Nichols files first bills for the 81st Session
Austin -- The 81st Legislative Session does not start until January 13, but legislators could pre-file bills starting today. State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) took the opportunity to file bills reflecting four key legislative priorities: lowering appraisal caps, protecting private property rights, preventing unfair transportation tolling, and increasing emergency preparedness.
Appraisal caps (SB 218)
Nichols filed legislation to further cap property tax appraisals. His bill would reduce the maximum increase in taxable value from 10 percent a year to only 5 percent.
"Escalating tax appraisals make homeownership less and less affordable," Nichols said. "We need to keep citizens from being literally taxed out of house and home."
Nichols filed similar legislation last session and was one of eight senators to vote for appraisal caps last session.
Protecting private property (SB 219)
Nichols filed legislation to prohibit the use of eminent domain for the purpose of recreational projects such as parks and bike trails. He filed similar legislation as one of his very first bills last session.
"No homeowner should lose the roof over their heads so others can have a place to play," said Nichols. "Eminent domain should never be used for recreation projects, period."
Ending eminent domain abuse continues to be a priority for Nichols. Last session he co-authored and helped pass legislation creating a Landowners' Bill of Rights. He also voted for a broad private property rights bill last which was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. Nichols looks forward to working with his colleagues this session to address Perry's concerns and create more private property protections.
Preventing unfair tolling (SB 220)
Nichols filed legislation prohibiting converting non-tolled roads to toll ways. While he was not able to pass similar legislation last session, Nichols worked with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to include a temporary exemption for Texas' existing federal to be converted into toll roads. That exemption will expire this year.
"These roads were built with public money for public use," said Nichols. "Converting them to toll roads now would break a promise to taxpayers."
Nichols was also the author of the original private-equity toll road moratorium last session. Finally passing as an amendment to another bill, the moratorium protected Texans from paying billions in tolls to private operators.
Emergency preparedness (SB 221)
In that aftermath of Hurricane Ike, many Texans discovered their investor-owned utility was not adequately prepared. In direct response to constituent experiences, Nichols filed legislation to require investor-owned utilities to provide necessary generators in order to keep water flowing to areas without power.
"People depend on these investor owned utilities for clean, safe water," said Nichols. "It's reasonable to ask the utilities to at least provide a basic back-up measure in case of an emergency."
Nichols was elected as senator for District 3 in 2006. The upcoming session will be his second as senator. He currently serves on the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, Health and Human Services Committee, Nominations Committee, and is the Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.