A state constitutional amendment that is designed to bring a Veterans Administration Hospital to deep South Texas picked up a major endorsement on Tuesday, September 1, when Gov. Rick Perry, who was in Harlingen for a bill signing ceremony relating to a planned medical school for the Valley, enthusiastically revealed his support for Proposition 8.
Proposition 8, which will be on the November 3 statewide ballot, is the result of legislation spearheaded by Valley veterans and successfully carried through the Texas Legislature last spring by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, who was the author of the measure, and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Hinojosa was the Senate sponsor of the legislation.
Rep. Armando "Mando" MartĂ-nez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, were co-authors of the Valley VA Hospital constitutional amendment.
Proposition 8 states: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state.
Governor: "Vote Aye!" for Proposition 8
Following the bill signing ceremony for the medical school, which was hosted at the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, Perry fielded questions from the audience, and was asked how he will vote on Proposition 8.
"Vote Aye!" Perry quickly declared, prompting cheers from a delegation of veterans who were part of a packed house of business and community leaders, medical students, and legislative leaders who gathered for the bill-signing ceremony.
"That was a pretty simple one," the governor grinned, evidently pleased with the chance to remind voters in South Texas that he, too, is playing a role in helping bring a long sought-after Veterans Administration Hospital to voter-rich South Texas.
Perry, who served as a pilot in the Air Force, is facing a challenge in the March 2010 Republican Party primary from fellow political heavyweight U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in his reelection bid for governor.
Texas Democrats are also developing their own list of gubernatorial candidates, which currently features Tom Schieffer of Ft. Worth, a former state representative and lifelong businessman, and Kinky Friedman, a humorist and author.
Hutchison is already on board in pushing for increased medical
resources for Valley veterans, and is co-author of federal legislation by Sen. John Cornyn, which is being carried by the Valley's congressional delegation in the House, which calls for the construction of a $175 million VA Hospital in deep South Texas.
Proposition 8 allows Perry to share in the credit for state efforts to help South Texas veterans.
"With the growth we see in the Rio Grande Valley, I hope our friends in Washington. D.C. will do what is right, what is appropriate, and will not only expand the veterans services here, but (bring) a Veterans Hospital that will provide service to the veterans here for years to come," Perry said.
The governor noted the leadership roles taken by the South Texas legislators, and singled out Hinojosa, who was at the Harlingen event, for his military service in Vietnam.
"Chuy, who is a former United States Marine, he understands the importance of having a veterans facility here," Perry said of Hinojosa, prompting the Marine battle cry of "Ooh! Rah!" from several members of the audience.
Hinojosa also was a co-author of the legislation that will create the UT medical school in the Valley.
Flores, Hinojosa and MartĂ-nez have promised to use their considerable influence among scores of major political, business, and community groups in Texas, ranging from organized labor to business interests to veterans organizations, to help rally support for passage of Proposition 8.
"Proposition 8 is designed to help not only the Valley, but to pool state and federal resources to help major regions of Texas which have large populations of veterans who need the specialized services provided by VA Hospitals," Hinojosa said. "The construction of a Valley VA Hospital would have a huge economic impact in the Valley, for generations to come."