FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 31, 2015
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were filled with family and good food, as I know mine were.
Here are five things happening around your state this month:
1. Standing up for Christmas
Over the past few years, various communities and school districts within Senate District 3 and across the state have been faced with challenges to their Christmas displays, as well as displays of their Christian faith. I have continually heard from many constituents who dislike that it is becoming less culturally acceptable to openly celebrate these holidays in the ways past generations have.
During the 83rd Legislative Session, I sponsored the "Merry Christmas Bill" which allows students and teachers the right to celebrate Christmas on school property as well as to use traditional greetings such as 'Merry Christmas' on school grounds without fear of legal action against them. I believe as we stand at a cultural crossroads in our society, that bill was one step forward in defending our state's traditional values and beliefs. While you may be reading this article after Christmas, I wanted to ensure you that I have, and as long as I am in the Senate, will continue to fight for individuals, communities and organizations right to celebrate Christmas and to protect their Christian values.
2. The Border and Sanctuary Cities
Texas has been faced with the immense challenge of dealing with an influx of illegal immigrants into our state. Recently, during an interim hearing for the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw shared with the committee that more than 174,000 undocumented individuals were apprehended entering our state over the past four years. The number of unaccompanied minors entering the state during October and November of this year nearly doubled compared to 2014. Because of this, Governor Greg Abbott has extended the Texas National Guards mission by ordering them to stay on the border. The troops were originally scheduled to leave at the end of this month.
The Subcommittee also addressed the subject of whether Texas should allow for Sanctuary Cities and whether questioning immigration status, violates a person's rights. In a Sanctuary City, local law enforcement are not allowed to inquire about an individual's immigration status or share it with the federal government.
3. Agriculture Fee Increases
In October, Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) Commissioner Sid Miller proposed an increase in the fees for a range of licenses, registrations and services TDA provides. Since then legislators from both chambers and numerous industry groups have come out in opposition to this, as the fees could be increased between 200 and 600 percent from the current fee structure.
I have heard from several individuals and agricultural organizations who have shared their concerns that these increases could potentially have a serious impact on individual industries, the state's agricultural economy and consumers. I have and will continue to support the agricultural industry in Texas and take the necessary action to ensure TDA operates efficiently and is accountable to taxpayers.
4. Texas Racing Commission
Last year, the Texas Racing Commission (TRC) voted to allow racing tracks to implement 'historical racing' terminals, allowing players to bet on digital simulations of historical races. After a state district judge ruled the commission had overstepped its authority in allowing these terminals, the Legislature asked TRC to repeal rules authorizing 'historical racing'. Recently, TRC initially voted to not repeal its rules and then came back and agreed to republish the rules and take up the subject again in February.
When I first sought to represent Senate District 3, I made a pledge to oppose efforts to expand gambling in Texas. As the Racing Commission continues to bypass the Legislature and oppose the state's constitution, I will continue to maintain this position.
As I look back on this year and all that was accomplished during the 84th Legislative Session, I am once again reminded that it could not have been done without you. This next year will be spent in preparation for the 85th Legislative Session and it is because of your feedback that I have a better understanding of what is needed for East Texas. While you are making your own resolutions for your personal life, business or organizations, the Senate is doing the same thing through its interim charges and interim hearings, as we plan for future legislation. I look forward to this next year and working together to make a difference for our state.