This week, we recognized the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, the deciding battle in Texas’ War for Independence. In a sneak attack on General Santa Anna’s army, General Sam Houston led the Texas forces to victory in a battle that lasted less than 20 minutes. We have those brave men and women to thank for our beautiful state.

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

  1. Border Security

The Senate approved an omnibus border security bill which would expand the presence of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border. This bill would allow the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to hire retired officers to assist with background checks and create a multi-agency crime information-sharing network based in the Rio Grande Valley. It will also increase state criminal penalties for human smuggling, as well as require DPS to investigate the feasibility of helping federal authorities at international border checkpoints. The Senate has appropriated approximately $815 million in border security funding for the next two years.

  1. Armed Services Scholarship

My office is accepting applications for the Texas Armed Forces Scholarship Program, which provides up to $10,000 per academic year to students participating in ROTC programs at local colleges and universities.

Among other requirements a student must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, rank in the top third of their graduating class, enroll in an eligible ROTC program  and submit an essay explaining why you believe military service is important and how you would fulfill the requirements of the scholarship.

For all eligibility requirements please visit http://www.hhloans.com. If you live in Senate District 3 and meet the criteria above, please send required essay and proof of academic eligibility to  robert.nichols@senate.state.tx.us. Applications must be received no later than July 31, 2015. For any questions please contact my office at 903-589-3003.

  1. Agency Contracting

Following concerns with contracting at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the members of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee have launched an investigation into the contracting practices of 11 state agencies. These include the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Education Agency and the Department of Public Safety.

The purpose is to determine if the “procurement irregularities” in HHSC’s contracting process is occurring in all state agencies.  The agencies will be required to provide information on emergency contracts, sole-source contracts and cooperative contracts that involved at least $1 million to be paid to a single vendor since Sept. 1, 2012.  As the state relies heavily on contracting for the delivery of services throughout our state, it is important to ensure its contracting processes are transparent and ethical. 

  1. Patent Trolls 

Last week, I told you about SB 1457, which 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.

This week, I passed that bill out of the Texas Senate with a unanimous vote of support. I am pleased the state is taking one more step towards ensuring we are providing protection against frivolous lawsuits designed to extort money from small businesses.

  1. Day of the Cowboy

Texas is joining nine other states in dedicating the fourth Saturday in July as the ‘National Day of the Cowboy’. This day seeks to commemorate the rich and enduring cowboy heritage which is present in the United States and especially in Texas.

In a time when there was no written law on the range, it was necessary for a cowboy/cowgirl to frame their own code for personal conduct which centered on fair play, loyalty, honesty, integrity and a solid work ethic. As we continue in this legislative session, it might be good for those of us in the Capitol to remember this code and try to live by it.

Cowboy Code of Conduct:

1. Live each day with honesty and courage.

2. Take pride in your work. Always do your best.

3. Stay curious. Study hard and learn all you can.

4. Do what has to be done and finish what you start.

5. Be tough, but fair.

6. When you make a promise, keep it.

7. Be clean in thought, word, deed, and dress.

8. Practice tolerance and understanding of others.

9.  Be willing to stand up for what’s right.

10. Be an excellent steward of the land and its animals.