News Release
May 21, 2015
Contact: Sydni Mitchell
(512) 463-0103
My five cents...
A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols
by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3

This weekend, our country will observe Memorial Day and remember the sacrifices of the military men and women who gave their lives serving our nation. I hope we all take time to give thanks for those who sacrificed everything for our nation so we might live free.

Here are five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol:

1. Gold Star Mothers

The Texas Legislature recently passed legislation designating the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother's Day, to honor those who have lost children while they served in the United States Armed Forces.

The name 'Gold Star Mothers' comes from the custom, started in World War I and continued today, where military families would put up a service flag near their front window. The flag featured a blue star for each family member serving their country and gold stars honoring those who were killed while serving. As we remember our fallen soldiers this weekend during Memorial Day, let us also remember those who have lost loved ones.

2. Sharia Law

Over the past few months, you may have heard about sharia law and legislation filed this session which would prevent courts in the state from enforcing sharia law. While Texas currently has laws in place which prevent courts in our state from enforcing any foreign laws or court decisions, these proposed bills would reinforce this.

Texans should be reassured they are protected from these foreign laws infiltrating our court systems. As these bills continue to move through the Legislature in these last few days of session, I have and will continue to support any measure that reinforces this strict prohibition.

3. Veto Methods

As session is slowly drawing to a close, more bills are being passed by both chambers and sent to the governor's office. Upon receipt, the governor has 10 days to review and either sign or veto a bill before it automatically becomes law. In addition, the governor has the power of line-item veto, where he can remove certain provisions listed in the bill without killing the entire piece of legislation.

While the Legislature may in theory override a veto with a two-thirds vote, that is impossible if session has ended. Because almost all legislation is finally passed in the last days of session, there are very few bills the Legislature could revive should the governor veto it. This makes the governor's veto a very powerful tool as it can completely shut down legislation despite its passage by the Legislature. I will continue to keep you updated as we finish out the last few days of session.

4. Beekeepers in Texas

Did you know every third bit of food consumed by the average Texan is made as a result of honey bee pollination? Our state has about 125 commercial beekeepers and has seen a significant increase in beekeeping hobbyist over the past decade. While the beekeeping industry plays a small part in the state's agriculture industry, they play a vital role in ensuring Texans have a viable food source.

Under current Texas law, a beekeeper who extracts honey produced by his own bees and offers it for sale falls under certain regulations and must obtain a license from the Department of State Health Services. In addition, there is no distinction under current law between hobbyists and larger honey producers.

This week, the Legislature passed SB 1766, for which I am a co-author, which exempts small scale and beekeeping hobbyists who annually produce less than 2,500 pounds of honey from the licensing requirement. I am proud many beekeepers call Senate District 3 home and I look forward to continue to protect their interests in Austin.

5. License Plates

When driving down the road, I am sure you have seen numerous different types of license plates on vehicles which recognize a favorite sports team, college or organization. You might have also seen those that honor individuals and their families for their service to our country. While the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and My Plates can approve, design and sell specialty plates, the Texas Legislature has to approve license plates that are offered to individuals (such as veterans) for a free or reduced fee.

This session, approximately 100 new license plates have been approved through the Senate Transportation Committee, of which I am Chair. So the next time you are driving and see a license plate honoring one of our brave veterans, make sure you give them a friendly wave in recognition of their service.