My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
With the Christmas season once again upon us, I find myself looking forward to so many of my favorite holiday traditions and events. Perhaps one of our family's most anticipated traditions is eating my wife's special Christmas Coffee Cake after opening gifts. Not only is the cake delicious, but it comes with a very special story. A little over 25 years ago, my wife stopped to help an elderly lady in her 80's shop in a grocery store aisle. The woman told my wife about a coffee cake she had been making for Christmas breakfast for many, many years and ended up giving her the recipe. My wife has fixed it for our family every Christmas since. The center is the first to be eaten and everyone rushes to get to that part first! No doubt each of you have similar stories and recipes which you hold dear.
Christmas also means the close to another year and a chance to look forward to what the next may bring. In Austin there is already a flurry of excitement around the upcoming legislative session. Allow me to share just a few activities which are currently going on at your State Capitol in preparation for when the Legislature will soon convene.
Changes in Membership
The session will bring 44 new state representatives (of 150 total) and six new state senators (of 31 total). They will be sworn in on the first day of session, January 8th, 2012. Part of the oath of office calls for elected officials to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. This is an excellent reminder as we begin a new session to never stray from the guiding principles in the Constitution. While senators normally serve four years a term, our House counterparts serve two.
Drawing for Seniority
In the Legislature, the term "seniority" refers to privileges granted to those members who have served the longest. However, when many members are elected in the same year, they must draw lots to determine where they will rank in seniority in relation to their colleagues entering at the same time. Imagine such an important number being determined by sheer chance, and yet this is a very old tradition.
The beginning of a session also brings with it new committee assignments. I was very pleased recently to be appointed by Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation. This is a policy area I have cared about for quite some time and which is very important to our state. A priority of mine is to focus on the long-term funding of transportation infrastructure. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee toward finding innovative and tangible solutions to our state's transportation needs. In addition, more committee assignments will be coming next month with the beginning of session. I will be sure to keep you updated!
Part of changes in House and Senate makeup of members also means that we usually have the opportunity to move offices at the beginning of each session if we should choose to do so. The greater the seniority a member has, the more choice he or she has. In my case, our office will soon be moving from E1.808 to E1.706. Though both offices are in the Capitol Extension, the new office will put me closer to the committee rooms and give our constituents more room to visit in. As always, we welcome your input and would love to see you at your State Capitol soon!
Bill pre-filing began in early November and is still ongoing. As I've mentioned before, not all problems constitute the need for a new law, but on the rare occasion one is necessary, my office stands ready to work with you on those issues. I recently filed bills to limit the growth of property taxes, prohibit the use of eminent domain for recreational purposes and to significantly reform the state's welfare system. These bills represent some of the priorities brought to me by the citizens of Senate District 3. Further bill filing is still a possibility, and I would encourage your ideas and input. Please feel welcome to contact my office at any time.
Robert Nichols is the state senator for Senate District 3. First elected in 2006, Nichols represents 19 counties including much of East Texas and part of Montgomery County. He lives in Jacksonville, Texas.