Priority legislation filed in the Texas Senate on Thursday would provide a desperately needed boost to the Texas economy and remove barriers that are hampering businesses as they struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filed by Sen. Brandon Creighton, Senate Bill 14 would ensure regulatory consistency by preventing cities and counties from putting local mandates on private-sector employment benefits and policies. By reducing local regulations on private-sector employers, the legislation — known as the Business Freedom and Uniformity Act — would accelerate the recovery of the Texas economy from what has been a very difficult year. It would also help more of the businesses that Texas communities know and trust continue to stay open, despite the many challenges presented by the prolonged pandemic and the punishing winter storm that hit Texas in February.
“Texas businesses are foundational to their communities and the state, but many have closed or are barely hanging on,” said Annie Spilman, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas (ASSET). “All Texans have a stake in the success of businesses in their communities, and legislators can either make it easier for businesses to stay open and fully recover, or they can make it more difficult. We are grateful to Senator Creighton for filing this needed bill.”
Employees and employers continue to suffer from a Texas economy that is struggling to recover. The Texas unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in December, which was more than twice the rate from December 2019. And in a Dallas Fed survey of business executives earlier this month, 47 percent of respondents said they had fewer employees than a year earlier.
Further, in a fall 2020 survey conducted by ASSET and other Texas business groups, more than half of respondents said reduced access to customers due to government regulations was a major or moderate concern.
“Our Texas economy is resilient, but we are not out of the woods by any means,” Spilman said. “Throughout Texas, economic activity is down and unemployment is up. Heavy-handed and inconsistent regulations stifle the day-to-day actions and activities that allow employers to keep their doors open, maintain jobs, and support their communities.”
Leaders from a number of key industries applauded Senator Creighton’s bill.
“Businesses that are still hanging on need our local and state government leaders to work with us to figure out how to help us survive. The one thing a business like mine cannot have is government doing anything that will increase our costs or difficulty in operating,” said Davis Phillips of San Antonio, President and CEO of Phillips Entertainment, Inc. and Action Attractions, LLC, as well as a member of the Texas Travel Alliance. “It is already as difficult as I have ever seen it without further regulatory burden driving operational costs higher.”
Skeeter Miller, owner of The County Line BBQ, added, “Our business has been in operation since 1975, but this past year tested us like no other, requiring us to use every tool available to adapt and keep our doors open. Restaurants like ours need to stabilize and rebuild for the sake of our employees and communities, but that’s next to impossible when the rules are constantly changing in a state as large as Texas. SB 14 addresses that problem, giving us the regulatory consistency and predictability that we need to recover from this pandemic and grow Texas’ economy.”
“The bottom line is I don’t need the city running my business,” said Bill Long of Gardens At The Ridge, a nursery in Kerrville. “Trying to run a retail nursery operation under a patchwork of city employment mandates only hurts small business. It makes compliance a nightmare. Texas must be a place where small businesses can grow and to do that, we need predictable, statewide common-sense regulations.”
The Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas (ASSET) is a 501(c)(4), non-profit organization that advances policies that foster economic growth and allow the free market to operate without heavy government interference in business decisions. ASSET represents millions of businesses that provide opportunities for employees and are essential to Texas communities. For more information, visit www.ASSETtexas.com.