FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2014
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
Summer comes to an end this Monday, September 1, as we celebrate Labor Day. As we say goodbye to the summer and look forward to the cooler weather of the fall, I hope that you have a safe and enjoyable weekend with your friends and family.
Here are five things happening around your state:
1. The Texas Budget
This past month the Senate Finance Committee, which I serve on, held its first hearing of the interim. The committee reviewed the cost of providing support and ensuring security at the border. We also heard presentations on the Texas economy and the state budget, including an overview of spending limits. Unlike the Federal government, Texas is required by our constitution to pass a balanced budget during each legislative session. We are able to do this by implementing various mechanisms to constrain spending in our state.
These mechanisms include a pay-as-you-go provision which prohibits the Legislature from appropriating more revenue than will be collected during the biennium. The state also has 'spending limits' which caps the growth of the appropriations from certain state tax revenue. This ensures the State of Texas does not spend money at a rate greater than the economy is growing. Taxpayer protections include limiting how much debt the state can incur, as well as a limit on funds appropriated for welfare grants. Together all of these tools work to protect taxpayers from our government growing too big, too quickly.
2. State Supported Living Centers
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recently met and recommended to close the Austin State Supported Living Center (SSLC), which serves individuals with disabilities. They also recommended the legislature create the State Supported Living Center Restructuring Commission, which will evaluate all SSLC's in the state based on various criteria and recommend how many and which SSLC's should be closed. If these recommendations are approved by the 85th Legislature, they will go into effect in September 2017. I testified against the closing of any SSLC's at the last Sunset hearing, and I will continue to oppose the closing of these facilities.
The Commission also recommended deregulating 11 health related professions, due to there being no benefit of state regulation and oversight. These recommendations must be approved by the legislature during the upcoming legislative session.
3. Resources a Dial Away
Sometimes finding your way through the maze of health and human services agencies can be overwhelming. There is a state resource out there which can help you navigate that maze. By dialing 2-1-1, those in need of assistance will receive free information and referrals to health and human service agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations and disaster relief resources. You will be able to have your questions about health and mental resources, support for children or those with disabilities, employment support, housing or any other area answered. You can also visit www.211texas.org for online help.
4. New Rules for Permit Seekers
The Texas Railroad Commission recently approved new proposed rules that would require oil and gas drilling permit seekers to provide additional information when applying for their permit. This would include providing data on a regions seismicity and any history of earthquakes recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey, before they are able to drill any new injection wells. In addition, the Commission would have the ability to suspend or terminate a permit in the event of seismic activity near an injection well.
These proposed rules are open to public comment through September 29, after which time the Commission will take official action. The comment page can be found at http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/legal/rules/comment-form-for-proposed-rulemakings/.
5. A Day of Remembrance
This month we will observe the 13th anniversary of the tragic events on September 11, 2001. That day, our country was hit by the biggest act of terrorism ever seen on United States soil. Much like December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963, this day will forever be remembered by those who witnessed it.
On Patriot Day, the American flag is flown at half-staff at the White House and on all U.S. government buildings and entities throughout the world. Additionally, a moment of silence is observed to correspond with the attacks, beginning at 8:46 am, the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on that fateful day. At this time, I ask that we all take a moment to remember the men and women who lost their lives.