Senator Robert Nichols – For The Record

When I drive across the district meeting with community leaders, local elected officials and constituents, I am constantly reminded of how lucky we are to live in East Texas. As we celebrate Thanksgiving in November, I am thankful for the opportunity to represent East Texas in Austin as your State Senator. I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends and lots of pumpkin pie. 

Here are five things happening around your state this month

Interim Charges

Earlier this month, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released interim charges for the Texas Senate. Interim charges are studied in between legislative sessions to examine the different sides of an issue and  begin work on potential legislation for the next legislative session. You can read the charges in full at http://www.ltgov.state.tx.us

These interim charges include examining and recommending ways to lower property taxes as well as to phase out the franchise tax, study teacher shortages and retention issues in the state and evaluate overall access to health and mental health services for veterans within the state. The charges also include studying the federal mandates being implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency and how it impacts the state’s economy, as well as to monitor revenue appropriated for transportation and how to best prioritize the selection of projects.

School Days Change to Minutes

The Texas Education Agency has released a guideline for school districts to help them transition to changes made to the Texas Education Code this past session. A school districts school year will go from 180 days to 75,600 minutes. This was done to give school districts more flexibility for making up missed instructional days. Typically, school districts have left room for two makeup days in their calendar to be used for inclement weather, but if those days are used up and other conditions occur, districts may have to take away student holidays or extend the school year. With this new law in place, a district could add minutes to a school day or extend half-days which are already on their calendar. 

Border Patrol and the Federal Government

In light of a recent report showing a 50 percent increase in August of immigrant families and unaccompanied children coming into the state over the previous year, Governor Greg Abbott has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson asking for additional help and information. This request included asking for 250 more Border Patrol agents be sent to Texas, five new aerostats (which is a blimp-like aircraft), as well as a list of conditions for detaining and releasing illegal crossers and continued collaboration with federal agencies on the operation of two detention centers in Texas.

The 84th Texas Legislature passed an $800 million border security plan to help address the border security issues in the state. Governor Abbott stated in his letter that while Texas is doing what it can to counteract the influx of illegal immigrants, it is imperative that we also receive assistance from the federal government to ‘reverse the tide of this mounting crisis’.

Commemorating Texas’ History

To ensure the history of our state is preserved for generations to come, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) oversees the states historical markers. These commemorate the history and architecture of houses and buildings, military sites, events which changed the course of local and state history and honor individuals who made lasting contributions to our state and local communities.

The THC is currently accepting applications for subject markers, designated Historic Texas Cemeteries (HTC), and Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL) markers. Age, significance and architectural requirements govern the eligibility of topics and sites when applying for subject, HTC and RTHL markers. Applications are due by November 15, 2015. If you would like to see a site in your county or community preserved, please contact the THC’s History Programs Division at 512-463-5853 or to download a toolkit to help in the application process please visit thc.state.tx.us/markertoolkit.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day which was originally known as Armistice Day, commemorated the ending of World War I in 1918. In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name to ensure that all U.S. Veterans were included. On November 11th, we will pay tribute to all American veterans and their services to our country. If you have a Veteran in your life, I encourage you to honor and thank them for the sacrifices they made to ensure we have our freedom.