My Five Cents: Five things happening with state government

Published 6:38 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

By Robert Nichols

At the end of May, we will celebrate Memorial Day and honor our military men and women who have given their lives serving our nation, so that we might live free.

Here are five things happening around your state this month:


  1. Sunset Commission Hearing

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recently held its first hearing of the interim. The Commission ensures state agencies are meeting their mission and purpose by making recommendations for which state agencies should be continued, how they can operate more efficiently and better serve the public.

The hearing focused on the state’s Behavioral Health Boards, including Marriage and Family Therapists, Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Psychologist, the Texas Medical Board, Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Historical Commission. Final decisions for these entities will be made in May, but no recommendations can be put into law without final approval by the Legislature. To learn how to become a part of the process by attending a hearing or sending in comments please visit

  1. Special Education Funding

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has announced a new plan to address inadequacies in Texas when it comes to special education in Texas schools. The proposal includes special education professional development system for educators, resources for parents of students who may need special education services, funding for school districts providing services to students who may have previously been denied services. It also includes additional staffing and resources at TEA to help support education services and increase oversight to ensure all school districts in Texas are meeting special education laws. While TEA has designated $212 million to be spent over the next five years on this plan, they do plan to request additional funding during the 86th Legislative Session for local special education needs.

  1. Redistricting in Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments at the end of April to determine whether the district maps for two Texas congressional districts and nine Texas House districts, which were adopted in 2013, discriminate against minority voters. Last year, a lower court stated the districts were unconstitutional and violated the Voting Rights Act. Texas then took their case to the Supreme Court, asking for the decision of the lower court to be overturned. Depending on the decision made by the Supreme Court, Texas could be forced to come back and redraw the district lines for these specific districts.

  1. Senate and House Education Hearings

The House Public Education Committee met earlier this month to discuss the implementation of bills from the 85th Legislative Session including HB 21, which created a financial hardship grant for school districts, HB 22, which updated the A-F accountability system, and SB 179 which added cyberbullying to the Education Code provision of bullying. They also received an update on how school districts are doing after Hurricane Harvey.

The Senate Education Committee also met this month to discuss virtual education, which offers supplemental classes through school districts, as well as a full time program, and if it should be expanded. They discussed how to expand access to high quality education opportunities, and received an update on the federal E-rate program. Texas participates in this program through state matching funds to help bring in and support high-speed broadband access to public schools across Texas.

  1. Texas Armed Services Scholarship

My office is currently accepting applications for the Texas Armed Forces Scholarship Program on which encourages students to participate in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs at universities in Texas.

To be eligible, must meet two of the following requirements:  

  • Be on track to graduate high school in a Distinguished Achievement Program or International Baccalaureate program.
  • 3.0 or higher GPA
  • Rank in the top third of graduating class.
  • SAT score of 1590 or ACT score of 23.

To receive the scholarship:

  • Submit an essay explaining why you believe military service is important and how you would fulfill the requirements of the scholarship
  • Enroll in an eligible Texas institution and an eligible ROTC program
  • Commit in writing to:
    • Remain in ROTC for four years.
    • Graduate within six years.
    • Enter Guard service or accept a commission with the armed services within six months of graduation from college.

If you live in Senate District 3 and are interested in this scholarship, please send the required material to Applications must be received no later than June 30, 2018. For questions please call my Jacksonville office at 903-589-3003. For more information and details on the application please visit


Robert Nichols is the Republican Senator for the 3rd District in the Texas Senate.