FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 25, 2015
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
Christmas has been a favorite holiday of mine since I was a young boy. Of course, I was lucky because I grew up in a toy factory where my father, Talley Nichols, manufactured toy cap guns. As you gather with friends and family during this Christmas season, I wish you a very Merry Christmas from my family to yours.
Here are five things happening around your state this month:
1. Governor Abbott's Letter
In light of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and other locations, Governor Greg Abbott has sent a letter to President Obama stating that Texas will not participate in the resettlement of Syrian refugees. He said he feared terrorists could pose as refugees and then conduct attacks in our state. In addition, as a precautionary measure, he asked the state's law enforcement officials to work with local and federal officials to ensure refugees currently residing in the state do not pose a risk to public safety.
The Governor has asked the Executive Director of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to formally amend the state's Refugee Resettlement State Plan to exclude Syrians and share this information with all agencies which participate in the resettlement. He has also appointed a state Refugee Coordinator to help implement these changes. Unfortunately, our country and our state has not been immune to terrorists attacks over the past 15 years. My thoughts and prayers along with my staffs go out to the victims of these unthinkable acts.
2. Addressing Mental Health
House Speaker Joe Straus has formed the House Select Committee on Mental Health to take a comprehensive approach to reviewing mental health, substance abuse treatment and the state's overall behavioral health system for adults and children. The committee will recommend the best way to identify mental illness early on and discuss how to bring all care providers together to offer the best care. There will also be a focus on care for veterans, the homeless and those in rural areas. Approximately 200 out of 254 Texas counties have been federally designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. The Legislature made great strides in addressing these shortage areas during this past session, and I know we will continue our work to ensure necessary services are provided to Texans in need.
3. #EndTheStreakTX Campaign
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently launched a new campaign to help stop preventable daily deaths on our Texas Highways by educating drivers on how to take responsibility. In the past 15 years, more than 50,000 people have been killed on Texas roadways, meaning almost daily someone has lost their life. You can visit the TxDOT website at www.txdot.gov for more information on the campaign and how you can do your part in helping to prevent deaths. Use the #EndTheStreakTX on all of your social media to share your personal stories and encourage others to drive safely.
Remember that safe driving only requires a few simple tips:
- Ensure yours and your passengers seatbelts are buckled.
- Never drink and drive, always get a sober ride home.
- Pay attention - put your phone away and avoid distractions.
- Ensure you are always following speed limits and drive slower speeds when weather or conditions warrant.
4. Natural Resources Hearing
On November 6, the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee held its first interim hearing. Interim charges are issues that are assigned to each legislative committee by the Lieutenant Governor to study prior to the next legislative session. At this hearing, our committee heard testimony regarding oilfield theft and an air emissions program administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality called the 'Texas Emissions Reduction Program.' Myself and nine other committee members heard testimony from experts and members of the public on these two issues, and will use that information to study these two important issues leading up to next legislative session.
5. Capitol Christmas Ornament
In 1996, after receiving a White House ornament for the House of Representatives Christmas Tree, Nelda Laney, the wife of then Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, realized the Texas Capitol needed its own unique ornament. The ornament became an annual tradition with the proceeds of the sales going to support ongoing Capitol conservation, maintenance programs and educating the public about the history of the Capitol and its grounds. The 2015 Capitol Christmas Ornament is an ornate replica of the Lone Star which is found around the capitol on the stairs, historic windows and fencing. To buy your own you can visit www.texascapitolgiftshop.com.