Senator Robert Nichols – For The Record

This month is 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 happening around your state this month:

 Broadband For Schools

Governor Abbott announced an initiative to provide affordable broadband access to all school districts in Texas by 2018. The state is partnering with Education Superhighway, a national nonprofit group which works with states to provide broadband for schools. Education Superhighway will work with the Texas Education Agency, Regional Service Centers, and internet providers to create an action plan to implement this initiative.

A recent survey showed 2 million school children, roughly 46 percent of Texas’ K-12 students, did not have broadband access. There are 101 school districts within Senate District 3, many of which are rural districts, who will benefit greatly from this initiative. I support the Governor on this as I believe it will be beneficial for all students in the state.

FEMA Assistance

Many parts of the state, including a majority of Southeast Texas, have been negatively affected by the recent storms and flooding. If you or someone you know has been affected, you may qualify for assistance from FEMA. You can apply online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov/ or call 1-800-621-3362. You can also contact any of my offices if you have any questions.

Please have the following information available when you are applying:

1.Your address with zip code
2. Condition of your damaged home
3. Insurance information, if available
4. Social Security Number
5. Declaration Number: FEMA-4266-DR

Mission Dolores

East Texas is rich in history and is home to many historic sites. Recently the Mission Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Ais (Mission Dolores) in San Augustine was accepted by the Texas Historical Commission as its 21st Texas State Historic Site. Established in the 1720’s, the mission’s name translates to “Our Lady of Sorrows, for the Ais”.

Unfortunately, like many other Spanish missions, it was unable to fulfill its intended mission of converting Native Indians to settled Christian citizens and the mission was eventually abandoned in 1773. However, it became a successful settlement for resident Spanish priests, soldiers and settlers as well the European and native peoples who traveled along the El Camino Real. This was one of the few places in the colonies where different European and indigenous groups were able to get along together. You can visit http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/dolores to learn more about the history of the Mission Dolores.

VA Wait Times

In 2014, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) came under fire when it was revealed that Texas VA offices were manipulating data to hide lengthy wait times and  make it look like the offices were meeting the VA’s goal of seeing veteran patients within 14 days. This month, the VA’s Office of Inspector General released its investigative report stating that while the investigation did show that true wait times had been manipulated, they did not find that any VA executives ordered the manipulation of times.

In response to this report, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a joint letter with U.S Senators Cornyn and Cruz to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, urging him to address the improper scheduling practices and long wait times for veterans in the state seeking healthcare access. The letter expressed their concerns and frustration that the VA has continually failed to provide timely health care for veterans, even after they received additional funding and authorities from Congress to address these issues. They ended the letter by asking Secretary McDonald to remove administrators who have been utterly failing their jobs.

Main Street Program

The Texas Main Street Program, a revitalization program run by the Texas Historical Commission (THC) for historic downtown and neighborhood commercial districts, is now accepting applications from cities. Each year the THC selects up to five cities to participate in this program which includes a wide range of services and technical expertise from THC for the cities including design and historic preservation, planning, organizational management, economic development and training. A webinar regarding the application process will be held on April 22nd, optional letters of intent are due to the THC by May 13, and applications are due on July 29th  Application and webinar information can be found at http://thc.state.tx.us/mainstreet.