Announcements

The ‘anti-abortion bill’ must receive a 3rd reading before heading back to the Senate.

Austin, Texas – Today, the Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 8 on second reading by a vote of 96-47. The bill must pass the Texas House a third time before heading back to the Texas Senate, where the body will decide whether or not to concur with the changes made to the bill by the House.

State Representative Eddie Rodriguez issued the following statement in response to the vote:  “SB 8 is the latest in the Texas Legislature’s war on a woman’s right to choose.

State Representative Eddie Rodriguez

“The bill is inspired by heavily edited and widely discredited videos forged by anti-abortion activists who have faced criminal charges for their actions. SB 8 is not based on established science, nor would it do anything to advance women’s health. Instead, a federal judge recently found that such laws are mere ‘pretext for restricting abortion access.’

“Some of my conservative Republican colleagues hijacked SB 8 during today’s floor debate to use it as a vehicle for advancing their radical anti-abortion agenda. They passed a number of amendments over Democratic opposition that dramatically expanded the bill’s scope, but not before adding a ‘severability clause’ to the bill. They know that some of the bill’s provisions are unconstitutional and are willing to spend taxpayer dollars for the opportunity to chip away at women’s rights.

“The debate reached a flash point while we considered a despicable amendment by State Representative Matt Schaefer, the same representative responsible for the ‘show me your papers’ provision added to SB 4 in the Texas House. While the amendment was ultimately tabled, 65 members were willing to politicize the most personal and emotional decisions that people make in their lives.

“The Texas Legislature should leave important medical decisions to healthcare professionals and their patients. And if my colleagues are truly interested in reducing abortion, the research is clear: we must provide age-appropriate, science-based sex education and increase access to contraception in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”

 

FORT BEND COUNTY, TX – On May 12, 2017, Fort Bend County Commissioners Court celebrated the Official Grand Opening of the Jones Creek Ranch Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Pictured Left to Right: Mike Davis, Fort Bend County Parks Director; Marc Grant, Fort Bend County Road and Bridge Commissioner; Jenetha Jones, Fort Bend County Grants Coordinator; Ed Knight, Harrison Interests, Ltd.; Pat Garner, Commissioner Pct. 4 Office; Danielle Garrison, Commissioner Pct. 4 Office; Jess Stuart, YMCA Community Executive Director; Tiffany McFadden, Commissioner Pct. 4 Office; Andy Meyers, Fort Bend County Commissioner Precinct 3; Jamie Knight, Fort Bend County Facilities Director; Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert; James Patterson, Fort Bend County Commissioner Precinct 4; Grady Prestage, Fort Bend County Commissioner Precinct 2; Jim Condry, George Foundation Trustee; John Null, George Foundation Trustee;  Julie Gaston, Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation Grants Officer; Mandi Bronsell, Commissioner

Fort Bend County acquired Jones Creek Ranch Park, formerly Gordon Ranch, through generous contributions from The George Foundation, The Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation, and Harrison Interests, Ltd.  Since the time of acquisition, Fort Bend County has updated the park’s existing facilities and utilities and recently completed the addition of a new administration building located in the front of the park to facilitate easy access for citizens interested in park information.  For more information, please visit Jones Creek Ranch Park at www.fortbendcountytx.gov under Departments, County Services.

Judge Bob Hebert said, “This is a beautiful addition to Fort Bend County parks. The financial support of the two foundations and Harrison Interests gave us the park; and our own Parks Department with the help of our Road & Bridge and Facilities Departments, plus the Drainage District, have brought the park to life. Let’s use it!”

(HOUSTON) Houston-area employers filled 18,700 positions in April, led by Professional & Business Services, Leisure & Hospitality, & Retail positions according to new data from Gulf Coast Workforce Solutions. The unemployment rate drop nearly half a point to 5.3%.

“This is the third best April report on record,” said Parker Harvey, Senior Regional Economist at Workforce Solutions. “Hiring was especially strong at the employment services level, which includes temporary work. Typically, that is a prelude to a permanent position meaning employers are feeling confidence in the overall economy going into the summer.”

Leisure and Hospitality and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (which includes retail sales positions) contributed nearly 9,000 jobs in April. Manufacturing, particularly durable goods, saw its best one-month growth on record in April as employers there hired 2,400 workers.

“Since hitting the most recent bottom this past November, manufacturers have added about 12,000 jobs,” Harvey explains, “but we’re still well below the area’s high-water mark set in December, 2014.”

The Texas Workforce Commission will release employment numbers for May 2017 on June 16.

HOUSTON, May 19, 2017 – May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. It’s a time to spread the word about the benefits of being active, and Parkway Place, a faith-based senior living community, is doing that for its residents with a unique sport: chair volleyball. The game is popular with residents like Aaron Mendoza. The 92-year-old has played for several years and says it’s very competitive. They play every other Wednesday for about an hour, and their next game is on May 24 at 3 p.m. Mendoza says it’s an outstanding workout and really gets his heart going. The game helps with coordination, stretching and blood flow. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, physical activity can lower the risk of falls and improve cognitive function for seniors because participants learn new activities and improve judgement skills. Mendoza says his health has improved since he started playing.

Photo courtesy of Parkway Place: Residents playing chair volleyball

“This game is so beneficial,” said Mendoza. “It boosts your morale and your mood. The only way to be healthy is to stay active. That’s why I continue to play. It’s also a lot of fun and provides good fellowship. It is a reason to get together and try something new. It does get intense because everyone wants their team to win, but in the end, it’s a great way for all of us to stay active. Playing this game is one of the best decisions I’ve made here at Parkway Place. This game is easily one of my favorite activities.”

When playing the game, residents split into a red and yellow team with ten players on each team. The goal is to get the beach ball over the net, but there’s a catch. They have to stay seated during the entire game. Mendoza says sometimes you’ll want to stand up or kick the ball, but you can’t. Just like a normal volleyball game, the players cover part of the court, rotate positions and serve the ball. He says everyone should play chair volleyball, and National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time to start.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” said Mendoza. “We laugh a lot during this game because it’s fun. Every once in a while someone gets hit with the ball, but we all have fun together. I look forward to seeing my team and playing every other week. It’s also nice to see the staff cheering us on while we play. It puts smiles on our faces, and after each game I play I leave in a good mood.”

Mendoza has lived at Parkway Place since 2010 and started playing shortly after his move. The community is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents by promoting an active, healthy Christian lifestyle while maintaining their independence and dignity.

“Chair volleyball is one of the most popular activities among residents,” said Rachel Ramirez, wellness director at Parkway Place. “It’s so fun to watch the teams play. You can tell they are really enjoying themselves out on the court, and that’s always a pleasure to see. We encourage residents to stay active, and this game benefits the health and well-being of the residents.”

If you are a member of the media who would like to attend the game or set up an interview, please contact Chelsi Smith via phone at 214-378-7970 ext. 238 or email at csmith@thepointgroup.com or Amy Jones via phone at 214-378-7970 ext. 302 or email at ajones@thepointgroup.com.

ABOUT PARKWAY PLACE

Parkway Place in Houston, a Buckner Retirement Services community, is a nonprofit, faith-based senior living community located on a 15-acre manicured campus that includes flowers, walking paths, gazebos, benches and raised gardens, putting green, as well as an outdoor heated pool and spas. It is also one of the few Independent Living communities in West Houston that has no entrance fees or long-term contracts, and provides spacious apartment residences on a rental basis.

As a life plan community, Parkway Place offers Independent Living apartment residences, spacious Assisted Living, and innovative Memory Care and Skilled Nursing services. The community offers 159 independent apartments, 58 assisted living apartments, 24 memory care support residences and skilled nursing for 60 residents. A new Wellness Center has been added which features state-of-the-art equipment and a BE Well Program to enhance the four dimensions of wellness.

Residents can enjoy delicious dining and warm fellowship in beautifully arranged dining rooms.  The community also has an on-site life enrichment coordinator, chapel, full-time chaplain, on-site worship services, beauty/barber salon and weekly housekeeping/linen service.

For more information about Parkway Place, please visit the community website at www.bucknerparkwayplace.org or call (281) 677–5912.

ABOUT BUCKNER RETIREMENT SERVICES
Buckner Retirement Services, Inc. is one of the largest not-for-profit senior living organizations in Texas dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for senior adults and their families by promoting an active, healthy Christian lifestyle while maintaining their independence and dignity. Buckner Retirement Services is part of Buckner International, a global faith-based ministry serving people each year in the United States and worldwide.

(AUSTIN) — Texas families can save on the purchase of certain water- and energy-efficient products during the state’s Water-Efficient Products and ENERGY STAR® sales tax holidays. Both take place on Saturday, May 27, through Monday, May 29.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts estimates shoppers will save an estimated $10.2 million in state and local sales tax during the Memorial Day weekend sales tax holidays.

“Outdated water systems and inefficient appliances can put a tremendous strain on our water supplies and power grids,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said. “By taking advantage of these sales tax holidays, Texans can make upgrades that will help alleviate those pressures and lower their utility bills — all while saving money on state and local sales taxes.”

This is the second year for the Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday. Products that display a WaterSense®label or logo can be purchased tax-free for personal or business use. These include showerheads, bathroom sink faucets and accessories, toilets, urinals and landscape irrigation controls.

The sales tax holiday also applies to water-conserving products used or planted for conserving or retaining groundwater, recharging water tables or decreasing ambient air temperature to limit water evaporation. Items qualifying for the exemption include soaker or drip-irrigation hoses; moisture controls for a sprinkler or irrigation system; mulch; and plants, trees and grasses. These items can only be purchased tax-free for residential use.

There is no limit to the number of water-efficient or water-conserving products you can purchase. Go to the Comptroller’s website for more information on the Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday.

During the ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday, the following energy-efficient products that display the ENERGY STAR logo can be purchased tax-free: programmable thermostats; air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less; refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less; ceiling fans; fluorescent light bulbs; dishwashers; dehumidifiers; and clothes washing machines (but not dryers). Go to the Comptroller’s website for more ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday details.

Estimated annual energy and water savings for eligible products are listed below.

 

ENERGY STAR® Appliance vs. Conventional
Appliance Type Energy Savings Water Savings
Central Air Conditioners 8%
Room/Window Air Conditioners 9%
Refrigerators 9%
Ceiling Fans 60%
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs 80%
Clothes Washers 25% 45%
Dish Washers 12% 30%
Dehumidifiers 30%
Programmable Thermostats 7%
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

AUSTIN — The Texas economy expanded in April with the addition of 30,400 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs. Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.0 percent.

“Texas employers continue to create jobs in the broad based Texas economy with ten of the 11 industries expanding over the year,” said Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chairman Andres Alcantar. “With the addition of 258,900 jobs over the past year, TWC remains committed to providing the services needed to get Texans back work.”

Employment in the Education and Health Services industry recorded the largest private-industry gain over the month with 10,400 jobs added. Manufacturing employment grew by 8,100 jobs in April and Professional and Business Services employment expanded by 7,400 jobs.

“This sustained increase in job creation provides more opportunities for Texas employers to expand, which helps increase opportunity for all Texans,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth Hughs. “TWC is committed to developing workforce programs that keep our businesses competitive and our growing talent pipeline a priority.”

The Amarillo Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.0 percent, followed by the Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan and Lubbock MSAs with a rate of 3.2 percent. The Midland MSA registered a rate of 3.5 percent for April.

“Several Goods Producing industries are showing strength in Texas, including Manufacturing, which expanded by 8,100 jobs in April” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “Positive economic growth means continued employment opportunities for the expanding Texas labor force.”

An audio download with comments from Commissioner Hughs on the latest labor market data is available on the TWC press release page. Employment estimates released by TWC are produced in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. All estimates are subject to revision. To access this and more employment data, visit tracer2.com.

The Texas Labor Market & Career Information Data for May is scheduled to be released on Friday, June 16, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. (CDT).

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced that Texas has been awarded $27.4 million in federal funds to combat opioid use disorders. The grant, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will boost Texas’ efforts aimed at preventing and treating prescription and illicit opioid dependence.

Increasing rates of opioid use continue to be an issue nationwide. Of the more than 33,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States in 2015, 1,186 were in Texas.

The $27.4 million will be used for prevention, training, outreach, treatment, and recovery support services and will directly help an estimated 14,000 people over a two-year period. Activities include:

  • Expanding capacity and access to opioid treatment sites across the state and eliminating the current waitlist for services.
  • Increasing training and technical assistance to providers and prescribers to ensure the use of best practices for preventing and treating opioid addiction.
  • Enhancing recovery services and peer-to-peer supports.
  • Boosting outreach activities by coordinating with state agency partners, crisis teams at Local Mental Health Authorities, HIV outreach workers and peer re-entry pilot programs.

Funds from the grant will allow HHSC to focus on the following populations at risk for opioid use disorders: people who live in major metropolitan areas, women who are pregnant and postpartum, and people who have a history of prescription opioid misuse. It will also target people who may be at an increased risk of developing an opioid use disorder, including people being treated for chronic pain, veterans and people who live in rural areas with high rates of opioid use.

HHSC plans to implement opioid prevention and treatment services through contract amendments with existing providers and open enrollments to expand our network of providers, including Local Mental Health and Behavioral Health Authorities and new contracts with university partners.

For more information about behavioral health services and resources in Texas click here and visit www.MentalHealthTX.org.

For more information about the grant go to https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2017/04/19/trump-administration-awards-grants-states-combat-opioid-crisis.html.

College dreams became reality for 79 Houston-area high school graduates during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Area Go Texan Scholarship Banquet, Wednesday, May 17. Thirty percent of graduates will be the first in their family to attend college.

“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is proud to support the youth of Texas through scholarships to help high school graduates achieve a postsecondary education,” said Joel Cowley, president and CEO. “We are confident that these students will represent us well at colleges and universities across the state, and we wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.”

Show officials and volunteers hosted 79 scholarship recipients from 68 Area Go Texan counties. Each recipient was awarded a four-year, $20,000 scholarship from the Show for a total commitment of $1,580,000. A deserving high school senior from each county was presented a scholarship, and an additional 11 scholarships were awarded at large to eligible students within each Area Go Texan district.

Scholarships are awarded to students who meet the program requirements and demonstrate academic potential, leadership and financial need. All scholarship recipients must attend a Texas college or university.

The Area Go Texan scholarships represent a portion of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s annual commitment of more than $26 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, School Art participants and other educational programs. For more information on the Show’s educational support, visit rodeohouston.com/Educational-Support/Commitment.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charity that benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Show has committed more than $430 million to the youth of Texas. For more information, visit rodeohouston.com and connect with #RODEOHOUSTON online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for all of the latest news. The 2018 Show is scheduled for Feb. 27 – March 18.

Unfortunately, seat belts do not come in one-size-fits-all. In fact, the seat belt that is designed to save an adult’s life in a crash does not fit a young child. And, the poor fit of the seat belt can actually cause serious injuries or even death during a crash. Many parents are under the impression that a child can be moved to the vehicle seat belt system when they have outgrown the weight limits of their child safety seat. Most conventional forward-facing child safety seats have a 5-point harness system that can be used until 40 pounds. However, most children weigh 40 pounds long before they are tall enough to fit in the vehicle lap/shoulder belt.

Children do not fit well in the vehicle lap/shoulder belts that were designed for adults who are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Instead of fitting properly over the lower hips, the lap belt rides over the soft tissues of the abdomen and can cause severe injury or death. The shoulder portion of the belt hits the child’s neck or face instead of lying flat across the chest. This causes many children to place the shoulder belt behind their back, leaving them with no upper body protection. A booster seat ‘boosts’ the child up so the lap/shoulder belt will fit correctly and provide protection in a crash.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent, Fort Bend County reminds parents that correctly using a booster seat can protect a child from being thrown around the vehicle or being totally ejected in a crash. In a crash, children who are incorrectly restrained by a lap/shoulder belt are likely to sustain serious injuries to internal organs as well as the head and spinal cord. In fact, these abdominal and spinal injuries are medically referred to as “Seat Belt Syndrome.”

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for children ages three and up. Child safety seats, including boosters, have been proven to be effective in preventing injuries and deaths, yet in 2011, 41% of Texas booster-seat age children killed in motor vehicle crashes were unrestrained. Studies show that booster seats can reduce the risk of injury by 59 percent for children ages 4-7, but children in this age group are the least likely to be properly restrained. Surveys conducted in Texas in 2013 by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that only 35.9 percent of our booster seat age children were correctly restrained.

The law in Texas requires children under age 8, unless taller than 4’ 9” to be in a child restraint system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. According to the law, an 8 year old can legally ride in the seat belt, but only a small percentage of 8 year olds are 4’9”. The average child reaches 4’9” at age 11! Best practice is to keep the child in a booster seat until the lap/shoulder belts fits.

The injury rate and high costs associated with medical care and lost productivity for families is huge. Booster seats are an affordable solution to protecting children in the 4-8+ age group. The cost of booster seats is low–generally between $13-$50. It is estimated by Safe Kids Worldwide that a $30 booster seat generates $2,000 in benefit to society from reduced health-care expenses. Booster seats offer a low-cost solution to a high-cost problem.

When is your child ready for the seat belt?

Take the Five Step Test

1.Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?

2.Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle?

3.Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?

4.Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?

5.Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to make both the shoulder belt and the lap belt fit right for the best crash protection. Your child will be more comfortable, too!

Source: SafetyBeltSafe,U.S.A, www.carseat.org

Call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 281-342-3034 to book an appointment on May 30 for a free child safety seat inspection, or visit http://buckleup.tamu.edu to find a certified child passenger safety technician in your area.

Ken Paxton

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging it to suspend, review and reconsider Obama-era EPA regulations that Texas challenged in 12 lawsuits that are still pending against the federal agency. The letter was sent Monday in response to a request for comments from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The letter, which includes 110 pages of supporting documents, states that Texas took legal action against EPA rules and regulations that are unlawful, arbitrary and capricious, unnecessary or ineffective, and impose costs exceeding benefits.

One example cited in the letter is the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which would raise electricity costs while weakening the nation’s power grid. Attorney General Paxton co-led a 24-state lawsuit to stop the rule, which is now under review by the EPA. The letter also mentions the attorney general’s lawsuit against an EPA rule on carbon and methane that would harm oil and gas production in Texas and across the nation.  

Although litigation has been suspended in many of these matters, it continues in several others.  Therefore, the letter requested that “[r]ather than have Texas and other petitioners continue to incur legal expenses and coststo challenge regulations that should be reevaluated, EPA should direct the Department of Justice to abate thesematters pending further review of each rule.”

Noting that “the previous administration was unwilling to engage with most states, and took actions or issued rules ignoring the spirit of cooperative federalism embodied in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” the letter from the attorney general’s office asks the EPA administrator to restore greater cooperation between the federal government and states in environmental regulation.

To view a copy of the letter, click here.