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My Five Cents

August 31st, 2023 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

This month we remember President Lyndon B. Johnson on what would have been his 115th birthday. President Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas in 1908 and was elected as a Congressman, Senator, and later President of the United States. His birthday is an official state holiday in Texas. 

Here are five things happening around your state:  

  1. TxDOT urges drivers to be mindful in school zones 

School is back in session for most Texas students and the Texas Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be extra cautious in school zones and around school buses to keep kids safe. Last year, there were 746 traffic accidents in Texas school zones, resulting in 23 serious injuries. The most common factors were driver inattention, speeding, and failure to yield the right of way. Also last year, there were 2,305 accidents involving a Texas school bus, resulting in seven deaths and 51 serious injuries. Speeding and driver inattention were major factors in those accidents as well. Be sure to slow down, pay attention, and follow all traffic laws to keep children safe as they head back to school this fall. 

  1. Texas Windstorm Insurance Association announces no rate increases

This month the TWIA Board of Directors met and voted not to increase rates for residential and commercial policies in 2024. TWIA then filed a 0 percent rate change for its annual required rate filing with the Texas Department of Insurance. The Actuarial and Underwriting Committee had recommended a 5 percent increase for residential properties and an 8 percent increase for commercial policies. An increase would require a two-thirds vote of the board, which it was unable to obtain. The Board’s decision was made after receiving public comment from coastal community members, policy holders, and elected officials.  

  1. East Texas schools receive $2.8 million in grants

This month the Texas Workforce Commission and Governor Abbott announced nine Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grants totally over $2.8 million for five Southeast Texas schools. JET grants are aimed at supporting career and technical education training programs by providing funding to purchase and install equipment. These programs will educate more than 890 students in high-demand occupations in the region. The JET grants include: 

  • Angelina College: over $348,000 to purchase and install equipment to train 76 students as electricians; 
  • Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD: over $377,000 grant to train 119 students as registered nurses in partnership with Angelina College; 
  • Diboll ISD: received three grants totaling over $1 million to train students in production occupations, industrial engineering, and nursing in partnership with Angelina College; 
  • Nacogdoches ISD: over $130,000 for equipment to train 205 students as emergency medical technicians in partnership with Angelina College; 
  • Windham School District: received three grants totaling just under $850,000 for equipment to train students as production workers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and industrial truck and tractor operators. 
  1. New laws go into effect September 1  

Many new laws go into effect on September 1 after a legislative session to line up with the new fiscal year. After the 88th Legislative Session, there are over 750 bills that go into effect this week. Some interesting new laws include: 

  • House Bill 25 – creates the “Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program” which allows the Health and Human Services Commission to contract with Canadian drug wholesalers and suppliers to bring safe eligible prescription drugs to Texas consumers at lower costs than US wholesalers. 
  • House Bill 1885 – allows TxDOT engineers to temporarily adjust speed limits for sections of roads or highways during road construction or inclement weather conditions, like heavy fog, ice, or rain. 
  • Senate Bill 379 – an exemption from sales tax for family care products, such as feminine hygiene products, adult and children’s diapers, baby wipes, maternity wear, breast milk pumps, and baby bottles. 
  • Senate Bill 490 – requires medical providers send patients an itemized bill prior to attempting to collect any money from the patient. 
  1. General Land Office announces $10 billion for students from carbon capture storage leases  

This month the Texas General Land Office announced it awarded six carbon capture and sequestration leases that will provide $130 million in signing bonus payments for the Permanent School Fund (PSF) and over $10 billion over the length of the 30-year lease term. The PSF is a constitutionally created fund that supports public education. The leases on state-owned land will allow these private entities to store carbon over half a million acres off the Texas coast. 

My Five Cents

July 27th, 2023 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

Summer is in full swing, but back to school is right around the corner. Be sure to stay cool during these hot Texas days! 

Here are five things happening around your state:  

  1. Property tax relief measures passed, signed by Governor Abbott 

This month, the Texas Senate and House of Representatives came together and made a deal to deliver property tax relief to homeowners across the state. The $18 billion package is the largest tax cut in Texas history. Senate Bill 2, by Senator Paul Bettencourt and Representative Morgan Meyer, includes an increase in the homestead exemption from $40,000 for most homes to $100,000. It will go into effect on this year’s property tax bill if the accompanying proposed constitutional amendment is passed by the voters in November. The bill also includes $7 billion for the reduction of school district maintenance and operations tax rates statewide. Senate Bill 2 also includes a 3-year pilot project for non-homesteaded property valued at $5 million or under to receive a 20% circuit-breaker on appraised value increases. It also includes a change to County Appraisal District boards of directors to include 3 county-wide, elected director positions in counties with a population of 75,000 or more. 

The accompanying legislation Senate Bill 3, by Senator Paul Bettencourt and Representative Charlie Geren, incudes a doubling of the franchise tax exemption for businesses from $1.23 million to $2.47 million. An estimated 67,000 businesses will no longer pay a franchise tax. It also eliminates a “nuisance-tax” for 1.7 million business owners who previously had to file no-tax-due forms for franchise taxes. I was proud to co-author and vote for both bills and thrilled that the Governor signed the package.

  1. Lamar State College Port Arthur opens new industrial training facility

This month Lamar State College Port Arthur opened a new $6 million, 33,000 square foot industrial training facility that has been in the works since 2018. The facility will train to be soon-to-be electricians, pipe fitters, or other essential workers, including training for jobs at the nearby petrochemical facilities. Courses can range in length from one to six months and at the end of each course students will receive certificates, which may open doors to new job opportunities. The space was once used as a National Guard armory and was converted using federal and city grants. 

  1. TxDOT, law enforcement launch Operation Slow Down

This month, TxDOT teamed up with law enforcement to urge drivers to “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” – a speeding awareness campaign aimed at saving lives. According to TxDOT, speed was a contributing factor in more than 162,000 roadway crashes in Texas in 2022, resulting in 1,469 deaths. It is the number one factor contributing to roadway crashes in Texas. Safe driving goes beyond just observing the speed limit. It also means matching speed to road conditions if there is bad weather or road construction, slowing down and allowing for more space to stop when traffic is heavy, and watching for road signs indicating reduced speed limits ahead. Operation Slow Down and “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” are both components of #EndTheStreakTX, an effort to end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways. The last deathless day on Texas roads was November 7, 2000. 

  1. Texas drawn hunt applications open for 2023-2024  

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) opened applications for their drawn hunt permits program for the 2023-2024 season. The program, which issues permits for drawn hunts on both public and private lands statewide, issues almost 10,000 permits in more than 60 high quality hunt categories. Hunts available include white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn, turkey, alligator, and dove and guided packages for exotic species and bighorn sheep. Last year there were more than 278,000 applications. Application fees range from free to $10, depending on the hunt category. Applications are due by the 1st and 15th of each month between August 1 and November 1. A full list of categories, maps, and deadlines can be found online at

  1. SFA hosts rural economic development forums  

Stephen F. Austin State University Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation and the Texas Forest Country Partnership hosted forums on Rural Economic Development this month in San Augustine County and Polk County. Future forums are planned in Nacogdoches County, Angelina County, Trinity County, and Newton County throughout early August. The forums include discussions on workforce, economic development, education, industry, and community needs. I was happy to attend the forum in San Augustine and discuss important topics facing business owners and the community.

My Five Cents

June 29th, 2023 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

Next week, the nation will celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July commemorates the ratification of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, establishing the United States of America. Our Founding Fathers made history in declaring our independence from Britain 247 years ago and establishing this great nation. Happy Fourth of July! 

Here are five things happening around your state:  

  1. Grand opening of improved Rusk State Hospital 

This month, I was thrilled to attend the grand opening of the new $200 million patient complex and administration building at Rusk State Hospital. I have worked on this project with other members of the Legislature and the Lt. Governor since 2015. The Rusk State Hospital improvement project opened the door for the improvement of all the state’s state hospitals, which is ongoing. The state has committed $3.2 billion since 2017 for the replacement, renovation, or expansion of state hospitals in Austin, Kerrville, Rusk, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. The new Rusk State Hospital includes 100-bed non-maximum-security unit and an expanded 100-bed maximum-security unit. It also has single-person rooms, natural light, outdoor spaces, and a variety of therapeutic, recreational, and social experiences for patients to prepare for life outside the hospital. Mental health care is essential for many Texans, and it is imperative that the state continues to support and expand access to services statewide. 

  1. Governor calls first, second special sessions on property tax relief

As the last day of the 88th regular session came to a close, Governor Abbott called the First Called Special Session of the 88th Legislature. Property tax relief and border security were the only two items on the special session call, therefore the only things the Legislature could address. However, the House and the Senate could not come to an agreement on either issue. On the last day of the first special session, the Governor called the Legislature back into a second special session. The Second Called Special Session of the 88th Legislature will have a singular focus – property tax relief. Currently there is disagreement over whether to put the entirety of the almost $18 billion toward lowering school district property tax rates or to allocate part of that relief to increasing the homestead exemption to $100,000. Increasing the homestead exemption would create an ongoing benefit for homeowners, while compressing school district taxes would have to include continuing increasing funding from the state for school districts to maintain the benefit. 

  1. TEA meets federal special education requirements, ending federal oversight

This month, the US Department of Education sent a letter announcing that the Texas Education Agency has fulfilled all the needed requirements to comply with federal special education law. The Department’s Special Education Program’s office will remove special conditions it had placed on TEA. The federal oversight began in 2018 when the Education Department informed the state it was out of compliance with special education standards, specifically when evaluating students for special education services. Over the past several years, TEA and the Education Department have worked to ensure students needing special education services were identified and given access to those services. 

  1. Texas to receive $3.3 billion in federal broadband funding  

This week, the federal government announced over $40 billion for broadband expansion will be distributed nationwide. Texas will receive $3.3 billion of that funding, more than any other state and more than $1 billion more than the next largest share of funding. The funds are aimed at providing high-speed internet access to the nearly 2.8 million households without access in Texas. According to the Texas Broadband Development Office, 85 percent of Texans who lack high-speed internet live in rural communities. Broadband access is a necessity in an increasingly digital landscape. Health care, education, and business are all routinely conducted online or supplemented online. Without access to high-speed internet, rural Texans are left behind in an increasing digital divide. Continued investment in the expansion of internet availability statewide is necessary to ensure rural areas receive access to broadband. 

  1. Texas ranks number one for Best Business Climate  

In yet another survey, Texas is named number one – this time for Best Business Climate. Business Facilities magazine’s 19th annual ranking report focused on over 60 factors that site selection teams use during corporate relocations or expansion projects. Last year, Texas attracted more than 1,000 projects, more than double the second-highest state, according to the magazine. Texas was rewarded for the amount of capital investment in the state, job creation, diversity of industries, infrastructure, and its business-friendly regulatory and tax climate. 

My Five Cents

May 19th, 2023 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

On May 18, 1912 the USS Texas, also known as Battleship Texas, launched and quickly became one of the most powerful weapons in the world. It is credited with the introduction and innovation of advances in gunnery, aviation, and radar. She is the last surviving Dreadnought and the only battleship in existence today that fought in both World War I and World War II.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. New fund to support creation of more state parks passes House

Senate Bill 1648 and Senate Joint Resolution 74, authored by Senator Tan Parker and sponsored by Representative Armando Walle, both passed the Texas House this week and are on their way
to the Governor for his signature. With voter approval, the bills together would create a Centennial Parks Conservation Fund and invest $1 billion to buy more land to create new state parks and maintain existing parks. The fund will grow with interest over time to continue growing the park system. Texas Parks and Wildlife is celebrating 100 years of state parks this year, a fitting time to dedicate this fund. This November, voters in Texas will have the opportunity to approve the new constitutionally dedicated fund.

2. Name, Image, and Likeness update bill passes Senate

This week the Senate passed House Bill 2804, authored by Representative John Kuempel, and sponsored by Senator Brandon Creighton. This bill continues the work from last session when the legislature established a name, image, and likeness law in Texas. HB 2804 keeps Texas competitive in the NIL space by allowing college athletes to profit using the school’s trademark if the school approves and charges a market rate for its use. Additionally, the bill allows universities to help student athletes entering NIL contracts and maintains confidentiality of related information. As the NIL space continues to evolve and develop, it is imperative that Texas universities continue to be competitive and create a welcome environment for student athletes to thrive.

3. Senate Bill 15 passes House, goes to Governor’s desk

The Texas House passed Senate Bill 15 this week, sending it to the Governor for final approval. The bill, authored by Senator Mayes Middleton and sponsored by Representative Valoree Swanson, protects women’s sports at the collegiate level by requiring athletes to compete in competitions based on biological sex. In recent years, concern over biological males competing against biological females in interscholastic events have been highlighted in various instances, particularly at the NCAA women’s swimming championship. Allowing men to compete against women is unfair to women and takes opportunities away from deserving women who otherwise could have competed at that level. The bill does have allowances for women to participate in athletic programs for men that do not have a corresponding team available to them, such as football. During the Third Called Special Session of the 87th Legislature, the Texas Legislature passed a bill protecting women’s sports at the elementary and high school levels. This year, we continue that work to protect women’s sports at the collegiate level.

4. Senate passes sales tax exemption for certain family care items

Senator Joan Huffman authored Senate Bill 379, which passed the Senate this week. The bill would give a sales tax exemption for wound care dressings, adult or children’s diapers, baby
wipes, feminine hygiene products, maternity clothing, baby bottles, and breast milk pumping products. These items are all essential for women and families – whether welcoming new family members or caring for elderly family members. Giving a tax break for essential items alleviates what some have deemed “the pink tax.” The measure would save taxpayers over $100 million a

5. T.L.L. Temple Foundation invests in CDL program at Lamar State College Port Arthur

This year, Lamar State College Port Arthur sought to significantly expand their commercial driver’s academy and examination facilities. LSCPA secured a grant from the Economic Development Administration, acquired land in Jefferson County, and funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief program to expand the program. However, last minute costs required an infusion of funds and the Temple Foundation stepped in. The program was able to increase enrollment from 185 to 230 enrollees and will surpass 300 in coming years. Hundred of Texans will graduate from this program and immediately start careers as drivers with well-paying income.

My Five Cents

May 12th, 2023 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

The first few bills have made it to the Governor’s desk for his signature, which signals the end of session is fast approaching. Of the over 8,000 bills filed this session, just over 100 bills and joint resolutions have been sent to the governor and four have been signed into law. 

Here are five things happening around your state:  

  1. House Bill 4 passes the Senate 

This week the Senate passed the Texas Data Privacy and Security Act which sets standards for the collection and use of consumer data. The goal of the bill is to maximize both the utility of the rights provided to consumers and interoperability with other states to minimize compliance costs for businesses. This bill ensures that Texans have the right and the ability to control their personal data. It regulates the collection, use, processing, and treatment of consumers’ data by businesses, creates new bill of rights for Texans online, allows the Attorney General to impose penalties, and provides safety and security online. The rights guaranteed to Texans under this bill include the right to know when personal data is being collected, to access to personal data and receive it in a readable format, to correct and delete personal data, to opt out of the collection and sale of personal data, and to be protected from retaliation or discrimination for exercising these rights. Protecting Texans private information in the digital age is important and something I’ve been passionate about for several years. I was proud to support this legislation. 

  1. School safety legislation heard in Senate Education Committee

This week, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on House Bill 3 which was authored by Representative Dustin Burrows and I am sponsoring in the Senate. This bill will include elements of the bill I authored, Senate Bill 11, and another school safety bill, House Bill 13 by Representative Ken King. It includes an increase to the school safety allotment, school safety review teams and support at education service centers, establishing the Office of School Safety and Security at TEA, consequences for noncompliance with school safety regulations and rules, yearly intruder detection audits, in depth reviews by TEA on safety procedures, a TEA-approved registry process for school safety vendors, mandatory countywide school safety meetings for counties of a certain size, and many other provisions. This bill is extensive and wide-ranging. It has many components that together, I believe, will improve the safety environment of schools in our state. I look forward to continuing to work with my House and Senate colleagues to craft a meaningful piece of legislation. 

  1. Stephen F. Austin State University advances forestry, agriculture department upgrades 

This week the SFA Board of Regents awarded a contract to plan and design new facilities for the forestry and agriculture departments. Currently, those departments are housed in a building that is over 70 years old. This was the first phase of the $80 million project. Funding will come partially from funds appropriated during the 87th Legislature and partially from the University of Texas system, which will be adding $35 million. The agriculture and forestry colleges at SFA are some of the best in the nation. This investment will continue the legacy of excellence well into the future. 

  1. Bridge City teacher awarded prestigious TEA fellowship  

Bridge City High School teacher Hannah Landry has been selected by the Texas Education Agency for the Teacher Leadership Fellowship. The fellowship consists of a program designed to strengthen teacher leadership pathways at the state level and increase opportunities for teachers. It is a highly selective program, and it is a honor to be chosen. Over the course of the program, teachers will develop their leadership skills, collaborate with educators across the state, and provide timely input to TEA staff on initiatives and programs. Congratulations to one of our own for this achievement! 

  1. Itemized billing for health care passes House 

This week the Texas House passed Senate Bill 490 by Senator Bryan Hughes and sponsored by Representative Caroline Harris. This bill would require hospitals to send a written itemized medical bill to a patient after providing a service when they request payment, but before sending the patient to collections. Allowing patients to have visibility into the cost of services provides crucial patient protection measures and allows patients to check that the final bill is accurate. Since the House made an amendment, the bill will come back to the Senate to either concur with the amendment or go to a conference committee to work out differences. 


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Phone: (903) 586-1200
Fax: (903) 586-7877

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

Physical Address:
214 East Commerce Street
Jacksonville, Texas 75766


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.