My five cents...
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3
While preparing your taxes this month, Texans can be thankful we are one of only seven states with no state income tax. Lower taxes and efficient government are a few elements that make Texas a great place to live, own a business and raise a family.
Here are five things happening around your state:
1. A Growing Texas
Once again, Texas is a leader in job growth throughout the nation and the trends of job growth look promising for the rest of the year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Texas added 33,900 jobs in the month of January, double the number of jobs Ohio, ranked second, added in the same month. In addition, we added 322,400 in the past year, ranking Texas No.1 in the nation.
While recent job creation has occurred across many industries, the service-based job sector has seen the most growth. Trade, transportation, utilities, education and health services drove most of the growth, but construction jobs growth has Texas ranked No. 3 nationally with 26,000 new jobs created in the past 12 months. As our economy continues to thrive and additional jobs are created, Texas will continue its legacy of being one of the strongest states in the nation.
2. Primary Results
As a result of the March primary, there will be many new faces at the Capitol when the 84th Legislative Session convenes in January. It is interesting to note that approximately 19 percent of registered voters in Senate District 3 went to the polls in comparison to the turnout of 13 percent statewide. There will be a runoff election on May 27th to determine various legislative seats, as well as statewide positions including the Lieutenant Governor, Agriculture Commissioner, and Attorney General. Voting is not only an opportunity for the people of Texas to take part in our political system, but to ensure their voices are heard. The election on May 27th as well as the General Election in November will determine who will fill key statewide positions in our state.
3. Water Conservation
East Texas has been blessed with rain over the past few months, but unfortunately other regions have not been as lucky. More than half of the state is currently suffering from drought conditions, which could be a result of the less than average rainfall, compared to previous years. The evidence of severe drought hitting the state was seen most recently when a dust wall measuring 1,000 feet tall and 200 miles wide blew across West Texas.
With the passage of the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas last November, Texas has continued promoting water conservation and reuse tactics. By implementing simple conservation methods in our daily tasks, we can do our part in ensuring we have enough water for day to day operations throughout the state. For more information on conservation and what your local community is doing visit www.wateriq.org.
4. Volunteer Fire Departments
In East Texas, we are fortunate to have dedicated men and women who give of themselves to serve as Volunteer Firefighters with little to no compensation. Volunteer Fire Departments (VFD) respond to almost 90 percent of wildfires in Texas. Each year the Texas A&M Forest Service distributes $12.8 million in grants which help fund training for the firefighters and provide firefighting vehicles, fire/rescue equipment, protective clothing and other equipment for the VFD's. In 2001, the Texas Legislature created the Rural VFD insurance program, which provides reimbursement grants for firefighters to obtain workers compensation, death and disability insurance from private insurance companies. For more information on the grant and insurance programs and how a VFD and/or firefighter can apply, you can visit www.texasfd.com.
5. San Jacinto Day
On April 21st, our state will observe San Jacinto Day which commemorates the 178th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto between the Texan and Mexican armies. In 1835, after the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed, Mexican President Santa Anna brought his army to Texas to try and suppress the uprising of support for Texas independence. While the Texans lost a number of areas to Santa Anna, they were not going to back down without a fight. On April 21, 1836, our forces fought and won the Battle of San Jacinto, also capturing General Santa Anna. After this triumphant victory, Texas became fully independent from Mexico. While the battle only lasted 18 minutes, hundreds of Mexicans were killed, injured or captured while only nine Texan soldiers were killed and 26 were wounded. We have those brave men and women to thank for our beautiful state.