FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2014
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
This month we celebrate President's Day. George Washington, who is also known as the "Father of our Country", is one that I admire the most. Through his skills, leadership and longing to live in a country of free people, he helped to lay the foundation for our country's future by building a lasting democratic institution.
Here are five things happening around your state:
1. Transportation Select Committee
I was recently named Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. This committee is tasked with studying and reporting on the future reliability of current state transportation funding sources and finding additional funding options. Our state is continually growing, bringing with it more traffic problems on our aging highway systems. The Texas Department of Transportation's current revenue is not enough to maintain existing roads at their current levels and to keep up with our current population demands. Through this select committee and by working with fellow members of the Legislature, I look forward to finding new ideas and solutions.
2. Commercial Drones
Texas is among six states designated to create test sites for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by the Federal Aviation Administration. The goal of these sites is to show unmanned vehicles can be flown safely without threat to piloted crafts. The 6,000 square miles of Texas airspace connecting the 11 different test sites across the state will be opened to commercial UAS companies.
The current model made of carbon fiber material, has been described as looking like an oversized leaf blower with wings and a tail weighing approximately 85 pounds at takeoff, can reach a speed of 65 knots and carry a payload of 25 pounds. While most drones have been primarily used by the military, Texas A & M - Corpus Christi has conducted research on how drones can be used to detect oil spills, monitor hurricanes, help firefighters map wildfires, and assist ranchers in monitoring their livestock. Amazon is also exploring how drones can expedite delivery of your online purchases.
3. Unusual Activity
Many of my constituents have felt the effects of the recent unusual earthquake activity in East Texas. A definitive answer as to why these quakes are occurring and what could be contributing to their activity is unknown. I have asked the Texas Railroad Commission to conduct an investigation to determine whether or not injection wells might contribute to these earthquakes.
The Railroad Commission recently announced they would be studying this issue, and I fully support this action. By coordinating with other experts, they will be able to study the known faults as well as the historic and ongoing oil/gas exploration and production across our state.
4. Landowners Rights
Eminent domain has long been a hot topic in our state. While the U.S. Constitution states that a person's property may not be taken for public use without adequate compensation, parties do not always agree on the terms of compensation. The state has put a process in place which allows both parties the opportunity to have their arguments heard in a justly manner by their peers. This process includes a hearing overseen by three appointed special commissioners, who are property owners within the county and who have no ties to the property in question. I sponsored the 2009 bill that created the Landowner Bill of Rights, and since then the Legislature has continued to work on this issue every session. Private property is sacred in Texas and the Legislature should do all it can to protect landowners. If you would like more information on the Landowner Bill of Rights you can go to https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/agency/landowners.shtml.
5. A Texas Sized Population
The saying goes that 'everything is bigger in Texas'. This is true not only in the size of our longhorns and cowboy hats, but also in the numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing Texas as the Nation's second most populous state. Last year brought 387,000 new residents to our great state. Five of the 10 fastest growing cities in the country are in Texas. While growth in our state is a positive thing, we must plan to meet the challenges that are presented by the continuing increase in our population. In every new legislative session my goal is to ensure that our education systems, healthcare, transportation, and public utilities are equipped to accommodate the increase in Texas residents. I look forward to seeing where the future takes the Lone Star State.