunters and target shooters is noticeable around district schools.

“We hear it all the time from our schools that are outside city limits,” he said.

Gutierrez joined three Rio Grande Valley representatives for a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public safety to pitch bills aiming to keep bullets from traveling into school zones.

The committee considered bills from state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and state Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Palmview, filed in the aftermath of a 2011 shooting at Harwell Middle School that left two boys seriously wounded.


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Canales Co-Authors Major Education Bill.

Education bill if passed would focus more on college readiness than standardized testing

Your Valley Voice

EDINBURG–Texas’ education policy would be dramatically improved under House Bill 5, legislation, local leaders said.

The bill,coauthored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, that was overwhelmingly approved, 145 – 2, by the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 26.

The legislation, which must still pass the Senate, is designed to present a fairer, more comprehensive public view of campus and district performances. It also will help students better prepare for success in the workplace or in college, and eliminate excessive state-mandated standardized testing, which authors of the bill believe wastes time, money and resources that should be dedicated to classroom instruction.

House Bill 5, whose lead author is Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, addresses concerns raised statewide and locally by educators, taxpayers, and business leaders, the South Texas legislator said.


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