Nichols files bills to limit property tax increases, restrict eminent domain and reform welfare
AUSTIN — State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), filed legislation today 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," said Nichols.
The first bill Nichols filed is to slow rapidly rising taxable values on Texas homes.
"Escalating tax appraisals make homeownership less and less affordable," Nichols said. "We need to keep citizens from being taxed out of their homes and significantly limit increasing tax appraisals, which result in larger tax bills."
Senate Bill 95 cuts the maximum rate of increase in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent. Nichols pointed out the importance of limiting the increase in people's property taxes, even when the value of their home increases.
"When your property value increases, it doesn't mean you have any more money in your pocket," said Nichols. "We must keep the maximum increase as low as possible so individuals and families can continue to afford living in their homes. In Texas we have placed an unfair share of the tax burden on homeowners."
Protecting Private Property
Nichols' second bill, Senate Bill 96, would prohibit state or local governments from taking private land for recreational purposes.
"No homeowner should lose the roof over their head so others can have a place to play," said Nichols. "Eminent domain should never be used for recreational purposes, period."
Ending eminent domain abuse continues to be a priority for Nichols. In his first two sessions as senator, he co-authored legislation creating a Landowners' Bill of Rights and has consistently voted for landowner protections.
Nichols co-authored Senate Bill 11 with Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) to include drug testing for welfare benefits and to restrict the items recipients can purchase with taxpayer-paid benefits. The bill also establishes a 3-year lifetime limit on benefits.
"Our welfare system is designed to help those who are willing to help themselves," said Nichols. "Taxpayers have a reasonable expectation that their hard earned money will not be used to feed a debilitating addiction, but that it will be used to help make recipients independent and productive again."
Senate Bill 11 will require a screening assessment to determine whether there is good cause for a person to submit to a drug test to establish eligibility for financial assistance benefits. If a person is found to be using illegal drugs, they will be ineligible for benefits for a period of one year. A "three-strikes and you're out" provision gives welfare recipients an opportunity to attain drug-free status while still protecting taxpayers.
The legislation also updates mandatory employment provisions for financial benefits, a concept Nichols passed in prior sessions for local health programs. "Taxpayers expect those who are capable of employment, or participating in job-training programs, to do so. In addition to protecting taxpayers' money, this will also encourage more Texans to return to work and to financial independence," said Nichols.
Lastly, the bill restricts state financial benefits from being spent on alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets, adult entertainment and bingo. "Financial assistance is intended to enhance a person's capacity to reach financial independence," said Nichols. "Restricting these purchases will help focus buying decisions on other essentials that better meet this goal."
The 83rd Legislative Session begins on January 8th. Nichols anticipates filing several other pieces of legislation related to transportation funding, water utilities, and other policy areas.