Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 4, 2013

My five cents

Sen. Robert Nichols
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Did you have a chance to watch the Grammy awards last week? Well this week the Texas Senate was proud to pass a resolution in honor of all our Texas musicians who received awards at this year's ceremony. SR 296 was presented personally to Josh Abbott, Jack Ingram, and other well-known individuals who contribute so much to the national music scene. Additionally, at this point in the legislative session, most lawmakers are still getting along, and that is music to my ears as well.

Some of the things happening at your Texas Capitol include:



SB 810 - Working to prevent fraud



On Tuesday, I filed SB 810 to help crack down on Medicaid fraud. We have worked with the Attorney General's office to develop this and other strategies to improve Medicaid fraud enforcement. When criminals steal from the Medicaid system they are stealing from every Texas taxpayer.

SB 810 would add a provision to the Texas Penal Code that prevents a defendant from attempting to repay the Texas Medicaid program as a defense to criminal prosecution. Some district attorneys’ offices decline to prosecute a defendant who has defrauded the Medicaid program if that defendant repays the program. This amendment would keep defendants from making that argument.



Celebrating Texas Independence Day and the Return of the Travis Letter



On March 2nd the state will mark the 177th Anniversary of Texas Independence and will celebrate by bringing Colonel William Barrett Travis' famous "Victory or Death" letter back to the Alamo. Written at the Alamo by Travis on February 24, 1836 as Mexican General Santa Anna’s troops began their siege, this letter is considered a Texas treasure and one of the most stirring battleground letters in our nation's history. It is normally housed at the Texas State Archives and Library Building in Austin, but is currently being exhibited at the Alamo in honor of Texas Independence Day.

The document "came home" to the Alamo on Saturday, February 23rd and will be on display through March 7th  from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in a custom-made, climate controlled and bullet-proof case. As always, entry to the Alamo is free, and there is no charge to see the historic Travis letter. This occasion presents a good opportunity to reflect on the courage and bravery exhibited by Texas' founders. They left a legacy of freedom, self-reliance and liberty that still inspires our state today.



FFA leaders at the Capitol



This week it was great to see so many FFA members for their day at the Capitol this year. These young men and women represent Texas so well and remind us all of how important agriculture is to our state. It is always an honor to meet with this and other organizations who are training tomorrow's Texas leaders.



SB 665 - It’s okay to say “Merry Christmas”



I recently filed Senate Bill 665 to protect Texas public schools' ability to use traditional holiday greetings such as 'Merry Christmas' and 'Happy Hanukkah' on school grounds and to educate students about the history and roots of such holidays.

I have heard from many constituents who dislike that it is becoming less culturally acceptable to openly celebrate these holidays in the ways past generations have. To me this is a matter of helping our teachers and administrators feel safe talking about these holidays at school without fear of legal action being taken against them.

We are currently standing at a cultural crossroads in our society, and this is one step forward for those defending our traditional values and beliefs. To follow the bill's progress, please go to http://www.MerryChristmasBill.com/



SB 7 - Medicaid Restructuring



This week the Health and Human Services Committee, which I serve on, voted out of committee an important bill to improve outcomes in our Medicaid system. The bill focuses largely on improving long term care services, which is one of the biggest costs to the program. The goal is to redesign the system to prepare for the growing need for long term care, given that Texas has the nation's largest number of seniors and a growing number of Texans with disabilities.

Those who receive these services are some of the most vulnerable people we serve. We need to make sure they get the best care available -- and that we are delivering that care in the most  sustainable and efficient way possible.