Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, whose legislative seniority and expertise have allowed him to successfully champion issues that are crucial to South Texans — including securing more than $1 billion for public education, transportation, and health programs for the Valley — on Tuesday, September 15, announced he will not be seeking reelection to an eighth two-year term in 2010.
Flores said his decision was influenced by recent indictments issued by a Travis County grand jury over information he says was properly submitted on his personal financial report.
The veteran lawmaker said he must concentrate on clearing his good name, but expressed regret that as a result of the controversy, Hidalgo County and the Valley are going to lose crucial power in the Texas Legislature.
"I worked effectively, fought hard, and delivered for South Texas," he said. "I will not apologize for standing up for our region."
Flores said he has never done anything to bring discredit to himself, his fam ily, and his constituents.
"When I was first elected to represent my constituents, I took an oath of office to uphold the laws and ethics rules of this great state," Flores said. "At no point during my public service have I intentionally or knowingly violated any state law or rule."
Flores added that during the Travis County legal proceedings, he has been "fully cooperative and have disclosed any information required of me."
He said he has set a high standard of effectiveness in his legislative work on behalf of his district and South Texas.
"As my former boss, the late Bob Bullock, used to say, he left Texas better than it was," Flores recalled. "Well, as anyone can see, there is no doubt that I will leave House District 36 better than it was," Flores said. "God bless Texas, and God bless District 36."
The successful lawmaker pledged to continue working on major issues to benefit his beloved South Texas.
"I would like to thank my supporters and constituents for giving me the opportunity to shape South Texas into a better place for our youth, our families, the elderly, and our veterans. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning not only about the constituency of District 36 but also learning about the political process as a whole," said Flores. "I look forward to working with the many influential community leaders and elected officials whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in order to continue making District 36 a better place for us all.
Valley VA Hospital
Also, without a reelection campaign to take up valuable time, Flores said he and his staff will be able to concentrate resources on exclus ively serving constituents, including shaping legislative policies that are crucial to South Texas.
"This fall, I will continue concentrating on helping secure state voter approval of Proposition 8, which will help lead to the construction of a Veterans Administration Hospital for South Texas," Flores said. "With such a long-overdue facility potentially representing a state and federal investment of $175 million for its construction, a Valley VA Hospital will rank as one of the most important economic development and medical care achievements in the history of the Texas border region."
The pressure from Flores, other legislators, and area veterans groups to bring a VA Hospital to South Texas has resulted in legislation, dubbed the Far South Texas Veterans Medical Center Act of 2009, being filed in Congress by local congressmen and Texas' two U.S. senators.
That federal proposal, filed by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would require construction of a full VA Hospital in deep South Texas. The nearest VA Hospital to the Valley is in San Antonio, which is more than 250 miles away from thousands of U.S. veterans who live in the Valley and in=2 0northern Mexico.
To help push the federal measure, Flores successfully passed legislation last spring to put Proposition 8 on the statewide constitutional amendments ballot, which will face voters on Tuesday, November 3.
Proposition 8, one of 11 proposed amendments, would require the state government to use key resources to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make a Valley VA Hospital a reality.
Under one scenario envisioned by Flores, area veterans groups, and other state lawmakers, the state government would help pay for building a Valley VA Hospital, while the federal government would be responsible for its operating and maintenance costs.
Strong voice for South Texas
His decision to not seek reelection was supported by his family, including his wife, the former Debra GarcÃ-a, and their two sons, Ismael Jr., 25, and Eric, 17.
"My long tenure as a strong voice for South Texas in the House of Representatives has given me the opportunities to produce many meaningful funding and program initiatives for the good people of the Valley," said Flores. "For 13 years, I have provided direct access to the people of House District 36 and worked hard for them to get them a seat at the table of power. I thank many people and supporters for the honor of representing them in Austin. May God bless Texas."
He will continue to serve in office until his term ends in early January 2011.
House District 36 includes parts or all of the cities of Granjeno, Hidalgo, McAllen, Mission, Palmview, PeÃ±itas, and Pharr.
Flores will be leaving with an impressive résumé, including influential roles as chairman of the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures, as well as serving three terms on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which writes the House's version of the state's two-year operating budget.
His extensive professional and personal relationships in the Texas Legislature were forged early on, when he worked for six years under Texas Comptroller Bob Bullock and Texas Comptroller John Sharp, where he served as a division manager, overseeing and implementing a pilot program which cut government waste, saving millions of tax dollars.
Soon after his leadership role on behalf of those two statewide figures, Flores returned to South Texas, and was elected state representative in November 1996. Although he has faced several challenges, Flores has never been defeated as state representative.
Other groundbreaking achievements
Among the dozens of other key state laws which he has passed, Flores's legislative legacy includes:
â€¢ Authorizing South Texas College to become one of a handful of community colleges in Texas to be able to offer four-year university degrees;
â€¢ Creating the Valley-wide system of world birding centers, which annually generate millions of dollars in tourism to South Texas;
â€¢ Securing millions of dollars in state funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which helps provide affordable health insurance coverage for the children of thousands of Valley working families;
â€¢ Successfully pushing for major expansions of state highway projects in the Valley;
â€¢ Supporting legislation that provided the largest annual pay raise for teachers, as well as pension increases for retired teachers;
â€¢ Creating and helping secure funding for the Tejano Monument, a sculptural masterpiece, to be located on the most visible southeast portion of the Texas Capitol grounds, which will showcase the vast contributions of Mexican Americans to the culture, history, and successes of Texas;
â€¢ Passing the "Texas Ag First Act", which requires school districts to give preference to buying Texas grown or processed products, including vegetation for landscaping purposes, as long as the cost to the school districts are equal and the quality is comparable to non-state products;
â€¢ Passing a legislative resolution naming Mission as the "Home of Citrus";
â€¢ Passing a legislative resolution, brought to him by 2nd graders from Marcell Elementary of Mission, designating "Chips and Salsa" as the official snack of Texas;
â€¢ Increasing financial survivor benefits for spouses and dependent children of peace officers and fire fighters killed in the line of duty;
â€¢ Eliminating college tuition and fees for students attending state colleges and universities if they have a parent in the U.S. armed services who is serving the nation in a combat zone;
â€¢ Providing up to a 100 percent property home tax break for disabled veterans; and
â€¢ Creating the multi-million dollar Alfredo GonzÃ¡lez Texas State Veterans Home in McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley Veterans Cemetery in Mission.
Flores, a U.S. Army veteran who was part of the military team that helped develop the nation's Patriot Missile system, is a graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American, and has maintained a successful business consulting practice.
Other public service positions held by Flores include serving for seven years on the La Joy school board as president, vice-president, and secretary. He also has served as vice-president of the Hidalgo-Willacy private industry council.
Public h onors and recognitions
Also during his legislative career, Flores has received numerous honors, such as:
â€¢ Texas Society of Architects' Distinguished Statesman;
â€¢ Legislator of the Year by the State Association of Fire Fighters;
â€¢ Legislator of the Year by the Texas Game Wardens Association;
â€¢ Texas Spirit of Education Award from the Association of Texas Professional Educators;
â€¢ He received recognition from the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas;
â€¢ He was inducted into the Texas Association of Realtors Hall of Fame;
â€¢ Named Friend of Texas Charities by bingo interest groups;
â€¢ He was recognized for his many contributions by Texas Citrus Mutual; and
â€¢ He received the Leadership Award from the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce for his contributions to the Hispanic community.