FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2015
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
While many are rushing to prepare their taxes before the deadline next week, you can be thankful Texas is one of only seven states with no state income tax. In fact, the Legislature is working hard to cut taxes for property and business owners. Lower taxes and efficient government are a few elements that make Texas a great place to live, own a business and raise a family.
Here are five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol:
1. Veteran's Organization Property Tax Exemption
I presented and passed Senate Bill 918 in the Senate Finance committee this week. This bill would add veteran's organizations to a list of organizations which are exempt from filing an annual application for property tax exemption. They would be required to file an application after the first time if; the property ownership changes, the use of the building changes or the county Chief Appraiser requests a new application. Currently, veteran's organizations, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), are required to file annually which can be an unnecessary hardship for these organizations.
These organizations provide valuable services and support for our state's veterans and those currently serving in the military, as well as their families. They promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and by service to their local communities. I was proud to be able to author a bill that will benefit so many of these organizations across our state.
This week, I participated in a Texas Tribune TribLive event with Representative Joe Pickett, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee. We talked about transportation in the state as well as how the Legislature is addressing funding for transportation projects including highway construction and renovation.
If you would like to watch the full conversation, I have posted it on my Facebook page (you can find it by searching for Senator Robert Nichols). You can also visit the Texas Tribune website through the following link http://www.texastribune.org/2015/04/07/video-a-conversation-with-nichols-and-pickett/ to watch it online.
3. Sanctuary Cities
The Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee recently passed Senate Bill 185, by Senator Charles Perry, also known as the 'sanctuary cities' bill. Many cities in Texas have adopted 'sanctuary city' policies which do not allow local law enforcement to inquire about an individual's immigration status. These laws often also prohibit the sharing of information regarding a person's immigration status with the federal government
Senate Bill 185 would prohibit a local government (such as a city or county) or governmental entities from adopting rules or policies that prohibit enforcement of state and federal immigration laws. If they do, they could be penalized and their state funding revoked. Law enforcement would be able to inquire into the immigration status of a person if they were lawfully detained for the investigation of criminal offense or arrested. This law would not include officers employed by a school district, charter school or a junior college district. It would also exempt individuals who have been victims or witnesses to crimes.
This bill will now head to the Senate floor for debate. If passed, it will then be sent to the House.
4. Automotive Insurance Inquiries
Recently, the Senate passed Senate Bill 189, by Senator Kirk Watson, which will provide protection for car insurance policy holders by preventing insurance companies from raising their rates or cancelling their policies if the policy holder asks a questions about his/her coverage.
During the 83rd Legislative Session, a similar bill was passed in regards to protecting homeowner insurance policy holders. There were concerns that information collected by an insurance company could be used to increase rates as a result of a consumer inquiry or a filed claim that is not paid or payable under the plan. These bills help to protect the homeowner and those who have car insurance from being penalized for asking questions.
5. Texas Medical Association 'First Tuesdays'
The 'First Tuesday' of each month is always a day I enjoy. On these days doctors and medical students from around the state converge on the Capitol to lobby on behalf of their profession and their patients. Referred to as the "White Coat Invasion," this practice has been going on since 2003 and is a chance for legislators to discuss bills regarding the practice of medicine with those who know it best. These individuals provide an invaluable service to our state and I look forward to working with them for many years to come.