By Chris Edwards
AUSTIN – One tradition that comes after the conclusion of a legislative year in Texas is the lists of the best and worst state legislators from Texas Monthly magazine. The magazine has been doing this since its inception in 1973.
Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) who represents Senate District 3 in the state’s upper chamber, was named to the magazine’s 10 Best Legislators list in its July issue, making it his second appearance on the list. He also received the honor in 2017.
The profile of Nichols in the magazine began with a nod to Nichols’s often against-the-grain philosophy regarding his party affiliation; noting that Nichols has long opposed creating a school voucher system, which was one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s primary goals going into the 88th Legislature.
The profile also highlighted Nichols’s stance as one of the few Republican lawmakers in Austin who support adding an exception for rape to the state’s existent abortion ban, as well as his support for raising the legal age of purchase for certain semiautomatic weapons to 21.
The article states that “When a state’s priorities are set by a small but vocal minority, standing up for broadly popular policies counts for real courage,” referencing Nichols’s stances.
Despite differences of opinion with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, namely on the voucher system issue, Nichols has appeared to maintain a relationship with Patrick, the article states, and got several bills passed during the regular session.
It notes how Nichols’s greatest accomplishment during the session was to make Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches a part of the University of Texas system, which will provide the now-100-year-old venerated East Texas institution with a needed infusion of energy and funding.
The profile also quotes an unnamed Capitol insider who noted Nichols’s effective representation of his vast East Texan district despite “the political hostile work environment created by Dan Patrick.”
In the feature, the writers prefaced the best and worst lists with a re-cap of the regular session; that “transformational opportunities” for the state were on the table, but “petty intrigues” prevented many opportunities from seeing legislative action.
Nichols was not the only East Texan statesman to make the best-of list. House of Representatives member Ernest Bailes, who represents House District 18, was also named to the list.