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My Five Cents

August 2nd, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

The 2021 Olympic Games have begun in Tokyo, Japan. Over the next few weeks, we will all get to watch and enjoy the very best the United States has to offer compete on a global scale. I’ll be watching and cheering on our Olympic athletes, particularly the 40 athletes who are from Texas.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. “Grandmother of Juneteenth” Opal Lee honored in Senate.

Last week, Fort Worth activist Opal Lee was recognized in the Texas Senate with a formal resolution honoring her work. Known as the ‘‘Grandmother of Juneteenth,’’ she led the movement to make Juneteenth a state and national holiday.

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that Union troops arrived in Galveston and informed the enslaved people there that they had been freed about two and a half years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s celebrated annually on June 19. Juneteenth has been a state holiday since 1980.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed a bill that would make Juneteenth a federal holiday, something Lee has been promoting for years.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also made a recommendation that her portrait be permanently hung in the Senate chamber. It was an honor to meet the remarkable Lee, and I appreciate all the work she’s done to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday and now a federal holiday.

2. Texas adds back 1.1 million jobs since peak of pandemic unemployment.

Texas employers have added back more than 1.1 million jobs since the end of April 2020, the peak of pandemic unemployment. According to the June jobs report, employers added 43,900 jobs just last month and the state unemployment rate dropped to 6.5%.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said its updated employment forecast predicts an additional 695,600 jobs will be added in Texas this year, leading to a total employment number of 13 million by December. They also estimate that job growth will increase by 5.6% in 2021.

3. Nacogdoches County launches development of countywide broadband.

This month, the Nacogdoches County Broadband Committee has officially launched. The purpose of the committee is to develop a technology action plan to expand and improve broadband access across the county.

The first step is the work with residents, businesses, community organizations and others to share input through a survey. The committee is working with Connected Nation Texas to develop a plan that reflects the challenges for expanding high-speed internet in Nacogdoches County and solutions to resolve those challenges.

These survey results will be integral in developing a community action plan and mapping of where broadband is currently available. These data also will be helpful when applying for funds and other grants.

Residents are encouraged to fill out a survey for every sector that impacts you or your business. The survey should only take roughly 10 minutes to complete. The survey can be found at myconnectedcommunity.org/nacogdoches-county/.

4. Texas National Guard to aid law enforcement agencies on border.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas National Guard to aid the Texas Department of Public Safety in their efforts at the border. DPS has been enforcing Texas law by the border by arresting those who are breaking state laws, including trespassing and other crimes.

Border authorities have stopped more than 188,000 attempted crossing just in June. That number is the highest this year. Local officials in border communities say this massive influx of migrants has stretched their resources thin and their law enforcement agencies to the brink.

Those law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed by the presence of drug smugglers and human traffickers. The assistance of the Texas National Guard is necessary to assert some control over the situation at the border.

5. Texas reinstates full work search requirements as businesses struggle to fill openings.

Last month, Texas reinstated its full work search requirements for unemployment benefits in an attempt to help businesses who are struggling to rehire employees for vacant positions. Unemployment recipients will no longer be able to cite COVID-19 concerns as a reason to not search for work.

Work search requirements include registering for work search within three business days of your unemployment application and documenting searching and applying for jobs on a weekly basis.

Currently in Texas, there are more than 800,000 job openings with more than 32,000 employers hiring, according to Work In Texas, a state-run job board.

In June, the state ended the federal unemployment benefit that provided an extra $300 per week in an early attempt to get the unemployed back to work.

If you’re interested in applying for job openings, visit WorkInTexas.com.

My Five Cents

July 19th, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

Even though many House members and some state Senators are still in Washington, D.C., to break quorum, the special session continues in Austin. The state Senate has enough members at the Capitol to continue working on important legislation we’ve been called to address. Though these measures cannot be finally passed until the House has a quorum, the Senate’s work continues.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. Elections bill passes the Senate

The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 1 this week, which seeks to prevent fraud and ensure our elections are secure. Importantly, this bill is about making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The bill expands eligibility for assistance for those who are disabled.

It creates uniform voting hours and expands voting hours in more than 60 counties. It ensures that if you’re in line to vote when polls close during early voting, you’ll be able to vote that day. Currently, that is only offered on Election Day.

It also makes it easier for registrars across the state to coordinate when a voter moves to another county.

The bill makes it harder to cheat by requiring voter ID for mail-in ballots. The bill also prohibits drive-thru voting except in specific circumstances and 24-hour voting. It requires video and livestream capabilities inside vote-counting centers in large counties. The bill also prohibits vote harvesting.

In all, this bill maintains the integrity of our elections while making it easier for Texans to vote.

2. Senate Bill 6 and Senate Joint Resolution 3 pass the Senate

This week, the Senate passed SB 6 and SJR 3 by Sen. Joan Huffman. These two bills seek to reform the bail system in the state.

Currently, habitual and violent offenders have repeatedly been released on multiple felony personal bonds. Some of those offenders go on to commit violent crimes while out on bond. This bill would enhance public safety by preventing the release of those accused of violent crimes or sex crimes by instructing judicial officers to more thoroughly evaluate background information.

It modifies the rules for fixing bail amounts for those accused of more significant community harm.

3. Senate passes bill to grant 13th check to retired teachers

The Senate passed Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) this week, which would give a 13th check to our retired educators and school administrators. The bill directs the Teacher Retirement System to distribute a one-time payment of up to $2,400 by January 2022. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate Finance committee and on the floor of the Senate.

We are committed to helping our retired teachers and administrators who have given so much to the children of this state. The ability to give retired educators bonus checks in back-to-back sessions is indicative of the financial strength of the state and our commitment to taking care of them.

4. Property tax relief bills pass the Senate

This week, two property tax relief bills and one senate joint resolution passed the Senate. Senate Bill 8 seeks to allow a homeowner the benefit of the homestead exemption the year they acquire the property. Currently, when a Texan purchases a home, they have to wait until January of the following year to receive the benefit of their homestead exemption. This bill would allow homeowners to start claiming their homestead exemption the year they acquire the property.

Senate Bill 12 and its enabling language in Senate Joint Resolution 4 propose a constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide school maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate compression for Texans who are over 65 or are disabled. When the school finance reform bill passed in 2019, the state provided additional funds to school districts in return for lower local school tax rates. However, the elderly and disabled did not receive that reduction. This bill and the accompanying SJR would provide that relief.

5. Social media censorship bill passes Senate

The Senate passed Senate Bill 5 this week, which imposes disclosure requirements for social media companies and requirements to provide certain user complaint procedures. While social media companies have a duty to censor content on their website that is violent or sexual in nature, they should not censor users based on their viewpoints.

Under this bill, large social media platforms would be prohibited from censoring a person or the content they post based on that person’s views. If the site does block or restrict a user, they can file suit against the site or the Attorney General’s office can bring suit on behalf of a user or group of users.

My Five Cents

July 9th, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

On July 4, 1845, the Convention of 1845 was called to meet in Austin to consider the joint resolution of the US Congress proposing to annex the Republic of Texas. By a vote of 55 to 1, the delegates formally accepted the annexation offer from the US Congress. Texas was formally admitted to the United States later that year on Dec. 29.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. Agenda for special session called by Governor Abbott released

This week, Governor Abbott released eleven agenda items for the Legislature to cover when we reconvene for our first called special session.

Those topics include: bail reform, election integrity, border security, social media censorship, Article X funding, family violence prevention, protecting youth sports, regulating abortion-inducing drugs, delivering a thirteenth check to our retired teachers, curbing critical race theory in public schools, and appropriating additional available general revenue for property tax relief, improving the foster care system, and shoring up cybersecurity efforts for the state.

We have a lot to do in the coming weeks, but we are prepared to finish this important work. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues and our House counterparts to pass this important legislation.

2. Limitations of special session

Now that the Governor has called us back to the Capitol for a special session, it’s important to outline what the rules are for a special session. Importantly, a special session is not like a regular session. The Governor may call a special session at any time and for any reason, but he must state his reasons in a proclamation.

There is no limit on the number of topics the Governor can include to be covered in a special, but the Legislature can only consider legislation on subjects included in the proclamation. So, we can only consider legislation on those eleven agenda items mentioned earlier in this article. Special sessions only last a maximum of 30 days, but there is no minimum for how long they last. For example, the first called session of the 38th Legislature met for only an hour before they adjourned. The Governor can call as many specials as he would like and can call them at any time, even back-to-back if he wishes

3. Comptroller releases revised revenue estimate

Comptroller Glenn Hager released his revenue estimate for the first called session this week. In his estimate, he projected that the state has an ending balance of approximately $7.85 billion for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. He said this estimate is based on increased revenue collections, savings from state agency budget reductions, and replacing eligible general revenue funds with federal relief funds.

This update indicates the state is doing remarkably well recovering from the economic downturn from the pandemic. During special session, the Legislature may appropriate some of those funds, but just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to spend it. I look forward to working on how this money is allocated with the Senate Finance Committee and our Chair Senator Jane Nelson.

4. Texas’ plan for American Rescue Plan funds approved

The US Department of Education announced this week that Texas is one of seven states that will receive the last round of federal stimulus money after the state’s plan for spending those funds was approved. The funding includes another $4.1 billion to address post-pandemic needs of public school students.

The Texas Education Agency’s plan put an emphasis on mitigating learning loss experienced during the pandemic. Other priorities include meeting student and staff mental health needs, expanding tutoring opportunities, enhancing high-quality instructional materials, and job-embedded learning. School districts and charter schools now have until July 27 to submit their own individual plans to TEA.

5. STAAR test results reveal weaknesses of virtual learning

Last month, the Texas Education Agency released the results of the STAAR test conducted in spring of 2021. The results indicated a significant increase from the 2019 test in students not meeting grade level across all subject areas and grade levels. STAAR testing was not conducted in 2020 due to the pandemic. The largest decreases in proficiency were in math across all grades. Statewide, students not meeting grade level in reading increased 4 percent and students not meeting grade level in math increased 16 percent. TEA said that districts with a higher percentage of students learning virtually experienced larger learning declines in all grades and subjects. It’s apparent from these statistics that virtual learning is not the best option for most of our students and getting children back in the classroom is the best option for recovering from the pandemic.

Nichols announces campaign for re-election

June 25th, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “Nichols announces campaign for re-election”

Jacksonville, TX – Today, Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) announced he will seek re-election to represent Senate District 3 in the Texas Senate. Senate District 3 is comprised of 19 counties covering the greater part of East Texas and Montgomery County.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as a representative of East Texas and our values in the Senate,” said Senator Nichols. “It’s my hope that the people of SD-3 will allow me to continue to serve them and their interests in the Legislature.”

Senator Nichols was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2006 and has served as the chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation since 2011. Senator Nichols is also the vice chair of the Business and Commerce Committee and serves on Finance, Criminal Justice, Local Government, and Select Redistricting Committees.

“I have always strived to be a strong voice for rural interests and Senate District 3 during my time in the Senate,” said Senator Nichols. “I am humbly asking Texans in my district to continue to give me that honor.”

Before being elected to the Senate, Nichols served as a TxDOT Commissioner for eight years. He was appointed to the commission by then-Governor Bush and reappointed by Governor Rick Perry. Prior to TxDOT, he served on the Jacksonville City Council and later as the mayor. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Donna, with whom he as three children, Brittney, Josh, and Collynn’rae.

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HOUSE BILL 5, EXPANDING BROADBAND SERVICE, SIGNED BY GOVERNOR ABBOTT

June 15th, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “HOUSE BILL 5, EXPANDING BROADBAND SERVICE, SIGNED BY GOVERNOR ABBOTT”

HOUSE BILL 5, EXPANDING BROADBAND SERVICE, SIGNED BY GOVERNOR ABBOTT

AUSTIN — Today, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 5 by State Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) which will increase access to and adoption of high-speed internet throughout Texas. The measure was deemed by the Governor as one of only eight Emergency Items for the 87th Legislature and received a low bill number, indicating priority status, by both Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan.

“Thank you to Senator Nichols and Representative Ashby for their leadership on House Bill 5, which will help increase high speed internet access in Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “Broadband is no longer a luxury — it is an essential tool for education, business, and healthcare, which is why I made the expansion of broadband an emergency item this session. HB 5 will help close the digital divide throughout Texas.”

With Governor Abbott’s signature, the provisions in the legislation become effective immediately. The first order of business for the newly created Broadband Development Office will be identifying which areas of Texas have access to broadband and which do not, ultimately defining who will be eligible for state, federal, and philanthropic funding.

“The passage of House Bill 5 requires the state to create and maintain a broadband access map,” said Senator Nichols. “This will identify corners of the state that are lacking broadband. Those areas can receive targeted support and funding to build the infrastructure necessary to deploy broadband. This bill exemplifies Texas’ commitment to developing critical 21st century infrastructure and expanding broadband access.”

One of House Bill 5’s most critical components is the establishment of a state broadband plan to establish long and short term goals that guide the development and investment of broadband infrastructure for all Texans. As one of only six states in the United States without a broadband plan, Texas often finds itself at a disadvantage when applying for federal dollars.

“Without a state plan for broadband, Texas was leaving precious resources on the table,” said Representative Ashby. “House Bill 5 creates this plan to establish goals and guide our state’s investment in broadband. The more we can do to bring the 21st century to rural and underserved communities, the better chance we have at closing the social and economic gap that has widened due to lack of reliable, high-speed internet.

Nichols was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2007 and represents 18 counties across East Texas and part of Montgomery County. Ashby is in his fifth term as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, and currently represents Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine, and Trinity Counties.

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Political Ad. Paid for by Robert Nichols for Texas Senate.

CONTACT

Phone: (903) 586-1200
Fax: (903) 586-7877
Email: info@nicholsforsenate.com

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 2347
Jacksonville, Texas 75766

Physical Address:
214 East Commerce Street
Jacksonville, Texas 75766

MEET ROBERT NICHOLS

Texas Sen. Robert Nichols is a devoted husband and father who shares our conservative East Texas values. Sen. Nichols cares deeply about Texas and our country.