Column from Senator Robert Nichols

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2013
Contact: Mandy Morton
(512) 463-0103

My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3

After a busy week at the Capitol, I am "hopping" home to spend the Easter weekend with my family. I hope you are able to do the same.

Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:

1. TANF drug screening

On Tuesday the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which I am proud to serve on, unanimously passed a bill I coauthored to require every Texas Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicant, and minor parents if they are the head of their household, to submit to a drug screening test. Under SB 11, a positive drug test would ensure the recipient's benefits be taken away, but would protect their children's benefits. TANF is one of the few state governmental programs that gives cash to participants- as opposed to, for instance, groceries with food stamps or medical services with Medicaid.

2. Gold Reserves

Call it the gold rush of 2013. Under HB 3505 filed by Representative Giovanni Capriglione, the state's gold reserves currently held by the Federal Reserve in New York would be moved back to a vault in Texas. Specifically, the bill would create the Texas Bullion Depository, a secure bank to house the 6,643 gold bars, worth $1 billion, owned by the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO).

Governor Rick Perry has gotten behind the idea, noting "If we own it, I will suggest to you that that's not someone else's determination whether we can take possession of it." Former Congressman Ron Paul joined in as well: "If you think gold is a hedge, or a protection, you always want it as close to the individual and the entity as possible. Texas is better served if it knows exactly where the gold is rather than depending on the security of the Federal Reserve."

I will be sure let you know how this bill "pans out."

3. Concealed Handgun Fees

Another house bill of interest aims to reduce concealed handgun licensure fees from the current $140 to $95. HB 2759 by Representative "Doc" Anderson is one of several bills this session aimed at lowering barriers to legal carry in Texas. This phenomena stands in stark contrast to the push in Washington D.C. to restrict gun access.

Currently, Texans must be 21, pass state and federal background checks and complete 10 hours of training to get a concealed hand gun license. It is many legislators' hope that this bill will allow more law-abiding citizens to go through the process and be able to protect themselves and others.

4. Ticket Scalping

When a Texan buys an event ticket, does that ticket have to be used by them personally or are they able to resell it for profit? There have been a couple of bills filed this session that pertain to ticket scalping and which would formally legalize the practice of reselling tickets in Texas.

Scalping was brought into the spotlight last month when resold tickets to the Houston Rodeo began to fetch well above their original price, some selling for as much as $11,000. Rodeo organizers reacted by cancelling 5,000 of the tickets they believed to be scalped, subsequently reselling them at their original prices.

Many owners of the cancelled tickets felt cheated and as if the free market had been infringed upon by the organizers. These individuals and many others will most likely be supportive of the two bills mentioned above, while others will argue that scalping ultimately rips off the average fan who has to pay inflated prices. What do you think?

5. Texas Vietnam War Memorial Ground Breaking

On Monday, the state broke ground on a long-awaited Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument. There are already monuments on the Capitol grounds to honor those who served in the Korean War, both World Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War and at the Alamo.

A ceremony accompanied Monday's ground breaking at which the names of the 3,417 Texans killed in the war were read aloud. In addition, a "hero tag", similar to a dog tag, was dedicated for each of the 3,417. The tags will ultimately be entombed within the bronze monument.

It is common knowledge that veterans returning home from the Vietnam War were not always treated warmly. I am proud that they are finally getting a small amount of the honor they deserve. My colleague Senator "Chuy" Hinojosa, a Marine Vietnam veteran, said it best Monday when he stated, "I finally feel like I am welcome back home."

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