Fighter (n.) One who works tirelessly for a goal or objective.
Born in McAllen, Texas in Hidalgo County, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa is the eldest of eight children. He attended Mission ISD schools as a child and worked as a farm worker during his teen years. He led the Mission Eagles football team as their quarterback, and after graduating, Hinojosa volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In Vietnam, Hinojosa served as a squad leader from 1966 to 1968 before returning home to continue his education. Hinojosa graduated with honors from the University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He completed his legal studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
After returning to South Texas, Hinojosa served as staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Nueces County and later as an Assistant Attorney General for the Texas Attorney General. In 1980, Hinojosa began his own private practice in McAllen, where he continues to represent clients in both civil and criminal matters.
Hinojosa was first elected into office in 1981, serving in the Texas House until 1990 and again from 1997 to 2002. During his tenure in the Texas House, Hinojosa passed landmark legislation, including the establishment of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) which promotes physician training on the Texas/Mexico Border. As Chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Senator Hinojosa sponsored the Texas Fair Defense Act, to reform procedures for providing court-appointed counsel to indigent defendants and to prohibit capital punishment for defendants with mental illness. He also carried DNA legislation that established procedures for DNA testing, use and preservation that has resulted in freeing many wrongly convicted citizens.
Since his election to the Texas Senate in 2002, Senator Hinojosa has secured more than $200 million for new construction at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at the University of Texas-Pan American. His efforts have brought billions in funding to support the economic growth of Senate District 20, composed of Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, and Nueces Counties.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, Senator Hinojosa authored SB 24, historic legislation that will create a new university by merging UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville and create a free standing medical school in South Texas. The expansion of educational opportunities will create greater access to healthcare and will be a tremendous boost to the South Texas economy. There will be more jobs, lower poverty levels, higher educational levels, more healthcare services, and more resources to serve the unique and critical needs of the people of South Texas for decades to come. The vision of a new university and a medical school has united the Rio Grande Valley community proving that a dream can indeed be transformed into a reality.
Senator Hinojosa also secured critical funding for the Corpus Christi Bay Harbor Bridge Replacement project and passed key legislation to allow South Texas communities and hospitals to draw down millions of federal matching funds to expand and invest in their healthcare infrastructure and to reimburse hospitals for indigent care through the federal 1115 Healthcare Transformation Waiver.
As Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Hinojosa has been able to put South Texas at the forefront of critical discussions and secure funding that will help stimulate our local economies. In the 2015 Legislative Session, Senator Hinojosa secured $61 million for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Medical School including the RAHC, $30.6 million in tuition revenue bonds for construction of an interdisciplinary engineering academic building at the campus in Edinburg, and a total of over $326 million for UTRGV. This places UTRGV as the second-highest among UT System institutions in appropriated funds, an enviable position demonstrating the reality that our region is transforming through the creation of a new university and medical school that will increase access to healthcare, produce a more educated workforce, and create job opportunities.
He also worked to secure $2 million to develop a new DPS training facility in the Rio Grande Valley, $1.6 million for the establishment of the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence at South Texas College, $2.4 million for the operation of a Texas Transnational Intelligence Center in the Valley, $3 million for hangar expansion at the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, and funds to improve the efficiency of border inspection and security ports of entry located along the Texas-Mexico border.
Senator Hinojosa also directed $30 million to help our military communities protect their facilities from closures or reductions. This is critical to Corpus Christi who is home to the Corpus Christi Army Depot, the world’s largest military helicopter repair facility that accounts for over 6,000 jobs in the Coastal Bend. He also passed legislation to increase the cap on grants awarded to communities with military bases to allow them to build up their infrastructure, increase the military value of their base, and benefit our military families.
For the first time, Corpus Christi will be able to access 2% of the state’s Hotel Occupancy Tax to increase beach cleanup funding by about $2 million annually thanks to Senator Hinojosa’s legislation. Tourism generates an annual economic impact of $1 billion for the Corpus Christi region. This tax revenue combined with the $9 million he secured for the Texas State Aquarium, will grow our tourism economy attracting more visitors and businesses.
In addition to these accomplishments, in 2015 Senator Hinojosa worked hard to provide over $4 billion in tax relief to our Texas homeowners and small businesses. $1.2 billion in property tax relief through an increase to the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000; and $2.6 billion in franchise tax relief, including a 25% rate reduction.
During his more than 20 years as an elected representative of South Texas, Senator Hinojosa has received a number of awards for his public service. He was recently named “Top Ten Best Legislators” for 2013 by Texas Monthly magazine, making it his third time to receive the prestigious honor. He was also named “Top Ten Legislator for 2013” by Capitol Inside for the third time as well.
He has received the prestigious John Henry Faulk Award, presented by the American Civil Liberties Union,and has also been a co-recipient of the James Madison Award given by the Freedom of Information Foundation for lawmakers who demonstrate outstanding commitment and service in upholding the principles of the First Amendment. Senator Hinojosa is also the proud recipient of the 2015 “University of Texas Pan American Presidential Pillar Award” in recognition and appreciation in the creation of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Medical School.