There are only 66 days left of the 87th Texas Legislative Session, and your Chamber is hard at work. This week, Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez testified in support of SB 6 – the Pandemic Liability Protection and SB 14 – the Business Freedom and Uniformity Act. The COVID-19 pandemic presented devastating public health and economic challenges for the San Antonio region. Businesses are still struggling to navigate the financial and operational challenges of the pandemic, while addressing the needs of their employees, customers, and suppliers. While the development and distribution of vaccines gives new hope for a future free of the crushing social and economic effects of the vires, the threat of litigation continues to loom. The growing risk of opportunistic lawsuits against businesses, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations pose a significant barrier in our ability to reignite our economy, get people back to work, protect those already back at work and get students back to school. COVID-19-related lawsuits and their consequent exorbitant legal costs could deter entities from reopening and could ultimately cripple businesses, education institutions, and non-profit organization both large and small. The Chamber believes Senate Bill 6 will ensure that unfair lawsuits will not hamper those who work to comply with applicable government guidelines, and we ask our elected leaders to help us recover from these trying times and to vote YES on Senate Bill 6.
One of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities each Session is ensuring the State Legislature protects the rights of private employers. The Chamber strongly reaffirms the rights of private employers to determine the best and most efficient way to operate a successful business, while remaining competitive in attracting and retaining a talented workforce. This is even more important as our business community begins to recover from the pandemic and as we assess what the real effects of COVID-19 have been on our businesses and our community. The Chamber believes Senate Bill 14 will provide needed stability for Texas employers by preventing local governments from imposing burdensome and inconsistent mandates on private-sector employment practices, such as hiring, scheduling, benefits, and wages. Businesses know how to best run their operations, and they fully understand that a high-quality compensation package makes them competitive when trying to recruit and retain high-quality employees. For these reasons, we believe private businesses alone should determine the right mix of pay and benefits that they offer to their employees. That is why we ask our legislators to vote YES on SB 14.
Additionally, the Chamber supports legislation and/or regulatory actions that would protect the authority of municipalities and local government entities to address the unique needs of their communities. On behalf of the community we are privileged to serve, we oppose HB 749, its companion, SB 234, and any legislation that would limit the City’s ability to advocate in the interest and for the benefit of the people of San Antonio and the Bexar County region.
Finally, the Chamber supports reauthorization of The Texas Economic Development Act, commonly known as Chapter 313 with two changes. Chapter 313 is a proven economic development tool that allows for agreements on taxable value limitations between school districts in Texas and eligible businesses meeting certain investment and job creation criteria, for a 10-year period. A 2021 report issued by the Texas Comptroller cites that the 509 current and executed Chapter 313 agreements have leveraged an estimated gross tax benefit of $10.8 billion in order to achieve an estimated business investment in Texas of $217 billion. Despite Chapter 313’s success, it needs to be updated. The Chamber is asking legislators to retain renewable energy projects as part of Chapter 313, because new investment in Texas business is good for the state. The Chamber is also recommending removal of revenue protection payments and costly consultant fees so Texas can stay apace with other states in attracting new businesses. With changes to the school finance system in 2019, the need to protect school districts against prior year losses with revenue protection payments no longer exists.
It is only the beginning of the Texas legislative session and VIVA San Antonio is right around the corner next week. The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce continues to advocate for our business community by addressing the most important business-related issues with the state legislature.