My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
The hardest part about this stage of the legislative session is needing to be three places at one time. This happened several times this week as I needed to be in one committee to hear testimony, present a bill in a different committee, and cast a vote in a third committee. The only way to be everywhere I need to be is to work fast and coordinate with other senators who also need to be several places at once. My great Senate staff keeps me organized as well. As you can tell, it's a busy time for everyone here in Austin.
Five important things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
A vote for schools in Senate District 3
This week the Texas Senate tackled a piece of legislation that would increase the number of charter schools in Texas. After careful consideration, I decided to cast my vote in opposition of the bill which passed 30-1. I am not opposed to the concept of charter schools; in fact, we have several great ones in Senate District 3. However, prior to each legislative session, I make a point to visit with all 102 school superintendents in Senate District 3. One thing I have learned is that most public schools receive less funding per student than charter schools statewide. Additionally, public schools have more rules and state regulations than charters.
Unfortunately, SB 2 does not adequately address these two important issues. Until the playing field is leveled and school funding is addressed, I cannot support further charter expansion. I have often said the education of our students is one of the most important things we make decisions on in the state legislature. This week I was proud to stand up for the public school students of my district, even if it meant standing alone.
Gunmakers moving to Texas?
On Wednesday the Senate passed SB 1467 by Senator Craig Estes to attract more gun makers to Texas. At a time when other states and the federal government are attempting to increase gun control, this bill would create incentive programs for gun manufacturers in the state's economic development law. In addition, Governor Rick Perry has already sent more than 30 invitations to out-of-state manufacturers to move their operations to Texas. I am pleased to have been able to vote in favor of SB 1467 and be a part of this movement.
One interesting measure under consideration this session is House Concurrent Resolution 59 by Representative Todd Hunter. Under his proposal, the state would create a joint interim committee to study seawater desalination along the Texas coast. The study would spend the next year-and-a-half analyzing the economic viability of desalination from coastal waters.
What many people do not know is that the state already has 45 desalination projects, and not just along the coast. The Texas Water Development Board estimates that there are around 2.7 billion acre-feet of brackish groundwater throughout Texas. As we begin to look for long-term solutions to our state's water needs, desalination is one of several possible ideas deserving of attention.
After much debate, the Texas House recently approved a $193.8 billion budget for the next two years. With the Senate having already passed their own version, some significant differences have already been noticed. Some of these include the amount to be spent by the state on public education and the possibility of Medicaid expansion.
The differences between the two bills will now be worked out in weeks of meetings by a committee of selected House and Senate members. The joint bill will then have to get final approval from both chambers. Bottom line, the budget process is far from over. There will be more changes in the next few weeks as the Legislature works out how to allocate our much-sought-after state dollars.
On Thursday approximately 2,000 Texas realtors came to visit the Capitol. With approximately 80,000 members across the state, the Texas Association of Realtors is an organization that advocates on behalf of realtors and private-property owners to keep homeownership affordable and to protect private-property rights. They are an important part of our capitalistic market and it was a pleasure to have them visit.