The Rio Grande Valley’s delegation reached a compromise late Thursday on legislation that would create a regional medical school and university, likely ending a dispute over location that threatened to derail the concept.
Every House and Senate member from the Valley signed off on the compromise that will be offered Friday as an amendment to the legislation pending in the House. If the compromise is accepted by two-thirds of the entire House, it will be signed off on by the bill’s Senate sponsors Saturday and sent to Gov. Rick Perry.
State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, a leader in Hidalgo County’s negotiation team, said the agreement shows the Valley can work as a team. He applauded his Cameron County counterparts — state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, and the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville — for working hard to negotiate a deal.
“I’m elated we were able to garner an agreement that the whole Valley can support,” Martinez said. “We can get behind and make history with a medical school that will be placed strategically and utilizing a regional concept for Hidalgo and Cameron counties.”
The agreement came as lawmakers from Hidalgo and Cameron counties prepared for a debate on the House floor Friday that would have determined the proposal’s future.
The state Senate approved a bill Thursday containing language proposed by state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, that established Hidalgo County as the primary home for the medical school. The state House was set to consider a separate bill Friday that required the University of Texas System to establish a blue-ribbon panel that would determine where the individual components would go.
Leaders from Hidalgo and Cameron counties had each staked out opposing stands on the issue of the medical school’s location.
Cameron County officials have said Hinojosa’s proposal unnecessarily splits the school in two and limits the UT System’s flexibility in designing a regional school. Hidalgo County officials have countered that the new proposal would fairly distribute the school’s assets across both counties and puts it in the best position to succeed in the larger county.
Hinojosa, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the differences of opinion were part of the legislative process. He said the agreement late Thursday adds “more clarity and more definition” to what both ends of the Valley wanted.
“We’ve got to give credit to all the Valley delegation,” Hinojosa said. “As contentious as this issue was, we wanted to make this happen. I knew it would get done.
“At the end, we came out with what I consider an excellent product for the entire region.”