Athens Review, Athens, Texas

October 10, 2013

Nichols visits Athens

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — State Sen. Robert Nichols spoke in Athens on Thursday about several issues facing Texas, with the focus on the big three.

Nichols said education, transportation and water were important issues in the 83rd legislative session and will continue to be in the years to come.

“We have 102 school districts in our district,” Nichols said. “That’s 10 percent of the school districts in the state of Texas.”

Nichols said he visits with all of the school superintendents before each legislative session to hear their needs and concerns.

“We were overtesting our students,” Nichols said. “We were having them take 15 end-of-course tests that aren’t even used by the colleges. We were spending 42 to 46 days each school year just testing.”

The legislature trimmed that number to five during the last session, Nichols said. The legislature also enabled the schools to enhance vocational training for students who are not bound for college.

“For those students who want to learn welding, or air conditioning trades or plumbing, they can make good money and we’ve got businesses that need those trades,” Nichols said.

Transportation has been underfunded in Texas for many years, Nichols said, and the traditional ways of paying for highway construction through gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees are no longer adequate.

“If we don’t watch out we will lose some things that are very precious to our businesses and our quality of life, and that’s our road system,” Nichols said.

Proposition 6 on the November Constitutional Amendment Election deals with the states increasing demand for water.

“We’ve been struggling for years in Texas with how to fund our state water plan,” Nichols said. “We came up with a way to do it. The idea is to take $2 billion from our  rainy day fund and put it in a permanent fun outside of our treasury, so future legislatures can not rob it.”

The money in that fund can be loaned out to entities such as cities, counties and water districts for water projects,” Nichols said.