Senator Robert Nichols – For The Record

Every day I am proud to be a Texan, but this month I am particularly proud to celebrate our unique state heritage as the Alamo, along with four other Texas missions, has been officially designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. The Alamo became the 23rd designated world heritage site, and honors the significance of the Alamo to our world’s history and culture.

Here are five things happening around your state this month:

Arming the Texas National Guard

On July 18, Governor Greg Abbott authorized the Texas National Guard to arm its personnel at military facilities across Texas. This action came following the July 17 shooting at two military facilities in Tennessee, which resulted in the deaths of four U.S. marines and one U.S. navy sailor.  Under current U.S. law, military personnel on bases and in recruiting centers are not allowed to carry arms.

Governor Abbott said that he hopes this authorization will allow service men and women to protect those living and working on military bases from people who may seek to harm our military personnel. In addition, armed civilians have begun to stand guard at several recruiting centers across Texas following the Tennessee shooting.

BP Oil Spill Settlement Announced

British Petroleum, the company responsible for the 2010 oil spill which heavily damaged the gulf coast, has agreed to pay $18.7 billion toward restoration efforts for states impacted by the oil spill. If this settlement is approved, Texas will receive $788 million toward restoration of the coast and other projects that will benefit the gulf coast area. Of the $788 million, $150 million will go toward restoring economic damage caused by the oil spill, and the rest will go toward restoring the coastal environment.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, along with the state’s General Land Office and Commission on Environmental Quality, will oversee the distribution of money. This money will help businesses that were affected by the spill, and provide money that can be used toward repairing some of the damage caused by the oil spill to Texas’ natural environments.

Texas Water Development Board Funds Water Projects

The Texas Water Development Board recently awarded $3.9 billion in loans toward developing water supply projects throughout the state.  In 2013, Texas voters approved Proposition 6, which created a new fund, the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT), intended to secure Texas’ future water supply. The SWIFT is a loan program, so all applicants have to repay their loans. In addition, the initial $2 billion transferred from the Rainy Day Fund is being invested by the Texas Treasury Safe Keeping Trust Company, a division of the Comptroller’s office. The profit made from the Trust’s investment, together with repayment of the loans, leverages the amount that can be loaned to approximately $27 billion over the next 50 years.

This first round of SWIFT financing has been awarded to 21 applicants, who will be able to use the $3.9 billion over the next decade to build new water supply projects. The Water Development Board made the decision on which applications to fund based on a series of factors, including the need for the water and how ready an applicant was to begin construction. For more information on the SWIFT fund and to see which projects were selected, please visit http://www.twdb.texas.gov/financial/programs/swift/index.asp.

Meeting with the Counties

In July, I had the privilege of meeting with county judges and county commissioners throughout Northeast Texas to discuss the legislative session and the importance county government plays in the lives of Texans. I also discussed with these officials the passage of SJR 5 and the upcoming vote on Proposition 7, which if passed will amend the Texas Constitution to dedicate funding toward non-tolled roads and bridges. As I’ve said before, transportation is a core function of government, and maintaining transportation infrastructure is key to keeping our economy thriving.

Tax Free Weekend

Mark your calendars for this year’s sales tax holiday, which will be August 7 – 9.  The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend. The law also allows layaway purchases of these items to qualify for the sales tax exemption. All sellers in the state are required to honor the sales tax holiday, so it’s a great time to get prepared for the upcoming school year while saving some money in the process.