The Texas House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development held its second meeting Monday morning, hearing public testimony and taking into consideration several bills that would implement job-killing mandates on the backs of Texas businesses.

The majority of the focus centered on three items of legislation, House Bills 194, 290, and 393, all authored by House Democrats, which would place government squarely between businesses and job seekers.

As expected, special interest groups, labor unions, and various lobbyists groups came and testified in favor of measures that would further tie the hands of job creators and entrepreneurs in the state.

House Bill 393, authored by State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D–El Paso), would prevent job creators from inquiring about potential hires’ previous compensation history, inserting government into the negotiations which occur in the hiring process.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds (D–Missouri City) authored HB 194 which would raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour from its current government-controlled level of $7.25 an hour.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D–Houston) authored HB 290 which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, phasing in incremental increases of $1 every two years.  That’s $8.25 an hour for calendar years 2020 and 2021, $9.25 for calendar years 2022 and 2023, and $10.10 an hour in 2024 and thereafter.

Testimony provided on HB 290 suggested that the Democrat talking point of a “living wage” ranges anywhere from $9.00 an hour to $13.99 an hour, further demonstrating the arbitrary nature of Democrats’ demand for increased wages for unskilled labor via mandates on business.

Thompson told Texas Scorecard that deciding what level to set the wage at is difficult because the “living wage” varies in each local city or municipality; she said that setting it at a level that would work in places with a higher cost of living, like Austin, helped her decide what level to choose for her legislation.

When asked about the phase-in period found in her bill but absent from Reynolds’ bill, Thompson conceded that she does have some concern about the effects her bill will have on businesses.

“It is a consideration for businesses. They’re the ones that are going to have to pay the tab. If we are going to have them pay a higher minimum wage, we ought to have a phase-in period, and not hit them all at one time with the amount of money that we want them to pay. So, it’s a phase-in period, a five-year period to get to $10.10 an hour.”

A spokesman for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a George Soros-funded progressive policy think tank and activist organization, took a more direct position in opposition to businesses. He testified in support of both bills saying, “We pass laws that put mandates on businesses all the time … that’s the role of government.”

Vice-chairman John Frullo (R–Lubbock) and Republican State Reps. Briscoe Cain (Deer Park) and John Raney (College Station) inquired about the possibility of businesses being forced to invest in capital and technology, as opposed to investing in labor or job creation under proposals like those being offered up for consideration.

The National Federation of Independent Business registered and testified in opposition to both wage mandate bills. Representing the small business group was Annie Spilman, the organization’s Texas director. Cain asked Spilman about members of their organization who conduct their business in parts of the country where similar measures had been adopted. Spilman testified that, in many cases, businesses either drastically reduced investments in human resources or were forced to close their doors entirely. Spilman said that dictates from government on businesses, such as the ones proposed in the legislation before the committee on Monday, often resulted in the destruction of jobs and the closure of businesses in parts of the country that have implemented them.

All three of the bills were left pending in the committee.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.

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