My five cents...
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
The saying goes that April showers bring May flowers, but at the Capitol April bills bring May thrills. In the last month of session, the Legislature works early in the morning and late at night to pass legislation. With major issues like approving a state budget and addressing water and transportation funding still ahead of us, May promises to be both busy and exciting.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
Curbing mail vote fraud
The House recently passed a bill which will soon be heard in Senate State Affairs, a committee on which I am proud to serve. HB 148 by Representative Cindy Burkett cracks down on mail-in ballot fraud by capping at 10 the number of ballots an individual can mail for others in an election cycle.
Currently, an individual or group can collect an unlimited number of ballots, a practice known as "ballot harvesting," and there are concerns that ballots may be mailed or not mailed depending on which way an individual is voting. I look forward to casting a vote for this bill to help solidify the integrity of our democratic process.
Water plans have not run dry
I have let you know in previous 'Five cents' articles about an important water bill this session, HB 11. It was a surprise to many people this week when that bill died in the House because of a procedural technicality. However, all is not lost. The state's leadership have since reaffirmed their commitment to long-term water funding.
HB 11 would have spent $2 billion from the state's rainy day fund on water projects, but is not the only water bill filed this session. There are many others, including one which would create a constitutional amendment for you to vote on in November. Whichever bill is ultimately successful, one thing remains sure: Texas must address the need for long-term water planning and projects. As increasing numbers of people move to our great state, there is a growing gap between the projected demand for water, and the amount of the resource available.
Service dogs for PTSD
On Tuesday the House passed a bill dealing with service dogs for those with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seizures and other illnesses. HB 489 ensures that the service dogs who serve these people are allowed into public places such as restaurants and grocery stores.
Many of us are used to seeing the blind with their service animals in these types of establishments, but individuals who suffer from illnesses such as PTSD have so far not been protected. With the growing number of veterans who suffer from this disorder, it is especially imperative that we protect their right to go about their daily lives with their service animals to aid them.
Guns in cars on campus
This week the Senate approved a measure to give college students with concealed handgun licenses the ability to have a gun in their vehicle on campus. SB 1907 by Senator Glenn Hegar is similar to a bill he passed last session giving faculty and staff the same right.
Since the enactment of the state concealed weapons law in 1995, Texans have been able to leave their guns in parking lots of other places that ban weapons such as churches, bars and government meetings. Many people, especially in rural areas, want to have personal protection when they travel. They lose that protection if prohibited by where they park.
"They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning..." Many of you are probably familiar with the popular television show "Flipper" from the 1960s. However, the legislature recently addressed a problem the state has with a very different type of "flipper."
SB 1757 would ban license plate flippers, which allow drivers to quickly flip from one plate to another, presumably to prevent a vehicle from being identified. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, and it is our hope that it will help to curb various types of illegal activity, ultimately making our state a safer place.