Nichols says session a success
Austin — On Monday the 83rd Legislative ended, marking the close of another successful session for the people of Texas.
"Serving the people of Senate District 3 is a huge honor," said Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville). "Working with my colleagues, I believe we passed many pieces of legislation that will benefit East Texas and the entire state. Perhaps most notably, we passed a balanced budget which grew less than the rate of inflation and population growth."
As a member of the Sunset Committee, Nichols had to the chance to serve as a leader on critical water rate legislation. The legislature ultimately passed a bill he authored to overhaul the state's oversight of investor-owned water and sewer utilities (IOUs), and to ensure that customers have an advocate in cases over excessive rates.
Nichols noted, "This legislation reflects the work of Senate subcommittees I helped lead in 2012. These subcommittees held hearings on steep increases in water and sewer rates that were imposed by IOUs. The many stakeholders working with the subcommittees have helped us to determine that the current regulatory system is broken. The one-size-fits-all treatment of large-, mid- and small-sized utilities does not work. This legislation will bring needed reform on ratemaking to Texans living in rural and unincorporated areas of the state."
In addition to water rate legislation, Nichols supported other key legislation including: a four-year, fixed-rate tuition option for freshmen at all Texas public universities, increased funding for state water infrastructure, and increased benefits for many retired teachers while stabilizing the Teacher Retirement System for the long term.
"I want to thank Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for his strong leadership and for entrusting me with the chairmanship of the transportation committee," said Nichols. "While it is impossible to address every issue in a single session, he pursued an agenda to help meet the needs of all Texans."
Other legislative victories include:
- reducing school end of course tests from 15 to 5 while also revamping student career paths to give local schools more flexibility
- cutting business taxes $1.3 Billion and making permanent the $1 million small business exemption
- requiring drug testing for some welfare programs
- helping the logging industry to carry cost efficient loads
- protecting schools' right to say "Merry Christmas" and have Christmas programs
- ensuring "safe passage" for TxDOT employees working on state roads by requiring motorists to move to an inside lane when passing
- creating a pilot program for certain counties to offer driver's license renewal at county offices in addition to the DMV
"It's been a busy five months in Austin, but we are not quite done" said Nichols. "Gov. Perry has called a special session to address redistricting, and I look forward to working on this issue."