My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
The fourth week of session is now over, and wow, was it a busy one! The Lieutenant Governor began to assign bills to committees, I filed transportation legislation, and also got the chance to speak with many groups of citizens from across Senate District 3. This week was a very productive one.
Here are five things going on at your State Capitol:
State of the State
Each session the Governor addresses a joint session of the Texas House and Senate to give the State of the State address. On Wednesday, Governor Rick Perry opened with a theme of Texas' strong economic outlook, and urged legislators to help continue that trend. He suggested this be done by setting aside more than $3.7 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to be spent on one-time water and infrastructure projects. He then spoke about education, specifically advocating on behalf of charter schools. The governor also addressed public school curriculum and said all students need more flexibility in class choice to better prepare them for their individual career paths. Finally, he called for $1.8 billion in tax relief for Texans.
Bills filed to fund highway construction
This week I, along with Representative Larry Phillips, Chair of Transportation in the House, filed bills to constitutionally dedicate the state's current motor vehicle sales tax to the transportation fund. Those bills include Senate Bill 287, House Bill 782, Senate Joint Resolution 20 and House Joint Resolution 68.
It is time to fundamentally fix our long-term transportation funding problem. As the state's population continues to grow, Texas will add millions of new automobiles to the roads. Our current funding system is inadequate and cannot address the state's growing infrastructure demands. These bills would incrementally dedicate the vehicle sales tax funds over a ten year period, as well as allow payment of transportation related debt.
Transportation infrastructure is a core function of government and must be addressed. What could make more sense than to dedicate the taxes that we currently pay for vehicles to the roads and bridges they are dependent upon?
Wednesday was Wounded Warrior Day at the Capitol. Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Chair of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations (VAMI) Committee, recognized six service members who had been seriously wounded in service to our country. These men and women, from various military branches and with very different backgrounds, all received Senate Resolutions for the great sacrifice they have made for our nation.
Following these six resolutions, Senator Van de Putte also surprised many of us by recognizing our colleague Senator Brian Birdwell of Granbury, a decorated Army veteran and survivor of the Pentagon attack on 9/11. We are incredibly proud of Senator Birdwell, as well as all of our other wounded warriors. It was a very emotional moment with a crowded Chamber.
This week it was great to see so many Farm Bureau members for their legislative day at the Capitol this year. These men and women represent Texas so well and remind us all of how important agriculture is to our state. It is always an honor to meet with this and other grassroots organizations who are working for the interests and livelihoods of rural Texans.
Wednesday was Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Legislative Day at the Capitol and I was pleased to see so many of this organization's volunteers from counties all over Senate District 3. CASA is a nonprofit, statewide organization made up of volunteers who intercede for children in the foster care system. These selfless individuals give of their time and resources to be a stabilizing force in the lives of some of our society's most precious, yet vulnerable, citizens.
CASA volunteers are teachers, businesspeople, retirees and more. They are heroes in my eyes, as well as in the eyes of the children whose lives they impact, and will always have my respect and gratitude.