The hardest part about this stage of the legislative session is needing to be three places at one time. This happened several times this week as I needed to be in one committee to hear testimony, present a bill in a different committee, and cast a vote in a third committee. As you can tell, it’s a busy time for everyone here in Austin.

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

  1. Senate Passes State Budget

This week, the Texas Senate passed its version of the state’s budget with a vote of 30-1 in favor of the bill. The budget of $211 billion for the biennium includes cuts to the state’s property and franchise taxes, increased funding for border security, education and transportation.

Now that the Senate and House have both passed their versions of the state’s budget, the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House will each appoint five members to a conference committee. In the conference committee, the members will work to reconcile the differences between the two bills. Once there is an agreement it will then be sent back to both chambers for approval. The primary purpose, and only constitutionally required task, of the legislative session is to prepare a balanced state budget for the next two years. 

  1. Tests for students athletes

The Texas House recently passed Senate Bill (SB) 767, which would require students to receive an electrocardiogram (EKG) during their first and third year of participation before they can play high school sports. This bill was filed for Cody Stephens who passed away in 2012 from sudden cardiac arrest. He was a senior high school football player who wore the number 76. According to a 2009 study published by the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death among student athletes.

The EKG, which has an estimated cost of $15 per test, would be added to the health assessment student athletes are already required to pass before playing high school sports. Parents will have the option of waiving the requirement for their children ‘for any reason’. As this bill will now be sent to the Senate to consider, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this bill. With this or any piece of legislation you can email me at Robert.nichols@senate.state.tx.us with your concerns or support.

  1. Patent Trolls

On Monday I passed SB 1457 out of the Senate State Affairs Committee. This bill aims to rein in non-practicing entities, or ”patent trolls’ who send bad faith letters to small businesses and financial institutions claiming patent infringement. If someone makes a bad faith claim, the Office of Attorney General would be authorized to bring legal action against the violator.   

The original intent of patents, which is stated in the U.S. Constitution, is to ‘promote the useful arts and sciences’ and provides individuals the right to exclude others from making, selling, using or importing a claimed invention for a period of time. Having earned 32 U.S. patents and 128 foreign patents myself, I understand the time, hard work and costs that go into ensuring your property is protected. As a state we need to ensure we address the problems which can be created by these frivolous claims without losing incentives for inventors. 

  1. Red Light Cameras

The Senate Transportation Committee passed SB 714 by Senator Hall which would ban the use of red light cameras by local municipalities. These cameras, which have been controversial since their implementation over a decade ago, take a picture and issue a citation if  a vehicle runs through a red traffic light. This bill has a grandfather clause, which would allow cities who are currently under contract with a company providing the traffic cameras to continue their contract until it expires. I have always believed these cameras violate due process because a person is not able to face their accuser. This bill will now go before the full Senate.

  1. Realtor Day at the Capitol

This week, I had the opportunity meet with realtors from Senate District 3 who were here for Texas Realtor day at the Capitol. With approximately 80,000 members across the state, the Texas Association of Realtors is an organization that advocates on behalf of realtors. They are big supporters of property ownership and work to keep homeownership affordable and to protect the rights of private-property owners. These men and women play an integral part in our capitalistic market and it was a pleasure to have them visit.

 

By Senator Robert Nichols

For The Record