My Five Cents…
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
Last updated 5/10/2022 at 2:26pm
Last month, I was proud to co-host the Lone Star Legislative Summit in Nacogdoches with Rep. Travis Clardy in conjunction with the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce. We hosted a number of attendees from across the state including Speaker Dade Phelan and panels on immigration and border security, education, infrastructure, energy, health care, and social media and freedom of speech. It was a pleasure to have so many familiar faces in East Texas.
Here are five things happening around your state:
1. Lt. Governor Patrick releases interim charges
Last month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released interim charges for thirteen Senate Committees to work on before next session. I chair the Transportation Committee and sit on four other committees including the Business and Commerce Committee, Finance Committee, Criminal Justice Committee, and Local Government Committee. The interim charges outlined by the Lt. Governor will guide our discussions and hearings between now and next session and help develop proposed legislation for the 88th Legislative Session. The Senate Transportation Committee recently held a hearing to address our interim charges which related to safety, driver’s license efficiency, and alternatively fueled vehicles. Other topics committees will cover this interim include broadband, electricity, property tax relief, inflation and long-term care funding, among other things.
To find a full list of interim charges, visit https://www.ltgov.texas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2022-Interim-Charges.pdf.
2. Newton County secures $9 million grant for broadband project
The Deep East Texas Council of Governments, also known as DETCOG, has obtained a $9 million grant to build a high speed wireless broadband network in northern Newton County. The project was funded earlier this year by a grant from the Texas General Land Office. The project will provide more than 6,000 residents reliable internet. The project is targeted specifically at low to moderate income households. If your household qualifies under the US Department of Housing and Urban Affairs' definition of low-moderate income, then you will have no upfront costs. The project will use existing towers and wireless connections rather than running wires long distances from home to home. The goal is to completed the project by 2023 and then allow companies to bid on the rights to operate the system. Specialists are already on the ground in Newton County working on environmental and historical assessments of the proposed route.
3. TRS-Active Care participants will not see a premium increase in 2022-2023
Last week, state leadership announced $435 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds would be allocated to the Teachers Retirement System of Texas to offset healthcare costs related to COVID-19. This funding, in combination with appropriations made during the last legislative session, ensures that TRS-ActiveCare participants will not see an increase in insurance premiums for 2022-2023. In fact, some teachers may now see a decrease in healthcare premiums. Governor Abbott made the announcement last week and was joined by Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman, and House Appropriations Chair Dr. Greg Bonnen.
4. Operation Lone Star to receive $495.3 million in additional funding
State leadership approved a transfer of almost $500 million in additional funding for Operation Lone Star to continue engaging in critical work at the Texas border. The majority of those funds will support the continued deployment of the Texas National Guard. So far, the state has invested nearly $4 billion in ensuring that the border is secure and arresting illegal immigrants found violating state law. Recently, Governor Abbott also announced an initiative to begin voluntarily bussing illegal migrants to Washington, D.C. as a protest to the Biden Administration’s decision to end Title 42. Title 42 was a Trump-era policy that was adopted as a means of stemming the spread of COVID-19 by allowing federal authorities to deport migrants from countries where communicable diseases are present. The policy is set to expire on May 23 and the Department of
Homeland Security warns that it could result in up to 18,000 border-crossers a day.
5. Texas named best state for business for 18th year
In a record-breaking feat, Texas has once again been named the top state for business by CEO Magazine for the 18th year in a row. The rankings are based on polling of nearly 700 CEOs and business owners who assess each state’s business climate, workforce, and quality of life. Those polled say the combination of a fast-growth population, low-taxes, and low-regulation business climate is what makes the Lone Star State stand out. Rounding out the top five were Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, and North Carolina. Texas continues to drive innovation by welcoming businesses and allowing them to thrive.