FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2015
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
The Speaker of the House recently announced member assignments for House committees. Now that both chambers have their organizational processes in place and bills are being referred, we are getting down to business.
Here are five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol:
1. Funding for Transportation
This week, I held a press conference with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to discuss the filing of Senate Bill 5 and Senate Joint Resolution 5 (I call it the double nickel), which will constitutionally dedicate a portion of the existing sales tax on new and used automobiles to the State Highway Fund. Conservative forecasts for this revenue stream state it will generate approximately $2 billion more for transportation annually. If approved, this proposal will give the Texas Department of Transportation a predictable revenue stream which they can use to implement long-range transportation plans.
I believe there are five critical elements the Legislature should look for when identifying additional funding sources for transportation. These include ensuring the funding is (1) predictable, (2) constitutionally dedicated, (3) transportation related (4) independent of fuel source and (5) able to adjust to inflation. This state motor vehicles sales tax is a revenue stream which meets all of these elements.
2. Chris Kyle Day
On the second anniversary of Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle's death, Governor Greg Abbott announced February 2nd to be 'Chris Kyle Day' in Texas. After returning home from the war, Kyle, who served as a Navy Seal sniper in Iraq, worked to improve the lives of veterans throughout Texas with non-profit foundations. As Governor Abbott stated in his speech "Kyle will forever be enshrined in our memory as an example of all who have served and continue to serve to protect our families and our freedoms." We are able to not only honor his passing, but we honor his sacrifice and service to our country as well as all of the men and women who serve to defend and protect our nation.
3. Visits from the District
During session, different counties and cities from Senate District 3 come to the Capitol to visit with their Senators and Representatives, as well as to discuss issues which are important to their communities. These 'legislative days' at the Capitol are always a great time and I would encourage anyone interested in getting involved in the political process or in attending their community's day at the Capitol to contact their local Chamber of Commerce, which is often the organizer of these events.
The citizens of Senate District 3 are the most important people that walk into my office, and I look forward to visiting with all of these groups in the months ahead. However, if you should be unable to make the trip to Austin, but still want to be involved, please remember that we are always available to you via phone or email and value your concerns and opinions.
4. Border Security Funding
The Senate has proposed approximately $815 million in border security funding for the next two years. This is twice the amount funded last biennium. This money is split between several different agencies including the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Department of Criminal Justice and the Parks and Wildlife Department.
This funding will be used to continue the strong DPS and National Guard presence presently along the border, as well as to provide grants to local law enforcement. Additional training and technology, necessary to maintain a strong force are also included in the funding. As the Senate Finance Committee, which I serve on, moves further along in the budget process I will continue to keep you up to date on subjects such as this.
5. Rattlesnakes at the Capitol
Every week, hundreds of visitors come to the Texas Capitol. However, this week we had some visitors which were a little more unusual. The Sweetwater Jaycees brought about a dozen of their slithering friends, the rattlesnake, and featured them in the open rotunda of the Capitol. Every year they come to Austin to raise awareness for the world's largest rattlesnake roundup in Sweetwater, Texas. It has been held annually since 1958. The roundup started as a way to help local farmers and ranchers get rid of rattlesnakes causing them and their livestock problems. In addition to rounding them up, they also milk them for their venom which is collected and used for medical research, as well as an antidote for snake bite victims. While I did not visit these snakes, I believe some of my staff got up close and personal with them.