FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2014
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
John Adams once said the Fourth of July should be "solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the others." As a fan of 'illuminations,' also known as fireworks, I agree with John Adams.
However you chose to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, I hope it was with family and friends.
Here are five things happening around your state:
1. Care for our Veterans
Governor Rick Perry recently announced an agreement with several private and public hospital networks to provide care for veterans unable to receive timely treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, Texas Veterans Affairs facilities have some of the longest wait times in the nation. Several doctors and hospitals in Texas have stopped accepting VA patients due to the amount of time it took to receive reimbursement from the VA. This agreement, which must be approved by the federal government, would reimburse providers with Medicare funds in hopes of quicker payments.
In addition, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee plans to create a "strike force" whose focus would be on helping veterans navigate the VA scheduling system. The program is similar to a strike force team created by the Legislature in 2012 to help the VA process its mounting backlog of disability claims. These men and women, who have made sacrifices for our freedom, deserve the best care we can provide.
The Texas Border Patrol (TBP) estimates that by September, 60,000 to 90,000 unaccompanied children will have illegally entered the country in this year alone, a significant increase over previous years. Many of these children become victims of exploitation. In addition, the attention of the border patrol is being pulled to handle the influx of children, causing fewer patrols along the border. This has allowed the drug cartel to enter the country more frequently.
Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus have directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to resume surge operations, which will be modeled after Operation Strong Safety from the Fall of 2013, along the Texas-Mexico border using state resources. Preliminary estimates suggest this will cost roughly $1.3 million per week. As a part of this surge, DPS is required to provide the Legislature with regular updates on the progress of the operation.
As your State Senator, I will continue to work to secure our border. While our success may depend on how the federal government responds, the Texas Legislature will continue their work to combat the flood of illegal immigrants.
3. Sunset Advisory Commission
In June, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission held a hearing focused on agencies under the Health and Human Services Commission. The Sunset Commission is a joint panel which makes recommendations for which state agencies should be continued, how they can operate more efficiently and better serve the public. Some of the topics covered during the hearing included; state supported living centers, mental health including state hospitals and licensures for various professions.
While final decisions from the Commission will be made in August, no recommendations can be put into law without final approval by the Legislature.
4. Come and Get It!
Did you know that one in four Texans have unclaimed property from forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, utility refunds and more? Banks and other entities make an effort to reunite this money with its owners, but if they cannot after a one to five year period, state law mandates the assets be turned over to the Comptroller's office. The Comptroller's Unclaimed Property Division works diligently to give Texas citizens back what is truly theirs. In 2012, the state returned more than $159 million to its owners.
To check if you might have money waiting to be claimed, go to the comptroller's website at https://mycpa.cpa.state.tx.us/up/Search.jsp and type in your name or the names of family and friends. You can also call toll free at 1-800-654-FIND (3463).
5. National Pecan Pie Day
Ask most Texans what pie is their favorite and there is a strong chance they will say pecan pie. Though it is often associated with holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, we like to enjoy it all year round. After a group of first graders lobbied the Legislature during the 83rd Session to make it the official pie of Texas, there is an even better reason to enjoy it anytime. July 12th is National Pecan Pie Day, so don't forget to honor the state pie of Texas and enjoy a big slice.