My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
This week marks the end of the first month of the legislative session. Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and the spirit of brotherly love abounds in the Capitol. However, as the session continues and various contentious bills begin to move through the legislative process, that warm feeling will begin to dissipate as members find themselves at odds on numerous issues. I, for one, am fine with the current friendly atmosphere!
On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Transportation updated legislators on the progress of Interstate 69. Being developed on existing roads as a critical pathway to move freight, I-69 will eventually become a 1,600 mile-long highway stretching from Canada via Michigan to Texas.
Much progress has been made on the project since the legislature was last in session. The first sections of I-69 in Texas (now 70 miles in length) have officially been made part of the national Interstate Highway System. Additional miles will be considered soon for designation as well.
The I-69 project is an important step in keeping Texas an economically robust and business-friendly state. The quality of transportation systems often determines whether industry comes into an area, and I-69 will attract business not only along its path in East Texas, but all over the state.
4-H members at the Capitol
This week it was great to see so many 4-H members for their day at the Capitol this year. Did you know there are currently over 900,000 students involved with 4-H in the State of Texas? These young 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 organizations who are training tomorrow's Texas leaders.
SB 135 passed regarding the STAAR Test
The Senate passed SB 135 which strikes from law "that each school district shall adopt a policy that requires a student's performance on the end-of-course assessment instrument to account for 15 percent of the student's final grade for the course."
This gives school districts more local control and is something which I greatly support. The issue has been brought to me many times by teachers and school administrators across Senate District 3, and I look forward to finalizing a solution to it. The bill passed unanimously from the Senate and is now being sent to the House for a vote. I will keep you updated on its progress, as well as other education issues, as the session continues.
Community Legislative Days at the Capitol
This week I was lucky enough to have residents from three different parts of my district come to the Capitol to discuss issues that are important to them and their communities with me. These 'legislative days' at the Capitol are always a real treat and I would encourage anyone interested in getting involved in the political process or in attending their community's day at the Capitol to contact their local Chamber of Commerce, which is often the organizer of these events.
The citizens of Senate District 3 are the most important people that walk into my office, and I look forward to seeing even more of you in the months ahead. However, if you should be unable to make the trip to Austin, but still want to be involved, please remember that we are always available to you via phone or email and care deeply about your concerns and opinions.
Johnny Manziel and HB 778
On Wednesday, Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel was recognized by the Senate for his outstanding football season and many awards and accolades. I really enjoyed meeting 'Johnny Football', and as I listened to him speak in the Senate Chamber, I began to wonder if he was aware of a rather interesting football-related bill which has been filed in the House.
Representative Ryan Guillen recently submitted HB 778, a bill which, if passed, would require an annual football game between the University of Texas and Texas A&M. After A&M moved to the SEC conference, the 2012 season became the first since 1914 that the two teams did not meet. Representative Guillen says that the game between the two rivals is "as much a Texas tradition as cowboy boots and barbeque" and hopes something can be done to fix the current situation. Will the rivalry continue? I will keep you posted.