May 25, 2007

Ailing senator helps quash voter ID bill

Ailing senator helps quash voter ID bill

09:49 AM CDT on Thursday, May 24, 2007
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared a much-debated voter identification bill dead Wednesday night as the Senate faced a midnight deadline for passage of all bills in this year's legislative session.

His declaration prompted Democratic Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston, who has been recovering from a liver transplant but has stayed in Austin to prevent a vote on the bill, to thank the lieutenant governor and all of his colleagues before departing the Capitol.

"It's time to go home and do what the doctors tell me," Mr. Gallegos said, adding that he had no regrets. "It's something that had to be done. If I hadn't been here, they would have passed it."

Mr. Gallegos returned to the Capitol on Monday against his doctors' wishes to preserve a Democratic blockade of the GOP-backed legislation, which would have required Texans to show a photo ID or two other pieces of identification to vote. The Senate's 11 Democrats blocked action on the proposal under the chamber's long-standing rule that requires a two-thirds vote of the 31-member chamber to take up any bill.

The measure passed the House earlier this year but has been stalled in the Senate. Republicans say it's an important piece of legislation to fight voter fraud, especially illegal immigrants voting. Democrats contend that's a problem that doesn't exist and say the measure will harm minorities and the elderly.

Besides thanking Mr. Dewhurst for ending the partisan standoff over the bill, Mr. Gallegos also thanked Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, a family physician, for monitoring his health this week and arranging to have a hospital bed placed in a room adjacent to the Senate chamber for Mr. Gallegos to rest.

"I'll be back," the Democrat promised other senators before leaving. "If you want to fight this battle again, I'll fight it – but with a healthier Mario Gallegos."

May 21, 2007

Mike Allen resigns from Texas Border Coalition to battle illness; will remain on STC Board of Trustees

Coalition to battle illness; will remain on STC Board of Trustees

Mike Allen, a major player in the Texas political and economic development arenas, announced on Tuesday, May 15, that is resigning from the Texas Border Coalition in order to concentrate on medical treatments for an undisclosed illness.

The Texas Border Coalition, formerly known as the Texas Border Infrastructure Coalition, is an alliance of elected leaders and economic development officials representing more than 2 million residents who live along the Texas-Mexico border.

Allen is the founder, former chairman, and the driving force for TBC, which lobbies Congress and the Texas Legislature for laws and policies that benefit the border region from El Paso to Brownsville.

Allen also will step down as Executive Vice President of Strategic Affairs and External Projects with the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. He was the longtime president of the MEDC, but voluntarily reduced his oversight role in the jobs-creation non-profit entity when he first learned of his illness.

Both actions were effective Friday, May 18.

Allen later did say that he would remain a member of the South Texas Community College Board of Trustees, which is an elected governing body.

“Because of my health situation it has become necessary to resign in order to take some specialized treatments over the next several months,” said Allen. “I do not believe I can adequately handle some of the responsibilities that I currently have.”

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said Allen has contributed in more ways than one to the improvement of his fellow man.

“In his remarkable career, Mike Allen has used his wonderful talents to inspire a huge number of people from all walks of life to seek and achieve a better way of life,” Hinojosa said. “There are a lot of people who will be praying for a very successful outcome for him.”

In his letter of resignation, Allen expressed confidence in the work of the Texas Border Coalition.

“I know that with the structure that we have now and the people that are involved with this organization, we will continue to be a driving force in supporting the Workforce, Healthcare, Transportation, and other Border Issues in our communities,” Allen said. “I appreciate the support everyone has provided me during my tenure with the Texas Border Coalition.

“I would like to thank (Eagle Pass) Mayor (Chad) Foster (chairman of TBC) and all of you, whom I had the opportunity to work with,” Allen wrote to his fellow TBC leaders. “It has been a great experience and I certainly think we have achieved many great things for the border. I hope that I can stay in touch with each and every one of you.”

Allen has been in the forefront of some of the most important legislative and economic developments for the Texas border region, ranging from helping lobby for more than $1 billion in new state money for border highway projects to participating in congressional hearings on matters ranging from transportation and international trucking to health care and infrastructure development.

His current work includes rallying border political and business leaders to oppose plans by the federal government to build reinforced fencing – characterized as a border wall by its critics – along more than 100 miles of the Texas boundary with Mexico. Opponents say the border wall, which is intended to help reduce illegal immigration from Mexico, will cause economic chaos in many border cities.

“For nearly two decades, Mike Allen has rendered extraordinary service to the people of the Rio Grande Valley as he has sought to address the development needs of one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States, and for his tireless dedication and remarkable vision,” Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, stated in a resolution she authored honoring Allen in 2005.

Some of Allen’s many other accomplishments are noted in the House resolution honoring him. That resolution states:

WHEREAS, Michael A. Allen has long played an instrumental role in the economic development of McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley; and

WHEREAS, President and chief executive officer of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation since its inception in 1988, this esteemed Texan has led MEDC to repeated success in its mission to attract new industry, upgrade local infrastructure, and facilitate trade and commerce; and

WHEREAS, With Mr. Allen at the helm for the past 17 years, MEDC has recruited to the U.S. side of the border more than 215 companies, employing over 18,000 persons; the corporation has also

brought more than 250 companies to Reynosa, Mexico, thereby adding another 75,000 jobs to the area; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Allen and his staff have generously shared the knowledge and expertise of MEDC with their Mexican counterparts; at the invitation of Don Florencio Salazar, coordinator with Plan Puebla-Panama, Mr. Allen consulted on the economic development of a number of Mexican states and the city of Merida; during that trip, he and other MEDC staff met with various state governors and economic development teams and offered insights into how to attract industry to each of their regions; and

WHEREAS, Under Mr. Allen’s guidance, MEDC has also sought to forge international links by fostering sister-city relationships with more than 10 cities in Mexico, as well as with cities in Canada and China; and

WHEREAS, Mike Allen’s personal achievements include his contribution as a cofounder of the South Texas Border Partnership, a coalition of five cities in Hidalgo County, and as the founder and chairman of the Texas Border Infrastructure Coalition, which has brought job training funds to the Valley and secured $1.1 billion in highway funds for the region stretching from El Paso to Brownsville; and

WHEREAS, In addition, he has campaigned for the Anzalduas International Crossing, a project jointly supported by the Cities of McAllen, Hidalgo, and Mission; he has also worked to unite customs brokers, truckers, and Mexican officials in efforts to expedite trucking, and he has coordinated those same groups, together with civic leaders in Hidalgo County, in developing
support for the construction of Interstate 69
; and

WHEREAS, Mike Allen can take tremendous pride, moreover, in MEDC’s involvement in the creation of the Regional Academic Health Center, a Lower Rio Grande Valley extension of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; division campuses of the RAHC have been established in McAllen, Brownsville, Edinburg, and Harlingen; and

WHEREAS, Affiliated with numerous economic development organizations, Mr. Allen has further served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Management and Relations, as a board member of the Alliance for Security and Trade and of the Border Trade Alliance, as a director of the Rio Grande Valley Council of Governments, and as a trustee of South Texas College; the breadth of his knowledge is reflected in his participation in congressional hearings on matters ranging from transportation and international trucking to health care and infrastructure development; and

WHEREAS, For nearly two decades, Mike Allen has rendered extraordinary service to the people of the Rio Grande Valley as he has sought to address the development needs of one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States, and for his tireless dedication and remarkable vision he is indeed deserving of warmest commendation; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 79th Texas Legislature hereby honor Michael A. Allen for his immeasurable contributions to expanding economic opportunity on both sides of the Rio Grande and extend to him sincere best wishes for continued success in all his endeavors; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Mr. Allen as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.

Should the Texas State Legislature pass immigration enforcement laws in 2009?