Photography Archives - Robert Nichols for Senate

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My Five Cents

January 15th, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

The Legislature has ended its first week of session. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Senate has decided to recess until January 26th. However, we will still be working hard in the meantime on legislation for Senate District 3. 

Here are five things happening around your state: 

 1. The Texas Legislature begins the 87th Legislative Session

This week, the 87th legislature gaveled in for session. Though opening day looked a bit different than usual, with fewer guests in the gallery, on the floor, and throughout the building, we’re excited to start the important work on behalf of Senate District 3.

The Texas Senate also decided on the rules that will govern the chamber for at least the first 60 days. There are several changes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 precautions include mandatory testing for anyone going onto the floor of the senate or to a committee hearing and twice weekly testing for all staff. The Senate also changed the number of votes required to bring a bill up for a vote on the floor. Instead of requiring 3/5ths of the membership to bring a bill up, the body will now require 5/9ths of the members to vote to bring up a bill.

2. Texas was the top corporate move destination in 2020

Texas ranked number one in corporate relocations last year, according to Allied Van Lines, a major moving firm. Houston and Austin were the top two cities in Texas that businesses were relocating to. The top locations businesses were coming from were California, Chicago, Phoenix, and Washington, DC. Some major companies that recently moved their headquarters to Texas include Oracle, Hewlett Packard, and CBRE. Texas’ business-friendly climate is one reason many companies cited for their moves and I hope to see that continue.

3. Timeline for Session

As the Texas Constitution requires, the legislature has convened for the next 140 days. The reason we meet every other year is because the framers of our state constitution envisioned a citizen legislature that could not infringe too much on citizens’ lives by meeting more frequently. Though many years have passed since our founding, our framers vision lives on.

Several provisions in our state constitution are related to ensuring we value the time we are given to legislate and focus our attention on only the most pressing issues. One such provision is that no legislation can be fully passed in the first 60 days of session. The only exception is if the Governor designates a specific bill as emergency legislation. If there’s a piece of legislation you feel strongly about, please be sure to contact us. Our office phone number is (512) 463-0103.

Here are some important dates to keep in mind as we move through session:

  • March 12th – This is the last day bills can be filed in the House and Senate.
  • May 31st – This is the last day of regular session, which also happens to be Memorial Day.
  • June 20th – This is the last day the Governor can sign or veto bills passed during the regular legislative session.

4. Vaccine Hubs and vaccine rollout

The Department of State Health Services has announced 28 vaccination hubs that are meant to streamline a large-scale vaccination effort currently being undertaken by the state. These vaccination hubs will have the capability to vaccinate 100,000 people. The state is set to receive almost 200,000 doses of the vaccine. A little over 158,000 doses of the vaccine will go to these hubs, the other roughly 38,000 doses will go to providers across the state. Currently, the hubs are prioritizing frontline healthcare workers, people who are 65 and older, and those with certain health conditions. The state of Texas has vaccinated more people than any other state in the nation and will begin receiving a larger allotment of doses starting in February. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine provider information please visit https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/.

5. Comptroller announces the Biennial Revenue Estimate

The Comptroller has released his Biennial Revenue Estimate. The BRE projects an estimate of the state’s revenue over the next two years. The BRE projected that the state will have $112.5 billion available for general-purpose spending. That’s down 0.4% from the last biennium. It also outlined the closing balance of the last two-year budget. While the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on our economy, the impact was not as severe as originally thought. The ending balance for the 2020-2021 balance will be close to a negative $1 billion.

My Five Cents

January 11th, 2021 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

With the beginning of the 87th legislative session fast approaching, my staff and I are gearing up to do the work of the people at your Texas Capitol. Though this session will certainly look different than past sessions, we are prepared to do this important work on behalf of Senate District 3.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. FCC announces $362 million in funds to expand broadband in rural Texas

The Federal Communications Commission announced last month a $362 million investment in expanding rural broadband in Texas. Of those funds, over $138 million has been allocated to businesses in Senate District 3. Jasper County received the most funds of any county in the state at over $13 million. These funds are intended to support businesses who are expanding broadband access and infrastructure in their communities. The goal is to connect an estimated 670,000 Texans to high-speed internet over the next 10 years.

 

2. HHSC launches 24/7 mental health support line to help Texans during COVID-19 pandemic

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line specifically designed to support Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Counseling services are absolutely confidential and free of charge to anyone who calls. The support line is being operated by the Harris Center for Mental Health and offers trauma-informed support and psychological first aid. It’s important to recognize the toll the pandemic has taken on Texans mental health and offer support in any way we can. The toll-free number is 833-986-1919.

 

3. Lt. Governor Patrick announces guidelines for opening day of the 87th legislative session

Following the Governor’s announcement re-opening the Texas State Capitol to the public, the Lt. Governor announced guidelines for the Texas Senate’s opening day ceremonies. Each Senator will receive a COVID-19 test before entering the Capitol. Guests of each senator will also be tested. No personal data will be collected or kept regarding the results. The testing is free and will yield results in 15 minutes. The day itself will also look different, with a shorter ceremony and less time gathered in the chamber. The senators have agreed to reduce ceremonial events and gatherings this session to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19. In the Capitol building itself, masks will be required in all public spaces. Fifteen-minute COVID-19 rapid testing will be offered outside of the building. If you’re planning to visit the Capitol during session this year, please call our office ahead of time to let us know you’re coming. Our Capitol office phone number is 512-463-0103.

 

4. Judicial Selection Commission releases report, recommendations

Last month the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection released its recommendations on changing the election system for judges in the state. In an 8-7 vote, the commission recommended the state end the current system of selecting judges via partisan elections. I was appointed to serve on the commission by the Lieutenant Governor and was one of the 7 members of the commission who voted against the recommendation to change the current method of electing judges in our state. I firmly believe that Texans should have the right to choose their judges and will protect my constituent’s right to do so. However, I did agree to consider raising qualifications for judges. Currently, Texas Supreme Court justices must be 35 years old, licensed to practice law in Texas, and have at least 10 years of legal experience. District court judges have no age requirement but are required to have been practicing in Texas for at least four years.

 

5. TEA announces a pause on A-F grading for school districts, campuses

In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Education Agency announced it will pause A-F ratings for the 2020-2021 school year. The pandemic disrupted this school year in major ways, and pausing these ratings is the right thing to do. During my superintendent tour, this was brought up in every school district and with every superintendent I talked with. I’m glad to see TEA has listened to their input. The annual STAAR test will be conducted, however, as it’s an important baseline to determine where our students are and help them grow. For schools that use STAAR testing as part of teacher evaluations, TEA is offering flexibility to allow them to remove that component this year. These decisions will make it easier for teachers, superintendents, and all other support staff to focus on what is most important: educating Texas children.

My Five Cents

November 30th, 2020 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

Though the Capitol has been closed to the public for most of this year, my staff is hard at work preparing for the upcoming legislative session. Though the session will surely look different this year due to the ongoing global pandemic, we are still focused on the needs of the state and our constituents. Please reach out to my office if you have any needs or concerns.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. Neches High School volleyball wins state championship for third year.

Congratulations to the Neches High School volleyball team on winning back-to-back-to-back UIL Class 1A State Championships. The Lady Tigers scored a 3-0 win over the Blum Lady Cats at the state championship game in Garland. They finished 29-4 on the season.

Senior Lexi Rodgers was named MVP of the tournament. Though both teams played well, I’m proud of the hard work and dedication the Lady Tigers showed during the tournament and throughout their season.

Once again, congratulations, ladies.

2. Texas Association of Rural Schools Champion of Rural Schools Award.

The Texas Association of Rural Schools recognized me as a Champion of Rural Schools last month.

I’ve always believed that education is the most important issue the state Legislature works on. I appreciate the hard work of all our teachers and administrators during this challenging time and know that education will be one of the most important things we discuss in the upcoming legislative session.

Last session, I was happy to support House Bill 3, a landmark bill overhauling the public school finance system. I am particularly proud to receive the Champion of Rural Schools award. Ensuring a high-quality education that puts our students first is always my top priority.

3. Entergy announces $360,000 in funding for Hurricane Laura, Delta relief.

This month, Entergy Texas announced a commitment of $360,000 in Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta relief funds. A large portion of that fund, roughly $160,000, will go directly to Southeast Texas relief organizations. In total, 11 local organizations are receiving funds.

Entergy partnered with Foundation for Southeast Texas to distribute the funds. Foundation for Southeast Texas is a nonprofit public charity that accepts funds from donors, manages them and distributes them to nonprofits in the community.

Hurricanes Laura and Delta ripped through the Gulf Coast and Southeast Texas earlier this year, causing widespread damage and power outages. This year’s storm season was particularly active. We thank Entergy for their hard work to help rebuild after such a difficult year.

4. DSHS announces COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan.

In November, the Department of State Health Services and governor’s office announced the guiding principles for the state’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan. The plan is expected to be implemented as early as December.

It outlines the criteria under which the vaccine will be initially available. Those criteria include protecting health care workers, protecting front line workers, protecting vulnerable populations, mitigating health inequities, data-driven allocations, geographic diversity and transparency.

These guidelines were established by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel, which was created by DSHS and includes 17 members from across the state.

The panel also recommended that health care workers working directly with COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable populations be the first to receive the vaccine. That would include hospital staff, emergency medical services, staff at long-term care facilities and home health care workers.

This announcement comes on the heels of several vaccine candidates reaching late stages in vaccine trials with high rates of success. Pfizer has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for their vaccine. If approved, the vaccine could start being administered next month.

5. TxDOT emphasizes road safety projects, commits unprecedented $600 million in funding.

The Texas Department of Transportation has proposed spending $600 million on projects aimed at decreasing road deaths on Texas roadways.

Roughly two-thirds of that money will go toward straightening roads, improving lighting and adding guardrails. These projects are intended to reduce “departure incidents,” or incidents when a driver veers from the roadway.

Texas leads the nation in automobile-related deaths. TxDOT has put an emphasis on road safety and hopes this investment will help to cut road deaths in half by 2035 and achieve zero road-related deaths by 2050.

This additional investment will particularly benefit East Texas as rural roads can be some of the most dangerous in the state. Officials in each of TxDOT’s 27 districts will submit a four-year safety plan detailing projects that would enhance road safety.

My Five Cents

November 4th, 2020 Posted by fromthetrail, Photography 0 thoughts on “My Five Cents”

By Robert Nichols

The Texas State Fair opened in Dallas 136 years ago. The iconic predecessor to our present-day State Fair of Texas drew crowds from across the state. A rival fair, the Dallas exposition, opened around the same time and together they welcomed more than 35,000 people.

Both fairs were successful and, ultimately, decided to combine efforts in 1887 to establish the State Fair of Texas as we know it today.

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. Senate Redistricting Committee launches public comment portal. This month, the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting announced the launch of a public comment portal on their website. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee had to curtail its original plans for receiving public comment at in-person hearings around the state. Therefore, the portal was created to allow all Texans equal opportunity to participate in the important redistricting process.

The portal is designed to be an accessible, productive, reliable and secure method to receive testimony.

Those who would like to submit comments or maps to the committee can comment on maps for the Texas House, Senate, U.S. Congress, State Board of Education, or all of the above. Legislators will use this information as they work through the redistricting and map drawing process.

To access the portal, interested parties should visit senate.texas.gov/redistrictingcomment.

2. NASA aerospace scholar opens for applications. The NASA High School Aerospace Scholars program has opened for applications. High school juniors with an interest in STEM are encouraged to apply for the one-of-a-kind program.

The program starts as a five-day online course. The highest achieving students will earn the opportunity to attend an onsite summer experience at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The online program focuses on space exploration, earth science, technology and aeronautics. Students will also explore design challenges such as 3D drawing, video creation, and interactive poster design. Throughout the program students will have the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and scientist virtually.

Interested students should visit nasa.gov/has to apply.

3. Texas named No. 1 state for business. For the eighth consecutive time, Texas has been named the No. 1 state for business by corporate executives.

In the 2020 survey released at the International Economic Development Council Annual Convention, corporate executives again ranked Texas the state with the best business climate by a wide margin with 48% of those surveyed favoring it.

The second-place state was Georgia with 25% favorability. Rounding out the top five in order are North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. The survey is conducted every three years, and Texas has been named No. 1 every time since its inception in 1996. Major contributors to this designation include Texas’ pro-business climate, low tax rates and access to talent.

4. Jacksonville’s Tomato Bowl Stadium recognized in school architecture exhibit. Jacksonville’s historic Tomato Bowl Stadium was recognized with the “Star of Distinction” in the Texas Association of School Boards and Texas Association of School Administrator’s 2020-21 Exhibit of School Architecture.

The Tomato Bowl is one of the last downtown stadiums in the state and has held continuous district play since 1940. Originally constructed by the WPA using red iron ore from local farms, the renovation of the stadium allows Jacksonville to continue bringing the community together in a place that has been a source of tradition and pride for 80 years.

The Star of Distinction is given to architecturally significant structures that are rated in five categories: design, value, sustainability, community, planning and school transformation.

5. Census Bureau concludes 2020 operations. On Oct. 15, the Census Bureau finished collecting responses from the 2020 Census. The bureau reported that 99.9% of households in the U.S. were accounted for, with 67% self-responding. Roughly 33% of households were accounted for through non-response follow up.

Though their usual operations were hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bureau is confident that their data accurately reflects the current population of the United States.

The census, which only takes place once every decade, is important because it can shape the future of communities as federal funds are allocated based on population size and characteristics. It also determines the number of congressional representatives each state gets.

This was the first year that respondents could use the internet to fill out and return their census form. Though their operations were delayed, the Census Bureau has assured legislators that they will be doing their best to get all the information to states as close to their initial timeline as possible.

Sen. Nichols Signed Letter Regarding High Speed Rail Project

October 9th, 2020 Posted by fromthetrail 0 thoughts on “Sen. Nichols Signed Letter Regarding High Speed Rail Project”

I was proud to sign on to this letter regarding the Texas Central Rail project. I am always working to preserve private property rights.

 

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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.