We have made it halfway through. Monday was the half-way mark of the Legislative session- day 70 of 140. Much like the temperatures around the state which have started to rise, the Capitol is heating up as bills come to the Senate floor. 

Here are five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol:

  1. Eminent Domain Bill

This week, I laid out Senate Bill 178 in the Senate State Affairs Committee which would prohibit governmental entities from exercising eminent domain and taking private land for recreational purposes. In several instances, individuals have lost their private land because governmental entities saw “better use” for the property as a park, greenbelt or trail.

This bill prevents future instances of homeowners losing their property by defining ‘recreational purposes’  as creating or putting in new additions to a park or recreation system. I do not believe any homeowner should lose the roof over their head so that others can have a place to play. This issue has and will continue to be a priority of mine. I have filed this bill every session since entering the Senate in 2007.

  1. Savings for Homeowners

Last week I told you about Senate Bill 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 1 which would cut school property taxes by $2.2 billion over the next two fiscal years and set the homestead exemption amount at 25 percent of the median home value. These bills will provide almost $2.2 billion in homeowner tax relief. This week, they were voted out of the Senate with a vote of 25-6.

These measures would bring much needed tax savings to the state’s homeowners. Schools will be held harmless, meaning the state will cover the cost of tax relief. The residence homestead exemption would go from $15,000 to $33,500 and would continue to increase as the values of homes around the state increases.

As it is a constitutional amendment, if approved by the Legislature, this proposal will go to the voters in September 2015.

  1. Oil Export Ban

Senate Concurrent Resolution 13, by Senator Seliger, was recently passed in the Senate. This resolution urges the United States Congress and the president of the United States  to end the ban on crude oil exports.

During the 1970s, it was projected the United States had hit a peak in oil production levels and we would not be able to produce as much as in the past. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 was passed by the United States Congress in order to ban domestic crude oil exports among other initiatives. However, since 1975 the oil & gas industry in the United States has changed substantially due to advancements in technology in the energy industry. The economic benefits from these advancements have greatly assisted the state in increasing support for education, infrastructure development, and public health and safety programs.

Numerous studies have found that removing the ban on crude oil and allowing American exports into the global market will greatly benefit U.S. trade and American consumers while also creating more jobs and opportunities for Texans. I was a co-author on this bill and will continue to support this measure.

  1. Stolen Valor Act

In 2011, the Legislature created an offense in response to claims that people were creating false military records for the purpose of receiving benefits usually reserved for those who have served in the military. While a person would receive a misdemeanor, which could include a monetary fine, they were still able to keep the job they obtained through using false records.

Senate Bill 664, also known as the Stolen Valor Act,  by Senator Van Taylor was recently passed out of the Senate. This bill would give employers the authority to fire employees and terminate any contracts if they determine the employees have given them false records. The Stolen Valor Act will ensure that only those men and women who have served our country will be able to receive the benefits they deserve.   

  1. 4-H Day at the Capitol

This week it was great to see so many 4-H members for their day at the Capitol. Did you know there are currently over 900,000 students involved with 4-H in the State of Texas? These young men and women represent Texas so well and remind us all how important agriculture is to our state. It is always an honor to meet with organizations like 4-H who are training tomorrow’s Texas leaders.

By Senator Robert Nichols