Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

April 29, 2013

Senator Nichols: My five cents

AUSTIN — Here at the Capitol it is spring outside, and flowers are beginning to bloom.

Inside of the Capitol it is a different story as bills begin to wilt and die.

With less than 40 days left in the session, almost every bill that has not had a hearing at this point will not pass. As we near the last four weeks of session, members are fighting for their bills.

Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:

1. Budget conference committee members chosen

On Monday Speaker Straus announced the names of five House members chosen to sit on the much-watched budget conference committee. They will be joined by the five Senate members chosen last week by Lieute-nant Governor Dewhurst, and together these ten members will work out the differences between the two chambers' budgets.

The House passed their version of the budget, totaling $194.8 billion, earlier this month, while the Senate passed their version at $195.5 billion in March. The conference committee's challenge is to come up with a compromise between the two which will be acceptable to both chambers and ultimately signed by the governor.

2. Railroad Commission Sunset bill passes out of committee

I am proud to report that on Tuesday the Senate Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed out SB 212, my bill dealing with reform for the Railroad Commis-sion. This agency oversees Texas' oil and gas industry and is run by three state-wide-elected commissioners.

Among other chan-ges, SB 212 includes ethics reform of the commission as they regulate one of our state's biggest industries. The three commissioners have staggered terms, meaning no two are up for election at the same time, and under the conditions of this bill they would only be able to accept campaign contributions during the time they are actually up for re-election. In addition, they would be prohibited from accepting donations from anyone with a contested case before the commission and would be restricted from running for another office during the first four-and-a-half years of their six-year terms, unless they are willing to resign.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

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