Houston News

U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today introduced the Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017, which streamlines and eases the burden on the process whereby active-duty military, reservists and veterans apply for their commercial driver’s license. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) is also an original cosponsor of the legislation.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

We should be making it easier, not harder, for members of the armed forces to be gainfully employed both while they are in the reserves and after they complete their service,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “The servicemen and women who have experience operating large military vehicles should be able to easily apply their skills and knowledge when seeking a commercial driver’s license, and this legislation allows for just that.”

“Veterans who have the training and experience to operate heavy trucks and buses under tough conditions in the military have the skills needed to drive trucks on our highways,” Sen. Warren said. “This bipartisan bill will remove legal obstacles delaying servicemembers from getting commercial drivers’ licenses. It’s a straightforward fix that will benefit veterans looking for good jobs and that will help employers looking for talented employees.”

“The brave men and women that serve in the U.S. military learn a wide-range of skills applicable to jobs once they enter the civilian workforce, but too often face unnecessary barriers that makes it harder for them to find jobs,” said Sen. Tillis. “This legislation will eliminate burdensome red tape so our active-duty military, reservists, and veterans can receive the DOT-required health examination and use the experience they gained serving our nation to count towards the credit needed to obtain a commercial driver’s license”

 Background:

 The latest surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, directed the Secretary of Transportation to establish a unique, streamlined set of standards for veterans applying for a CDL. The standards exempt veterans from all or a portion of civilian commercial vehicle driving tests if that veteran had experience driving similar vehicles while in the armed forces or reserves. Additionally, the standards allow veterans’ formal military training to count as credit towards the commercial motor vehicles minimum requirements to obtain a license.

 However, the FAST Act did not include active-duty members of the military and reservists in their application of standards for veterans with previous training in military driving. To correct this, the Department of Transportation (USDOT) granted a two-year exemption allowing states to waive the commercial driver’s licenses knowledge test for current service members, reservists, and national guardsmen if they completed military heavy-training programs and had been regularly employed in a military position requiring the operation of heavy vehicles within the past year prior to their application.

 The Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017 makes the USDOT’s two-year exemption permanent, providing active-duty service members and reservists the same training and testing standards granted to veterans under the FAST Act.

The Senators’ legislation also makes it easier for veterans to receive the DOT-required health examination to hold a commercial driver’s license.  The FAST Act contained a provision requiring USDOT and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to collaborate and develop a streamlined and efficient process whereby VA physicians can join the National Registry for Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). USDOT requires that all CDL holders be examined by physicians certified by the NRCME. Currently, there is an extremely low number of physicians in the VA health system certified by the NRCME, forcing veterans to either travel exorbitant distances to see a CME or pay out of pocket for a non-VA medical professional.  The Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017 Act allows all qualified VA medical professionals, including advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, to use the same new process afforded to VA physicians.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees

Discusses free speech on college campuses and repeal and replace of Obamacare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined Mark Levin to discuss the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the assault on the First Amendment at colleges and universities across America. Sen. Cruz also shared his efforts to deliver on the promises made to the American people by repealing and replacing Obamacare to lower health insurance premiums and provide more consumer choice and freedom.

On the First Amendment, Sen. Cruz emphasized the importance of upholding free speech on college campuses.

“When you and I went to school we would have vigorous arguments, we would have protests, we would have people who were passionate on both or multiple sides of issues, but that’s what college was all about,” Sen. Cruz said. “You look at so many colleges and universities now and the faculty and the administrators are afraid of debate. They’re afraid of disagreement. There are far too many of them are hard core leftists and they use the punitive power of the university to punish anyone who disagrees with them and to silence speakers who dare disagree. It’s inconsistent not just with First Amendment and the Bill of Rights, but its inconsistent with the fundamental mission of a university which is to train young minds to think and to help young people discover what they believe.”

On healthcare reform, Sen. Cruz reaffirmed his commitment to repeal Obamacare and lower health insurance premiums.

“What the voters have said is ‘Obamacare is a disaster and we don’t want it’” Sen. Cruz said. “The working group that is meeting, grew out of a working group that initially I worked with Lamar Alexander to bring together. Mike Lee was a part of it, Tom Cotton was a part of it, Rob Portman was part of it, Cory Gardner was a part of it and it began as a collaborative process, and it’s grown in to a larger working group that has been collaborative going forward. As we’re sitting here tonight Mark, I don’t what’s in the bill. The bill is being drafted by the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s staff. They have heard the views of all of the members. They have heard the views of conservatives who are focused on lowering premiums, and giving more authority and flexibility to the states – honoring the tenth amendment, honoring federalism. If the draft we see this week reflects those views, I think that will be a good thing.”

Audio from the radio interview may be found here.

The Houston Symphony announced today that tickets for the 2017-18 season’s Fall concerts are now on sale to the general public at houstonsymphony.org or by calling 713-224-7575.

During the 2017-18 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its fourth season with Music Director Andrés Orozco- Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras. The 2017-18 BBVA Compass POPS season features a diverse array of musical options from pop music, film scores like Psycho, and Broadway’s biggest showstoppers, under the leadership of Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke.

Psycho (1960)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Shown: Janet Leigh (as Marion Crane)

Highlights from the first half the season include an exciting world premiere by new Composer-in-Residence Jimmy López, Grammy Award-winning violinist James Ehnes performing an all-Thanksgiving program, and a brand-new holiday extravaganza with multitalented actress and singer Megan Hilty. On Halloween weekend, audiences will be treated to Alfred Hitchcock’s supreme thriller, Psycho, as the Houston Symphony performs Bernard Herrmann’s bone-chilling, iconic score.

Making their debuts this first half of the season are vocalist Betsy Wolfe, violinist Leticia Moreno, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Samuel Levine, baritone Nicholas Brownlee, and bass Alex Rosen. Returning vocalists include sopranos Yulia Van Doren and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. Making their conducting debuts are Vassily Sinaisky and Paul Agnew.

Returning to Houston for a one-night only performance is NPR veteran Garrison Keillor after stepping down from hosting A Prairie Home Companion following an incredible 42-season run. With his trademark storytelling and candid, observational comedy, Keillor captivates audiences using his unique blend of humor, charisma and wisdom for this one-night event.

Classical performances are now more accessible than ever with new, lower prices for the same world-class artistic experiences audiences have come to love. Classical concerts start at just $23; for more information or to purchase, visit houstonsymphony.org or call the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center at (713) 224-7575, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

AUSTIN – A new well log electronic filing system has reduced the burden on operators and saved both the industry and Railroad Commission thousands of dollars and man-hours in its first six months of use. The system was created as a solution to the cumbersome and outdated print system previously used, which required operators to print hundreds of pages – that they already had in electronic format – and mail them to the Railroad Commission for imaging and processing. Prior to development of this system, the Commission did not have a way to accept the information electronically.

The effort to streamline the burdensome well log filing system came as part of Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton’s initiative to implement smart IT solutions. As an oil and gas engineer, and founder of a company that focused on IT solutions for asset evaluation and reliability, Commissioner Sitton understands what taxpayers and the agency’s customers should expect from an IT solution perspective.

“Information Technology solutions aren’t always easy to develop. An entity’s desire for customization and control often leads to poor IT development decisions that don’t solve problems at affordable rates,” Sitton said. “Since joining the Commission I’ve encouraged our IT department to develop affordable, off-the-shelf systems and simple fixes to important problems like the well log issue. As we utilize budget resources this next biennium, I will continue to push for smart IT solutions to increase transparency and efficiency, and to make our IT systems more user friendly for all Texans.”

Nearly 30 percent of all well logs filed since the system launched have been submitted online. That number will grow as more operators learn of the time and money they will save as a result of this system.

“BP welcomes the changes to the state’s well log submission system, which will significantly reduce costs and streamline the process,” said Tim Seidel, a geoscience technologist with BP America, “and we appreciate the Railroad Commission’s efforts to push for these necessary reforms and its continued support of our industry.”
\\ Pictured above are boxes of hard copies of well logs the RRC has received. One well log could stretch several feet in length, such as the one pictured above. Electronic submission of well logs will eliminate the need to print, process and store all hard copies of well logs.>
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http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Red-Cross-Prepares-to-Respond-as-Storm-Heads-toward-Gulf-Coast

Regarding the Texas Gulf Coast, we are working with local emergency managers and partners to prepare for the storm:

  • Four shelters are on standby — in Vidor, Orange, Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island; (addresses are not available at this time)
  • Nine emergency response vehicles are activated and ready for use if there is a need to supply residents with food, water, hygiene kits or other much-needed items;
  • Red Cross team members are preparing to deploy to hard-hit areas if warranted; and
  • Members of our Leadership Team are prepared to deploy as well.

Right now we are carefully monitoring the situation and will keep you updated in terms of Red Cross preparation. Please do open the press release link above, which will give you information on hurricane safety, our free emergency app and more. If of use, here are links to some photos taken during last years’ storms and floods. They were taken primarily in areas surrounding Beaumont and Orange. You are welcome to download and use if you wish. https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasgulfcoastredcross/albums/72157664262235283 Feel free to access the entire site and peruse March/April/May 2016 photo albums for more storm photos. https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasgulfcoastredcross/albums.

HOUSTON, June 21, 2017 – eCU Mortgage, the CUSO mortgage company that serves credit unions throughout Texas, has introduced a third party mortgage origination service that streamlines the mortgage process and delivers more revenue to credit unions when loans are sold on the secondary market.

The mortgage origination solution supplements a credit union’s existing loan efforts through a RESPA-compliant structure in which the credit union initiates the loan while eCU Mortgage handles all the closing and funding. It is designed to maximize a credit union’s control over its member’s loan experience and assure compliance throughout the entire process.

eCU Mortgage processes and underwrites the mortgage loans, closes and funds them, and sells the closed loans on the secondary market, returning revenue back to the credit union that is well above the industry average.

“Member relationships are the core of any credit union’s business, and this third party origination system is designed with that in mind,” said Jackie Adams, Vice President of eCU Mortgage. “We help credit unions leverage those relationships and deliver top-flight service without the expense of building their own loan origination systems.”

eCU Mortgage’s third party origination keeps credit unions involved in the process so they don’t lose touch with their members, Adams explained.  eCU Mortgage further adds a high level of service that includes minimizing the time between application and loan closing while maximizing the transparency of the entire process.

Credit unions can work with eCU Mortgage by simply transferring all the necessary documentation or they can choose to take a more active role by opting for a seat on the eCU Mortgage system.

“By giving a client credit union a seat on our system, they see what we see. They can track the progress of every loan and know exactly what is going on at any point in the origination process,” said Adams. “It allows them to control pricing and the locking of the loan, so they can work on behalf of their members every step of the way.”

The eCU Mortgage third party origination offering can also be used by larger credit unions that have their own mortgage infrastructure but want a partner to handle FHA, VA, and other government loans, Adams noted.

eCU Mortgage, a subsidiary of First Service Credit Union of Houston, also offers Texas credit unions a broad range of other mortgage services that allow the credit unions to deliver thorough loan disclosures to their members, assure compliance, and retain their unique branding to assure a close member relationship.

About eCU Mortgage

eCU Mortgage LLC is a licensed mortgage company offering a full range of mortgage solutions to Texas credit unions. Our mission is to provide outstanding service to members and clients with a team of experienced mortgage professionals who are dedicated to providing customized, comprehensive financing and personalized service. eCU Mortgage, NMLS# 1071847, is a subsidiary of First Service Credit Union of Houston and is located at 16430 Park Ten Place, Houston, TX 77084. Visit us at www.ecumortgage.com or call 877-541-1810.

Ken Paxton

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton this week reached a $36,000 settlement with THEG, Inc., which did business as the online contact lens distributor/wholesaler Fine and Clear. Fine and Clear sold contact lenses to consumers without requiring them to provide a valid prescription, violating the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Optometry Act.

Fine and Clear voluntarily agreed to stop selling contact lenses to consumers without prescriptions, and also agreed to provide consumers with a full refund for a period of 90 days from the start date of the settlement.

“This settlement will serve to help protect Texans who may be unaware that the improper use of contact lenses can cause potentially serious vision problems,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I appreciate THEG, Inc.’s agreement to cease selling contact lenses without proper prescriptions. My office will always protect the health and safety of all Texans.”

Before buying contact lenses, the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division (CPD) recommends the following precautions:

  • Always visit a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist for proper fitting of contact lenses.
  • Never buy contact lenses without a prescription; Texas law does not exempt cosmetic lenses from the prescription requirement.
  • Buy contact lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription, whether you purchase in person or online.
  • Avoid buying lenses from street vendors, convenience and dollar stores, flea markets and novelty stores.

CPD also receives and reviews complaints submitted to the office by consumers; while the attorney general is prohibited from representing such individuals, these complaints are used by the office to help shape priorities and identify issues affecting Texans. Consumers can file complaints by visiting: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.

View the settlement here.

Houston, June 20, 2017Dr. F. Alex Schroeder, orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at West, threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Father’s Day Astros baseball game on Sunday, June 18. Schroeder’s wife and two children cheered him on as he threw a strike with ease.

Schroeder and his family have been fans of the Astros for as long as he can remember, so not only was he excited by this opportunity but was also impressed by the whole experience.

“I played baseball growing up, and I have spent a lot of time as an assistant coach for my kids’ select baseball and softball teams,” said Schroeder. “The key to staying on top of my game is remembering to stretch and properly warm up before and after physical activity. Despite my competitive spirit, I know it’s important to not throw too hard or too often because that can also lead to shoulder injuries.”

Shoulder overuse is a common injury for avid athletes and weekend warriors alike. In children and adolescents, overuse injuries usually occur due to overtraining in one specific sport. For adults, overuse injuries often occur when they do too much in too few workouts; improper technique and improper use of equipment are also both factors. Cross training, stretching, proper technique and consulting a trainer or physical therapist can help alleviate the risk of overuse injuries at all ages.

Schroeder is an experienced orthopedic surgeon with a focus on knee and shoulder problems. He provides minimally invasive repair and reconstructive procedures allowing for reduced pain and quicker recovery. To schedule an appointment at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at West, visit houstonmethodist.org/west or call 832.522.BONE (2663).

About Houston Methodist West Hospital

Houston Methodist West Hospital is committed to leading medicine in the West Houston and Katy communities by delivering the Houston Methodist standard of high quality, advanced technology and personalized care. The growing campus offers nearly 200 beds and access to the most innovative medical and surgical care available, including robotic and minimally invasive surgery, full-spectrum heart care, state-of-the-art imaging, cancer care, labor and delivery with a level II neonatal ICU, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, outpatient rehabilitation, and 24/7 emergency services. For more information, visit houstonmethodist.org/west.

By Keith Randall, Texas A&M University Marketing and Communications

COLLEGE STATION, June 21, 2017 – It doesn’t take a hurricane to cause problems from a storm, and many residents along the Gulf Coast may be about to find that out the hard way.  Tropical Storm Cindy, formed just a few days ago, is expected to make landfall Thursday and it could bring a strong punch despite its non-hurricane status, says a Texas A&M University expert.

Robert Korty, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M and a severe storms expert, says Cindy could still have a major impact, despite maximum winds of only 45 to 50 miles per hour.

“The biggest threat from this tropical storm is likely to be heavy rain.  It isn’t moving fast, and it has a large area of thunderstorms on its eastern side, so rain totals could reach as high as 10 inches in localized pockets,” explains Korty.

“I don’t expect much heavy weather to the west of where its center passes, so if the current forecast holds I think we are unlikely to see much in this area other than the possibility of some rain.  Louisiana and states farther east should get some good rain totals from this.”

Cindy may be remembered best for when she formed.

It is not every year that tropical storms develop in June, and this is very early in the season for the third named storm to have formed.

Even rarer is when two tropical storms form at the same time.  Tropical Storm Bret formed about the same time as Cindy and it is now making its way through the Caribbean.  That marks only the third time in the last 100 years that two Atlantic storms existed at the same time in the month of June – in 1909, 1959 and 1968 according to weather records.

With Texas experiencing another mild winter and warm spring, water temperatures in the Gulf could be a concern.

“Water temperatures across most of the tropical Atlantic are running a little warmer than average, which may help this season be more active than average,” says Korty.

“However, they are actually running slightly cooler than usual in the northern Gulf.  We do not expect Cindy to become a hurricane.  The storm will continue to face strong wind shear between now and the time it reaches the Texas and Louisiana coast.

The last hurricane to hit Texas was Ike, which killed 74 people in the state, caused $30 billion in damage and ruined the lives of thousands and it was only a Category 2 storm when it hit on Sept. 13 of 2008.

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The Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club is one of 20 Clubs chosen as part of the partnership between The ZAC Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to expand water safety programming

[Houston, TX (June 20)] – In continuation of a national partnership dedicated to bringing water safety education to the communities that need it most, national water-safety organization, The ZAC Foundation has selected the Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club to host the Foundation’s award-winning ZAC Camp for a third year through its grant program.

Since it began, ZAC Camps have taught more than 10,000 children and families the importance of water safety nationwide.

The Greater Houston ZAC Camp – named in honor of 6-year-old Zachary Archer Cohn who drowned as a result of being entrapped in the suction of a swimming pool drain – is part of year five of a national partnership initiative undertaken by The ZAC Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to bring lifesaving water-safety skills to thousands of Club members (aged 5-9) across the country.  The Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club was selected through a rigorous application process and chosen based on its commitment to advancing water safety locally.

“Each year we are overjoyed to see Zachary’s legacy live on in each and every Boys & Girls Club member who attends ZAC Camp,” said Karen Cohn, co-founder of The ZAC Foundation.  “It is incredibly special to be back at the Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club to equip a new batch of campers and their families with the tools to live safer lives around water.”

The ZAC Camp program combines in-pool swimming lessons, safety classes with First Responders, and classroom curriculum based on tenets of water safety taught in a children’s book co-authored by Zachary’s parents – The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim.  By week’s end campers are equipped with critical tools to lead them on the path to safe swimming, including: fundamental stroke training, emergency preparedness and response, and basic lifesaving techniques.  The ZAC Foundation will also donate a copy of the book to each camper, allowing campers to spread the messages to friends and family.

The 2017 Greater Houston ZAC Camp will host campers Monday, June 26 through Thursday, June 29 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:10 p.m. Open to campers, family, and friends, the ZAC Camp will conclude with a special award ceremony that will take place at 12:00 p.m. on June 29 with special invited guests from the Office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Office of Congressman Gene Greene, Safe Kids representative Cynthia Stubbins, Galveston Beach Patrol, Coast Guard, among others.

ZAC Camp brings a unique energy to our Club kids and truly enhances our summer curriculum.  Last year’s campers are still talking about the fun they had with their fellow campers, teachers, local First Responders, and special guests.  Witnessing the changes in their behavior and their eagerness to share the water safety lessons they learn with their families and friends reinforces how important this program is for the young people in our community,” said Patrick Mouton of the Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club. “We are thrilled for another ZAC Camp year and the opportunity to make this year’s program even better than the last.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause in children 5-14. Risk of drowning is highest in minority populations with the fatal drowning rate almost three times that of Caucasian children. In Texas, drowning has claimed the lives of 38 children in Texas thus far in 2017, with most occurring in a pool. Many of these deaths are preventable if proper water safety measures are taken.  ZAC Camps aim to reduce these statistics through community engagement and education.

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About The ZAC Foundation
The ZAC Foundation was established in 2008 by Brian and Karen Cohn after the loss of their 6-year-old son Zachary Archer Cohn in a pool drain entrapment in their backyard swimming pool.  Through education and advocacy, the Foundation has educated more than 10,000 children and their families on the importance of water safety and is dedicated to continue preparing more for a lifetime of water safety.  To learn more about The ZAC Foundation, connect with us on
Facebook and thezacfoundation.com.

About the Salvation Army of Greater Houston’s Aldine Westfield Boys & Girls Club
Founded in 1975, Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston serves more than 450 members annually. The Clubs provide after school and summer programs that develop and enhance academic success, good character & citizenship, and healthy lifestyles in youth ages six-to-18 years old, paying particular attention to those who need these programs most. We strive at “Doing the Most Good” in a community that has been a beacon of hope for forty-one years. Because of the Clubs’ programs, young people are inspired and enabled to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. For more information, visit the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston website at http://www.salvationarmyhouston.org.