Dec

07

Posted by : admin | On : December 7, 2017

12-3 DOA

The News Staff Reports
MABANK–Mabank Police Chief Keith Bradshaw reports that a 17-year-old back seat passenger was dead at the scene when first responders arrived at U.S. 175 and County Road 2938 at nearly 11 p.m. Sunday night, near the Hilltop Tire Shop. Traffic was slowed to one lane during the response.
Gun Barrel City Fire Department used extraction tools to free victims from the 2002 Toyota Highlander containing three passengers plus the driver.
Iris Anderson was sitting behind the driver when the vehicle was T-boned at the passenger door when the driver attempted to cross the interstate from north to south. She died in the collision. Another back-seat passenger, Morgan Carrol, 18, was transported from Gun Barrel City-ETMC to Tyler by helicopter and passed away Monday.
Front seat passenger Kyle Poole, 18, was treated and released from Gun Barrel City’s emergency room. Driver Austin Junell, 21 and a Mabank High School graduate, was transported by ambulance to the nearest emergency room and then on to Baylor Hospital in Dallas.
Tractor trailer driver Adam Drane, 40 of Victoria, escaped serious injury.
The preliminary investigation continued until 4 a.m. the next morning. No charges have been made in the case at presstime.
On Saturday at around 1:30 p.m. traffic flow was interrupted when an eastbound vehicle in the service road along U.S. 175 approaching Third Street in Mabank disregarded the traffic light.
Travis Pugh, 38, of Enchanted Oaks was operating a 2006 Silver GMC Yukon when he made a right turn on Third Avenue, crossed all lanes of traffic and struck the stop sign on First Street as he continued to accelerate in the wrong lanes leaving the roadway until the vehicle collided with a small group of trees.
On its way across, the SUV also struck the hindquarter of a northbound 1989 Cadillac Deville, driven by Charles Luke, 42 of Mabank.
Pugh was charged with disregard of traffic control device and driving while license invalid/suspended.

Dec

07

Posted by : admin | On : December 7, 2017

Gooden 2017 headshot CMYK
Special to The News
TERRELL–On Monday, State Representative Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) announced his run for Congress before an overflow crowd in Kaufman County at a rally celebrating property owners’ victory in an annexation battle that has raged on for months. A Dallas County city tried to fast track the annexation of land in Kaufman County and Rep. Gooden organized the successful opposition.
“Seven years ago, I ran for this seat in the Texas House because I was tired of do-nothing politicians in Austin who were failing to protect our freedoms, our property, our values, and our tax dollars,” Rep. Gooden said. “Since then, we have fought together to move the conservative agenda forward, and together we have delivered one victory after another for the families of rural Texas. There is no better example of the power of a dedicated group of conservatives than this victory over the big government forces who believed that our land belonged to them.”
Rep. Gooden, who represents the citizens of Henderson and Kaufman counties in Austin, has been widely recognized as one of the most effective leaders in the Texas House for his ability to turn sound, conservative policy into law.
A few of his legislative achievements during his three terms in the House of Representatives include:
• banning sanctuary cities in Texas and fully funding the most comprehensive state border security plan in the nation,
• successfully de-funding Planned Parenthood, banning partial birth abortion, and strengthening Texas’ Alternatives to Abortion program,
• writing and passing the state’s most conservative budget,
• crusading against Obamacare and voting to block its expansion into Texas,
• fighting for our local public schools and defeating a voucher plan that would have sent tax dollars to unaccountable entities,
• rescuing our retired teachers’ health insurance system from bankruptcy and collapse and
• defending religious liberty and successfully fighting to keep “Christ” in Christmas in Texas law.
“As proud as I am of the things we have achieved together in Austin, when I look at the Washington swamp, I see a political class of insiders in both parties who are failing the people they are intended to represent,” Rep. Gooden continued. “They have failed to secure our border in spite of Republican majorities. They have piled trillions of dollars of debt on the shoulders of the next generation, and now we learn they are secretly using tax dollars to settle sexual harassment claims against members of Congress. Yet they still can’t find the funds to properly care for our military veterans who have sacrificed so much for us. This is simply immoral, and I feel called to do something about it.”
“Make no mistake, the Washington establishment will not go quietly. They are already lining up behind their hand-picked candidates, many of whom do not even live in our district and who couldn’t find Alto or Elmo on a map if their lives depended on it.”
“We need a new Congressman of East Texas, by East Texas and for East Texas who understands the traditional values that we share, and who knows that our churches and our schools and our shops on Main Street are the lifeblood of our communities. Our way of life is sacred, and it is worth fighting to protect and defend for our children and our children’s children. With your support and your prayers, I am ready to go to Washington and do the same thing that I did in Austin – roll up my sleeves, fight for you, and win for you.”
Rep. Gooden has deep roots in Congressional District 5. He grew up in Terrell, graduated from Terrell High School, and earned degrees from the University of Texas. He works in business development, and his wife, Alexa, is a real estate agent. They live in Terrell where they attend the Rockwall and Brin Church of Christ. The Goodens are expecting their first child, a baby boy, in February.
Rep. Gooden rolled out endorsements of mayors and elected officials across the district who have encouraged him to run for Congress, including Athens Mayor Monte Montgomery, Chandler Mayor Libby Fulgham, Coffee City Mayor Pam Drost, Crandall Mayor Mike Parker, Eustace Mayor Dustin Shelton, Forney Mayor Rick Wilson, Gun Barrel City Mayor Jim Braswell, Kaufman Mayor Jeff Jordan, Kemp Mayor Laura Peace, Mabank Mayor Jeff Norman, Rosser Mayor Shannon Corder, Terrell Mayor D.J. Ory, Kaufman County Sheriff Bryan Beavers, Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse and Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley.
Visit Gooden’s Facebook page at @lancegoodenfortexas for regular updates from the campaign trail.

Nov

30

Posted by : admin | On : November 30, 2017

Doyle Deason
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said a man is charged with the stabbing death of another man following an altercation Sunday in the Payne Springs area.
Doyle Wayne Deason, 65, was arrested Sunday morning after he confessed to stabbing Bryan Rodgers, 43, in the early hours of the morning.
Rodgers died a short while afterwards at the East Texas Medical Center in Gun Barrel City as the result of a single stab wound.
Hillhouse said the incident began to unfold before 5 a.m. when deputies were en route to a call about a suspicious person on Double Bridge Road in the Cherokee Shores Subdivision.
The person was reported carrying a butcher knife and seeking someone, who had stolen from him.
Shortly afterwards, a stabbing victim was reported near Double Bridge Road. The victim, Rodgers, was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead at 6:44 a.m.
At the scene on Huntoon Trail, law enforcement discovered a gun believed to be involved in the incident. Rodgers had walked to a neighbor’s residence on Double Bridge Road to seek aid.
Investigators followed leads to the suspect on Timber Road in the Timber Bay subdivision.
The suspect had suffered a minor gunshot wound and confessed to stabbing the victim. During an interview with investigators it was determined that Rodgers was not the person Deason was looking for.
Deason is charged with Murder and is being held with a $1,000,000 bond.

Nov

16

Posted by : admin | On : November 16, 2017

The News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Voters across the state agreed to change the Texas State Constitution in seven propositions with fewer than 5 percent of registered voters casting ballots Tuesday. No statewide or county offices were on the ballot and few municipalities school districts or other taxing entities appeared either. .
The seven state propositions included:
• an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or surviving spouse if the homestead was donated by a charity for less than the market value. Prop 6 is similar but is applied to the surviving spouse of first responders who are killed in the line of duty
Prop 2 makes refinancing a home easier with more choices, which covers agricultural homesteads and lines of credit.
Prop 3 limits the service of appointed officials by the governor, restricting it to the legislative session.
Prop 4 allows the legislature to require a court to notify the attorney general o a challenge brought against a state statute, so the AG has opportunity to deend the statute.
Prop 5 authorizes the 10 Texas major league sports franchises that had charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles. Prop 5 would expand that number to include hockey, basketball, football, baseball, soccer, motorsports, golf teams and minor leagues, as well as major leagues.
Prop 7 is similar as it allows credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.

Nov

16

Posted by : admin | On : November 16, 2017

Christina Roberts pins a commemorative ribbon on World War II Veteran Jesse Garrett. All the veterans attending the service were presented with ribbons, thanking them for their service.

Christina Roberts pins a commemorative ribbon on World War II Veteran Jesse Garrett. All the veterans attending the service were presented with ribbons, thanking them for their service.


By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–The East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society welcomed a crowd to the Annual Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 10, where veterans, families and friends paid honor to veterans past and present.
Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders welcomed the veterans and family members and thanked those who journeyed out to support and honor the veterans. “I think about our freedoms, freedom of religion, right to bear arms, the right to assemble and our freedom of speech,” Sanders said and then asked the veterans who were able, to stand. “This is why we have these freedoms, the reason we can smell the sweet smell of freedom in this country.”
He went on to say, “This nation was founded on freedom, but it has taken the great sacrifice of these men and women to preserve our freedom.”
Athens Mayor Monte Montgomery gave the invocation and led the pledges to the American and Texas flags. Boy Scout Troop 343 members Gabe Carbajal and Ethan Kobelia posted the colors.
Second-generation U.S. Marine Veteran Michael Goodman who served two tours of duty overseas, said, “Today is a double honor for me as it is the official birthday of the Marine Corps., founded in a tavern 242 years ago.”
He went on to say, “As veterans, we took an oath to defend the constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic and to date, no one has delivered us of that oath.” Goodman pointed out that 7.3 percent of the population has served in the armed forces and 20 million veterans are alive today. “It is the mission of these veterans to carry the torch of freedom and pass it down to future generations, to be keepers of the oath.”
Goodman quoted Thomas Paine who said, “Those that want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it.”
Featured speaker Representative Lance Gooden was unavailable to speak since he was at a hearing fighting against the forced annexation of Kaufman County land by the city of Mesquite. Athens City Councilman Ed McCain stood in his place, praising Gooden for his accomplishments in the past legislative session including reduced fees for license to carry permits and tax relief for disabled veterans.
McCain told the story of two Marines in his life, his grandfather and his brother. Colonel Warren McCain, his grandfather, who joined the Marine Corps in 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor, after having served in the Army and getting his education. He went on to fight in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. “He lived the American Dream, born in the dustbowl and went on to defend his country honorably. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery. This was always a huge source of pride for our family.”
A few months after Sept. 11, McCain’s brother Ryan felt the call to serve his country. McCain had taken on a fatherly role with his brother, so he was the one who took him to the recruiting depot and stood at Parris Island as he graduated.
“One day he called me and said he was going to Afghanistan. At that moment when the most important thing in my life was threatened, I began to understand the sacrifice. The message I would like to give our millionaire athletes who play children’s games on Sunday, is that if you felt for an instant, that terror I felt, you wouldn’t kneel during our National Anthem.”
McCain’s brother served his country and is now an air traffic controller.
South Athens Elementary fourth-graders, led by teacher Barbara Railsback, entertained the crowd with patriotic songs including a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.” Boy Scout Troop 343 presented a commemorative wreath from the Daniel McMahon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Nov

08

Posted by : admin | On : November 8, 2017

Chuck Oram
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Though not exactly a wish come true, Vietnam veteran Chuck Oram got to pilot a helicopter for a 30-minute cruise around Cedar Creek Lake Oct. 25. What’s so remarkable about this, is the former Army Chinook helicopter pilot is nearing 83 years of age and hasn’t piloted a craft since the 1990s.
However, the long-held desire kept within his heart unspoken could not be suppressed while among the warmth of friends and neighbors from Wood Canyon Waters, most of whom are former military officers.
“This all happened because I said, ‘Damn, I sure would like to get back in a Chinook again,’” he said. His friends took his desire as their mission. Though they couldn’t acquire the twin rotor Chinook, so heavily relied upon during the Vietnam War, they got their friend back into a helicopter.
Col. Charles “Chuck” Oram served 27 years in the U.S. Army as an aviator of fixed wing and helicopters and trained as a Ranger. He completed one tour of Korea and two in Vietnam. He joined the military after two years of college because he was uncertain as to where to focus, hoping the experience would give him clarity. He thought two years of service ought to do it. And he was right. The military afforded him the opportunity to serve and excel with distinction. No wonder he missed being a part of something bigger than himself.
Friend B.J. Hall knew a Dallas businessman who frequently flew his own helicopter to keep up with his many construction projects around the state. When Mark Jacobson heard about the mission, he didn’t hesitate to make his Robinson 44 craft available to the Army aviator.
All this came as a complete surprise to Oram, who thought he was just “talking out loud” while among friends. His wife, Sue, orchestrated a regular event of the occasion, setting up hot coffee and doughnuts at the Gun Barrel City Park Pavilion, along with photos and memorabilia from his military career. The volunteer fire department cleared the pad for the surprise flight, and Oram was taken out for breakfast with a drive through the park on the way back, where the whole neighborhood was assembled to greet him and watch his takeoff.
Unfamiliar with the controls of the small craft, it took a little while for him to achieve lift off. Oram said that while the adventure wasn’t even close to the five-crew member Chinook, “it was a lot of fun. And Sue really liked it.”
The most spectacular mission in Vietnam for the Chinook was the placing of artillery batteries in perilous mountain positions inaccessible by any other means, and then keeping them resupplied with large quantities of ammunition. As part of the 101st Airborne Division, Oram’s Chinook battalion would supply munitions to active combat zones and fly out the wounded. Chuck served midway through 1966 to 1967 with eight months stateside and back again for another year in 1968.
He and his crew rescued another Chinook crew that had been shot down in the An Lo Valley, and for that, Chuck was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism or extraordinary achievement during an aerial flight. He also received air medals for meritorious achievement during an aerial flight. One of these was performed by airlifting a plane from Savannah, Ga. to Atlanta for maintenance (see photograph).
As with any new piece of equipment, the Chinook’s introduction presented a major problem of “customer education”. Commanders and crew chiefs had to be constantly alert that eager soldiers did not overload the temptingly large cargo compartment. The Chinook soon proved to be such an invaluable aircraft for artillery movement and heavy logistics that it was seldom used as an assault troop carrier. Some of the Chinook fleet was used for casualty evacuation, and due to the very heavy demand for the helicopters, they were usually overburdened with wounded. Perhaps the most cost-effective use of the Chinook was the recovery of other downed aircraft.Oram was one of the older aviators during Vietnam being in his 30s, he said. After Vietnam, Oram continued his military career and completed his education with a degree in business from the University of Nebraska. In 1980, he was offered an assignment in Europe, which he declined for family priorities and took retirement, at age 46. He was recalled to active duty during the Iraq Operation Freedom to organize aviation maintenance for a year, then retired for the last time.
Afterward, Raytheon asked his assistance in developing a strategy to win some military contracts. He worked for the firm for a year and then retired to the lake, full time.
Though he and Sue have been very active in the POA over the years, these days Chuck focuses on his health with the three Bs: breathing deeply, balance and brain engagement. He works out at the gym four to five times a week.
He and wife Sue have been married for 61 years, produced two daughters and have five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. They have been residents of Cedar Creek Lake for 32 years.

Nov

08

Posted by : admin | On : November 8, 2017

Kenlie Alisabeth Pallett

Kaylee Dainelle Hall
The News Staff Reports
MABANK—The community of Cedar Creek Lake is in shock as the story of a mother who murdered her two daughters in the early morning hours of Nov. 2 continues to unfold.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the arrest of 29-year-old Sarah Nicole Henderson, who is charged with capital murder in the deaths of her two daughters Kaylee Danielle Hall, 7, and Kenlie Alisabeth Pallett, 5, both students of Southside Elementary School in Mabank.
According to Hillhouse, EMS contacted his office at 11:29 p.m. Wednesday night Nov. 1, asking for assistance with a possible suicidal female at a residence outside Payne Springs. The caller called again and said he no longer needed assistance, so EMS cancelled the call seven minutes later. Deputies were already enroute and arrived at the residence, at 11:45 p.m.
Hillhouse said a male and female told deputies they were fine and no one was in danger or jeopardy.
Nearly three hours later at 2:24 a.m., the last call came from Jake Henderson, whose call to 9-1-1. was tearful, “My wife just shot her kids.” He said he went to bed after everyone else had, or so he thought. The next thing he knew his wife was standing over him saying, “Babe, I just shot the kids.” In tapes of the 9-1-1 calls, Henderson can be heard in the background saying, “Babe, what have I done?”
Hillhouse reported the children were dead at the scene. “The family was asleep other than the mother is what we’re getting in the investigation,” Hillhouse said.
The Texas Rangers, Child Protective Services and the DA’s Office are assisting with the investigation. 173rd District Judge Dan Moore issued a search warrant for the residence. Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Kevin Pollock conducted the inquest and the bodies were transported to American Forensics in Dallas for examination. A firearm was recovered from the home.
Neighbors were questioned by investigators searching for a motive. Speculation was that the couple was having some financial difficulties and that she failed to get a job after an interview. Neighbors reported that Henderson had often spoken harshly to the children. A candlelight vigil was held at their school Nov. 2 as teachers, parents and students struggled to cope with the loss. Tearful parents and children were interviewed by television news reporters.
According to obituaries, Kaylee and Kenlie were inseparable; the two were sisters and best friends. They enjoyed dancing, swimming and riding their bicycles. Kaylee and Kenlie loved cheerleading and having their pictures taken and showing their beautiful smiles. They loved playing and spending time with their best friends Nadia, Katie and Alyiah.
Mabank ISD Superintendent Dr. Russell Marshall transferred all school counselors to Southside Thursday to lend support to staff and students. Substitute teachers were brought in to relieve staff members most closely affected by the deaths. “All campuses are pulling together to help. It’s what our school family does,” he said.
Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said in an interview, “Everybody wants to know why. I’d love to know why, but sometimes you never find the real reason why.”
Henderson confessed to the killing of her two daughters and is being held on a $2 million bond.
A GoFundMe page was created Nov. 2 under “Funeral funds for KayLee and Kenlie.” Funeral services were held Nov. 6, 2017 at Eubank Cedar Creek Memorial Chapel with a graveside service following at Eubank Cedar Creek Memorial Park. A candlelight service will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Gun Barrel City Park Pavilion for the two sisters.

Nov

02

Posted by : admin | On : November 2, 2017

The News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–On Thursday, Texas R-Congressman Jeb Hensarling announced he will not be seeking re-election.
“Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned,” Hensarling stated. “Throughout this time, my family has graciously sacrificed for my service. As the parents of two teenagers, Melissa and I know there are only a few years left before they leave and make their own way in life. I want to be there for those years. Since my term as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee comes to an end next year, the time seems right for my departure.”
He said that during the remaining 14 months of his term, he will continue the fight for individual liberty, free enterprise and limited constitutional government.
He expressed his appreciation and gratitude for the support he’s received and for “the trust you have placed in me to advance the principles we share.”
Also this week, in the state house Republican Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced he was not seeking re-election for the 2019 session, stopping one term short of setting a possible record as Speaker.
As late as last month (September), Straus was saying he would seek a record sixth term as speaker and that he wouldn’t be running for the House if that weren’t true.
In his statement, San Antonio Republican Straus acknowledged his decision was “unexpected.”
“It’s been decades since someone has left the Speaker’s office on his own terms,” Straus said. “But we have accomplished what I hoped the House would accomplish when I first entered this office, and I am increasingly eager to contribute to our state in new and different ways.”
“I believe that in a representative democracy, those who serve in public office should do so for a time, not for a lifetime. And so I want you to know that my family and I have decided that I will not run for re-election next year,” Straus said in a campaign email.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, called Straus’ decision a “political earthquake” and said dynamics at the Legislature will definitely shift without Straus at the helm of the House. The speaker was a relatively quiet leader for his first four terms in the job. He found his voice in 2017, pushing against social conservatives whose agenda – led by what became known as the “bathroom bill” – threatened his own desire to push economic development, infrastructure and other more or less bipartisan ideas.
State house Speaker Straus’ announcement set into motion speculation about the future of Straus’ top lieutenants. One of his closest allies, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, who is chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, said in a statement first reported by Quorum Report that he “will pursue other opportunities to serve our great state.”
Arch-conservative members who have opposed Straus face off against more centrist Republicans. Within hours of Straus’ announcement, one of his top lieutenants, Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, announced that he had filed to run for the speaker’s post. State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, had previously announced his candidacy, and others are expected to jump in.
Tea Party leaders and their allies have blamed Straus for killing controversial measures backed by the far right, most notably a bill that would have regulated which bathrooms transgender Texans could use.
Speaking with reporters after the announcement inside his office, Straus said he finally took the advice he always gives members: After any session, go home and talk to your constituents and family, and then make a decision about whether to run again.
“A confident leader knows it’s time to give it back,” Straus said.
No longer serving as speaker would allow a “greater opportunity to express my own views and priorities,” Straus said, adding that he would “continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of pulling us apart.”
“Our party should be dynamic and forward-thinking, and it should appeal to our diverse population with an optimistic vision that embraces the future,” Straus said in the campaign email. “I plan to be a voice for Texans who want a more constructive and unifying approach to our challenges, from the White House on down.”

Oct

26

Posted by : admin | On : October 26, 2017

Richard Brashear
Tonia Speer
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–An alleged methamphetamine dealer and customer were booked early Oct. 19 according to Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse. Both were charged with drug possession; the subject of the investigation was also caught in possession of a firearm she is barred from possessing.
Tonia Speer, 49, was found with a substantial amount of meth packaged and ready for distribution when a seven-member team from the Sheriff’s Office descended on her Ravenwood Road residence, in the Westwood Beach subdivision south of Chandler.
Having pleaded guilty to a felony drug possession charge in 2014, Speer lost her rights to possess a firearm, which investigators found at her residence.
She has been charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance greater than 1 gram and less than 4 grams and for illegal possession of a firearm. She is being held at the Henderson County Jail on bonds totaling $18,500.
If found guilty of the second-degree felony drug charge, she will face up to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a fine of up to $10,000. For the third-degree illegal possession of a firearm charge, she will face up to 10 years in prison and another fine of up to $10,000.
Richard Brashear, 42, was also at the residence and was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance up to 1 gram, for which he can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and ordered to pay up to $10,000.
Investigator Ray Yockey obtained the search warrant from Henderson County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Tony Duncan, Hillhouse said. “People in Chandler have told us they want this crime and these folks out of their neighborhoods. That is exactly what we are doing.”
Narcotics Investigators Josh Rickman and Brad Beddingfield, David Faught and Megan Hogan assisted along with deputies Russell Wesson and Johnathan Daille.

Oct

19

Posted by : admin | On : October 19, 2017

Lone Star Republican Women President Carol Morton (left) stands with Texas District 3 Senator Robert Nichols at the Sept. 12 meeting. Nichols was the guest speaker.

Lone Star Republican Women President Carol Morton (left) stands with Texas District 3 Senator Robert Nichols at the Sept. 12 meeting. Nichols was the guest speaker.


By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Lone Star Republican Women’s Club of Henderson County hosted Texas District 3 Senator Robert Nichols at their Oct. 12 general meeting. Senator Nichols has represented District 3 and its 19 counties since 2007. Nichols serves as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and serves on the Finance Administration and Business and Commerce Committees. He is a member of the Legislative Audit Committee and is serving his second term on the Sunset Advisory Commission.
Nichols congratulated the club on its work and influence saying, “Wherever there is a Republican Women’s Club, most of the elected officials are Republicans. You must never underestimate your effect on politics. You provide a valuable forum for our message.”
Nichols told the group that this was a tight budget year and that revenues had dropped due to the drop in the price of oil and gas. “The next session will be tight also with all the recovery from the hurricanes.”
Nichols said 11 of the 19 counties he represents were declared disaster areas during the recent hurricanes with seven having been underwater. “In Orange County alone, 26,000 of 40,000 homes were flooded. We toured the area and the debris field is expansive. It is everywhere. It is very hard on those residents.”
Nichols praised Governor Abbott as being proactive with the recovery. “He didn’t wait until he was called. He went down there and not for pictures, he went to work with the mayors to get things done.”
Nichols pointed to several accomplishments during this past legislative session. One was the appropriation of $300 million to fix the state mental hospital situation and build modern facilities. Many people in jails are there because the state mental hospitals are full, Nichols said.
Another win he pointed to was legislation aimed to help Child Protective Services, giving them their own board, taking them out from under Health and Human Services and enabling them to contract with non-profit agencies to help the children.
Economic development in the state has allowed our nation to begin exporting natural gas and also exporting the by-product which is plastics, Nichols told the group. Transportation funding is being directed to rural roads where safety is paramount. “In automobile deaths, statistics show two-thirds of them are on rural roads.”
Nichols met with every school superintendent in his area before the session to see what could be fixed. The result was a change in the funding formula that was created in the 1970s to force small rural school districts to consolidate. During the special session, some of that was reversed, phased in over the next five years which is expected to return up to several million dollars to county schools over the next five years.
Other achievements Nichols pointed out were the reduction of the license to carry fees dropped from $140 to $40, providing bullet-proof vests for law enforcement and prohibiting partial birth abortions.