Athens Review, Athens, Texas

November 14, 2012

State Senator preparing for new legislative session in 2013

From Staff Reports
The Athens Review

Athens — With no opponent on election day, 3rd District State Sen. Robert Nichols has had plenty of time to plan for the new legislative session to begin January, 2013.

Nichols filed legislation Tuesday that he hopes to bring to the floor during the legislative session to begin in 2013, designed to limit the growth of property taxes, prohibit the use of eminent domain for recreational purposes, and to significantly reform the state's welfare system. 

The first bill will create appraisal caps to slow rising taxable values of Texas homes.

“Escalating tax appraisals make home ownership less and less affordable,” Nichols said.  “We need to keep citizens from being taxed out of their homes, and significantly limit increasing tax appraisals, which result in larger tax bills.”

Senate Bill 95 cuts the maximum rate of appraised value increase in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent. Nichols said it’s important to limit the increase in people’s property taxes, even when the value of their home increases.

“When your property value increases, it doesn't mean you have any more money in your pocket,” Nichols said. ”We must keep the maximum increase as low as possible, so individuals and families can continue to afford living in their homes. In Texas, we have placed an unfair share of the tax burden on homeowners.”

Nichols' second bill, Senate Bill 96, would prohibit state or local governments from taking private land for recreational purposes.

“No homeowner should lose the roof over their head so others can have a place to play,” said Nichols. “Eminent domain should never be used for recreational purposes, period.”

The third Nichols legislation is one he co-authored with Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound.  Senate Bill 11 calls for drug testing for welfare benefits, and would restrict the items recipients can purchase with taxpayer-paid benefits. The bill also establishes a 3-year lifetime limit on benefits.

“Our welfare system is designed to help those who are willing to help themselves,” Nichols said. “Taxpayers have a reasonable expectation that their hard-earned money will not be used to feed a debilitating addiction, but that it will be used to help make recipients independent and productive again.”

Senate Bill 11 will require a screening assessment to determine whether there is good cause for a person to submit to a drug test to establish eligibility for financial assistance benefits. If a person is found to be using illegal drugs, they will be ineligible for benefits for a period of one year. 

Nichols said he anticipates filing several other pieces of legislation related to transportation funding, water utilities and other policy areas. The 83rd Legislative Session begins on Jan. 8.