Known as a formidable champion for San Antonio, Speaker of the House Joe Straus addressed a packed and energized room of more than 400 influential community and business leaders. Due to the record-breaking number of attendees, we streamed the luncheon via Facebook Live where nearly 250 people tuned in to watch.
The Chamber surprised the Speaker with a video featuring key business leaders across the city thanking him for his leadership and support during this legislative session. Enthusiastic attendees greeted the Speaker with a long and welcoming standing ovation as he took the stage.
Speaker Straus began his remarks by thanking members of the Bexar County delegation and recognized them as a “group that gets things done.” He acknowledged Representative Lyle Larson for his work on important water issues, and Representative Ina Minjarez and Senator Jose Menendez for their leadership in passing David’s Law, the cyberbullying law named after the late Alamo Heights student David Molak. Chairman Gutierrez was recognized for his work on protecting military bases, and all the freshman members were acknowledged for their positive contributions this past session.
The Speaker highlighted some of the key accomplishments this session that were overlooked, including improvements in mental health care, child protection services, and foster care, as well as protecting colleges and universities from major budget cuts. By avoiding these detrimental cuts, universities like UTSA and Texas A&M will be able to grow and educate more students. Each of these improvements will help make a difference here in San Antonio and across the state.
Straus used his time to recognize and thank the first responders, armed services and volunteers who went into the floodwaters to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. “Help wasn’t bound by city limits,” Straus claimed, and then he thanked Mayor Nirenberg and Judge Nelson Wolff for “making San Antonio a hub of compassion and charity” to help fellow Texans in need. Straus hopes that Harvey will demonstrate to state leaders the need to work with local elected officials and come together on the important issues facing our state. In the coming days, he will be ordering House committees to review and look at the long-term needs after Harvey.
The failure of legislative efforts to pass the so-called bathroom bill was attributed by our Speaker to the strong opposition from the business community and the community overall. Straus drew a standing ovation when he mentioned, “Texas rejected name-calling and scare tactics, and as a result, we avoided a major mistake that would have cost our economy greatly and divided us unnecessarily.” He encouraged business leaders to continue to fight to keep Texas open for business, and he assured the audience that he remains optimistic about the future.
Straus concluded his remarks with a message of unity and urged our state leaders to focus on issues that matter to Texans and form a foundation for economic growth. “Public schools are the best economic development tool we have,” he said, and he encouraged business leaders to be at the forefront of school finance reform during the interim and next legislative session.
Following the luncheon, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Perez said, “Speaker Straus’ message was powerful and right on the mark. Texas businesses must indeed be the drivers of the Texas state legislative agenda. Without the business voice, the agenda is nothing more than words.”
The enthusiastic and supportive crowd of business and community leaders who attended this event was a true reflection of what Speaker Straus means to San Antonio and the appreciation the business community has for his leadership. The Speaker was extremely grateful for the warm welcome and kinds words he received from the audience.
The luncheon was broadcast live on the Chamber’s Facebook page. Click here to access the video.