My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
This Sunday, April 21st, is the 175th Anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, the deciding battle in Texas' War for Independence. In a sneak attack on Santa Anna's army, Gen. Sam Houston lead the Texas forces to victory in a battle that lasted less than 20 minutes. While not as heroic, passing bills can work the same way. It takes months or even years of preparation to craft good legislation, but the actual process of passing it usually just takes a few minutes. As we near the end of session, more bills are facing decisive battles to become law.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1. Business Tax Cuts
On Monday, April 15th, Governor Perry announced his support for $1.6 billion in business tax cuts. This tax relief would affect 109,000 Texas businesses over the next two years, and would include a 5 percent cut of the state franchise tax, a $1 million exemption for businesses that make less than $20 million and a deduction for moving costs for companies relocating to Texas.
The Governor noted that the state is "the epicenter of job creation" in the U.S. and said he hopes these measures will help keep Texas "the most competitive place in the country" to do business.
2. More doctors for Texas
This week the Senate took a step to address the state's doctor shortage. At least 100 of the state's 254 counties have been "diagnosed" as having shortages of primary health physicians, the majority of which are in rural areas.
Part of this problem came about because, currently, there are not enough medical residencies for the number of graduates Texas medical schools are producing. Consequently, many medical graduates are going out-of-state for their residencies, and then staying in those states to open practices.
On Wednesday I was proud to be able to vote for SB 143 by Senator Jane Nelson to create additional medical residency slots and keep more young doctors in Texas. It does this by creating a grant program to create new residency positions, including incentivizing the development of residency programs in hospitals that have never had such a program. It is a step forward for health access for all Texans, including the many medically underserved areas within Senate District 3.
3. Property tax ceiling
On Tuesday the Senate passed out an important measure dealing with property taxes.
The Texas Constitution currently allows for a freeze on the ad valorem taxes on a residential homestead for the disabled or those who are over 65 within a school district, county, city, or junior college district. However, there are many special purpose districts that levy property taxes, but are not constitutionally required to offer a property tax freeze.
SJR 32 by Senator Ken Paxton would create a constitutional amendment to authorize a political subdivision other than a school district to establish a limitation on the amount of ad valorem taxes that the political subdivision may impose on the residence homesteads of persons who are disabled or elderly and their surviving spouses.
This measure closes a loophole in property tax law and ensures a level playing field for all our disabled and over-65 citizens. I was proud to vote in favor of it.
4. House passes anti-texting bill
On Wednesday the House passed a controversial bill to ban texting while driving state-wide. Specifically, HB 63 by Representative Tom Craddick would outlaw texting, emailing, reading or instant-messaging. Drivers could face a fine of up to $100 and repeat offenders up to $200. All but 11 states have passed similar measures, and supporters of the bill argue Texas should follow suit in the interest of public safety and saving lives.
The bill passed out of the House 98-47 and will soon go to the Senate. However, even if it makes it through the Senate, it could very likely be vetoed by Governor Rick Perry who vetoed the same measure last session. Only time will tell, and I will keep you updated.
5. Ladies in Red
On Thursday the famous "Ladies in Red" returned to the Capitol once again. These ladies are all members of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, one of the largest women's political groups in the country. They storm the Capitol every legislative session as grassroots lobbyists to advocate for their conservative beliefs, and are most definitely a force with which to be reckoned! Their passion and energy for their cause is admirable, and their legislative day is always one I look forward to.