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Texas Association of Business bills itself as “the voice on public policy issues affecting Texas business.” Think they’re for low taxes and a predictable regulatory climate? Think again. Recent revelations about the organization expose it as a tool of the radical left.
Recently, Texas Scorecard unearthed internal documents showing that the formerly pro-business Texas Association of Business was shilling for national LGBT groups, receiving an overwhelming majority of its campaign funds from those organizations.
In November, TAB decided to replicate the actions of imitation-conservative groups to sow confusion and taint the legitimacy of other grassroots legislative “scorecards” such as the Fiscal Responsibility Index issued by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Right to Life’s Pro-Life Scorecard, and Young Conservatives of Texas’ Legislative Ratings. TAB did so by releasing their For the Record report, claiming to be “an accurate measurement of lawmakers’ attitudes toward business.”
Texas Scorecard previously reported on the farce that is TAB’s scorecard and its designation “Champion of Free Enterprise,” awarded to top scoring lawmakers. High on the list of absurdities is the fact that Rio Grande Valley Democrat Rep. Oscar Longoria received TAB’s top score despite his abysmal “F” rating and grade of 30 in the Fiscal Responsibility Index.
Likewise, it makes no sense for conservative members with demonstrable careers advancing pro-business policies (less regulation, free-markets, and low taxation) to receive failing grades from the group that fashions itself the voice of business.
So what gives? A closer look at the votes TAB used to compile its scorecard shows they included multiple bills bearing almost no nexus to improving the business climate in Texas. With the report, TAB demonstrates a fundamentally flawed understanding of what truly is in the interest of most Texas businesses.
I. TAB’s HOUSE VOTES
Transportation Network Companies – HB 100
Texas Association of Business Reasoning: This bill creates comprehensive, statewide regulations for transportation network companies, unifying the patchwork rules currently in place across 19 Texas cities. Uniform regulation offers consumer protections, provides a stable regulatory framework, eliminates conflicting local regulations, and encourages economic development and significant new job opportunities.
The vote occurred on passage to third reading. A vote for HB 100 was a vote with TAB. HB 100 passed and was signed by the Governor.
Empower Texans Comment: While the return of favorite rideshare companies Lyft and Uber to Austin was a conservative victory, HB 100 was a mixed bag. Preemption of local regulations meant there would no longer be a patchwork of rules, but the bill did so in a ham-fisted way, including new permits, fees, and other state-imposed regulations, such as prohibiting TNC drivers from soliciting offline fares, vehicle requirements, and barring the right to refuse service.
 
Recruit Texas Program – HB 108
TAB: This bill amends the Labor Code to authorize the Texas Workforce Commission to use the skills development fund to facilitate the relocation to or expansion in this state of employers offering complex or high-skilled employment opportunities.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote for HB 108 was a vote with TAB. HB 108 passed and was signed by the Governor.
ET: This bill would benefit certain businesses at the expense of others. Among the changes brought by HB 108 was expanding authorized uses of a dedicated state fund to include “support services for employers expanding in or relocating … to this state.” Allowing TWC to use state funds to target certain employers with assistance in workforce training means that fewer resources are allocated for existing Texas businesses and bears too much resemblance to crony corporatism.
 
Raise-the-Age – HB 122
TAB: HB 122 would have raised the age of criminal responsibility in Texas to age 18 from age 17 while giving a judge discretion to transfer a younger person to an adult prison on a case-by-case basis. Studies have shown locking up 17-year-olds with older prisoners increases the likelihood they will re-offend. Ninety-six percent of 17 year olds are convicted with nonviolent crimes and are saddled with a permanent record. Forty-one other states treat those younger than 18 as juveniles.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote for HB 122 was a vote with TAB. HB 122 passed the House but died in the Senate.
 ET: Notwithstanding the merits of raising the age of criminal responsibility, the notion of this reform having anything to do with Texas maintaining a business-friendly climate is highly suspect.
 
Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Program – HB 1515
TAB: The Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Program is an industry supported and funded program that provides for the remediation of soil and groundwater contamination from releases of dry-cleaning solvents. This bill would have extended the program beyond its current expiration date of 2021. Continuation of the program is necessary to ensure that all contaminated sites are remediated and that funding for future releases, provided by the industry, continues to be made available to protect public groundwater resources.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote for HB 1515 was a vote with TAB. HB 1515 passed the House but died in the Senate.
ET:  This more closely resembles an environmental policy than a pro-business one. The justification for extending this program, which taxes dry cleaning businesses that exercise responsible disposal of toxic chemicals, is that it’s required to generate the funds required to clean up contaminated sites and reduce the use of perchloroethylene. To the contrary, businesses that avoid dumping chemicals in good-faith should not be punished by the bad actions of others. Additionally, a number of new garment-care processes exist that are eco-friendly. TABs assumption that the program is what’s driving their adoption is baseless.
 
Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs) – HB 2861
TAB: This bill would have continued and expanded the use of CDAs to build transportation projects across the state. Increasing transportation investment is absolutely essential to the support of the Texas economy. TAB supports the use of CDAs to maximize transportation funding by supplementing state funds with private sector investments.
The vote occurred on passage to third reading. A vote for HB 2861 was a vote with TAB. The vote failed on passage to third reading so the bill died. 
ET: CDAs have come under fire from conservatives for their mixed public & private nature and because they are the contracts under which Texas toll roads operate. Because of the latitude granted to private partners, these unelected and unaccountable entities are allowed to manipulate tolled/non-tolled speed limits, and such agreements often feature non-compete clauses that are monopolistic, preventing the expansion of free routes. Additionally, details of the agreements are kept secret from the public, with the taxpayer often subsidizing or guaranteeing private loans. A true pro-business approach would not subject consumers and businesses to higher state taxes in order to subsidize private road investment.
 
Freestanding ER Transparency – HB 3276
TAB: This bill requires freestanding emergency rooms to post notice of health benefit plan provider network status. This is an important step to greater transparency at freestanding ERs and will help ensure consumers receive adequate information to make informed health care decisions for them and their families. Texas has more than half of the Freestanding ERs in the country and many consumers are unaware that these facilities are often out-of-network, resulting in surprise medical bills.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote for HB 3276 was a vote with TAB. HB 3276 passed and was signed by the Governor.
ET: It’s unclear when increasing regulations on businesses became a “pro-business stance,” but most pro-market observers would agree that creating another mandate for the delivery of health care adds to current issues of affordability. Creating red-tape for entities currently existing without it is directly opposed to the pro-business “Texas Model” of low tax and regulation.
 
Major Events Reimbursement Program for NASCAR – HB 3294
TAB: This bill makes major NASCAR events eligible for funding under the major events reimbursement program in the same way as the Superbowl, NCAA championship, or other major national event that will significantly benefit the Texas economy.
The vote occurred on the motion to concur with senate amendments. A vote for the motion was a vote with TAB. HB 3294 passed and was filed without the Governor’s signature.
ET: Quite frankly, the Major Events Reimbursement Program is a slush fund, created to dole out state funds to favored businesses, picking winners and losers, while putting other Texas businesses at a disadvantage. Adding to the list of qualified recipients may be favorable to NASCAR (in this case), but the broader Texas business sector will see either very little or (more likely) no benefit. Often, these events are coming to the state even without the taxpayer handout.
 
Sanctuary Cities – SB 4
TAB: This bill regulates how law enforcement interacts with Texas’ potential undocumented population. TAB’s issue was with a provision that was in the original bill, then stripped out in the House committee, and later added back on the House floor, also known as the “show me your papers” amendment. This provision directs officers to inquire about legal status at the point of detainment instead of arrest. It expanded the bill beyond its intent of safety and potentially creates a climate for discriminatory behavior and most likely could negatively impact safety of our citizens by discouraging the reporting of crimes and creating distrust for law enforcement within the undocumented population.
The vote occurred on passage to third reading. A vote against SB 4 was a vote with TAB. SB 4 passed and was signed by the Governor.
ET: TAB believes that sanctuary city policies that allow liberal cities to harbor illegal aliens are in the best interest of Texas businesses and scored the vote on the bill to ban sanctuary cities negatively. TAB also misrepresents the content of the bill. To claim it “directs officers to inquire about legal status at the point of detainment” is a complete mischaracterization and intellectually dishonest. The bill simply prohibits certain entities from materially limiting law enforcement’s ability to inquire. It expressly prohibits them from doing so when a crime is being reported, and contains an express clause prohibiting racial profiling. Lastly, it creates a new presumption that an individual with a driver’s license is here legally.
You can infer from SB4’s inclusion that TAB sought to sink the scores of conservatives and boost liberal lawmakers. Any connection between this policy and improving Texas’ business environment is remarkably disingenuous, and well below tens or hundreds of pro-business bills filed during session.
 
Balance Billing Reform – SB 507
TAB: This bill protects consumers from “balance bill shock” by expanding the current mediation statute to include all out-of-network hospital-based providers and freestanding ERs. Surprise medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy and bad credit ratings; many of these are a direct result of balance billing. Balance billing occurs when a consumer receives out-of-network services and is directly billed by the provider for the balance of what the health plan did not pay. This commonly happens when the consumer or employee goes to an in-network hospital, yet the doctor providing care is out-of-network. Another common cause of surprise bills are freestanding ERs, which look like urgent care centers but may charge much more. These surprise medical bills not only create financial insecurity for the consumer but drive up health care costs to the employer.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote for SB 507 was a vote with TAB. SB 507 passed and was signed by the Governor.
ET: One of the well-recognized drivers of increased health care costs is overregulation of the health insurance and healthcare industries. So it would be hard to imagine that expanding regulation on businesses would lead to a healthier business environment. Lack of transparent billing and prices is a symptom of bad policy, and doubling down cannot – and should not – be considered a pro-business priority. These types of “consumer protection” often crowd out organic behavior-correcting mechanisms provided by the market.
 
II. TAB’s SENATE VOTES
Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) Reform – SB 26
TAB: This bill would have extended the TERP program until the state achieves attainment of federal ozone standards. It also would have made much-needed improvements to the TERP program by focusing on the most cost-effective uses of the funds, granting needed flexibility to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in allocating funds, and improving the agency’s ability to assess the impacts of foreign pollution and ensure continued opportunities for capital investment and job growth in the state’s ozone nonattainment areas.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote for SB 26 was a vote with TAB. SB 26 passed the Senate but died in the House; however, portions of the legislation passed in SB 1731, which was signed by the Governor.
ET: TAB is claiming here that state investment and jobs and alternative fuel subsidies in “state ozone nonattainment areas” justify the confiscation and application of taxpayer resources to environmental crusades outlined by EPA bureaucrats. While residents in these high-ozone and pollution areas should demand better practices from local authorities, it is not the responsibility of the state, through application of federal regulations, to continue mitigating an issue of mostly local importance (only two metro areas of non-attainment for ozone exist in Texas: Houston and Dallas).
Additionally, scientists from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including its Director of Toxicology, say A) that lower standards would have no public health benefit and B) the cost to the economy and jobs of meeting a new lower standard was unjustified. According to EPA’s own modeling, the new lower standard is predicted to correspond to an increase in premature deaths in Houston, indicating flaws and the duplicity of wasting state resources on this issue. What’s clear is that this is not a pressing issue for Texas businesses, but rather a boon to select industries poised to drag all other boats down.
 
Entities Subject to the Public Information Act – SB 408
TAB: This bill would have unnecessarily burdened chambers of commerce and economic development corporations (EDCs) and placed those chambers and EDCs at a disadvantage during the negations with economic development prospects hopefully bringing infrastructure investment and jobs to a local area. This bill would have imposed governmental body status on one of these entities if they enter into a contract with a governmental body that involves public funds. While government transparency and access to public information is important, these bills went too far and unnecessarily restricted the ability of chambers of commerce and EDCs to conduct their programs efficiently and effectively.
The vote occurred on third reading and final passage. A vote against SB 408 was a vote with TAB. SB 408 passed the Senate but died in the House.
ET: TAB is accurate when it uses “hope” in conjunction with EDC track records for bringing business to their areas. Most of the tax dollars spend on “economic development” are squandered on incentives for businesses that already decided where they plan to (re)locate, while many EDC employees enjoy lavish trips, conferences, and entertainment on the taxpayers’ dime with no justifiable results.
SB 408 simply sought to shine light on dealings involving taxpayer funds, not “burden chambers of commerce or EDCs.” The bill was narrowly tailored to apply the necessary transparency via the Public Information law only to entities spending significant amounts of public funds, or which contract to perform services traditionally performed by the government. This original interpretation of Public Information Act rules had been in place over a decade and the bill received bipartisan support, passing the Senate 28-3.
 
Discriminatory Legislation – SB 3 (First Called Special Session)
TAB: This bill would have required people to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms corresponding with “biological sex” in public schools and/or government buildings. TAB and the Keep Texas Open for Business Coalition opposed this legislation because it could hinder our members’ ability to attract, recruit, and retain top talent and would tarnish Texas’ reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families.
The vote occurred on passage to third reading. A vote against SB 3 was a vote with TAB. SB 3 passed the Senate but died in the House.
ET: Crafting good public policy relies on more than “Maybes” and “Coulds.” The myth of the destruction that was predicted to sweep through the Texas economy with the passage of the Texas Privacy Act (SB 3) was based on half-truths, conflations, and ultimately was debunked.
What is evident is that TAB has become a proxy for dressing corporate welfare, amnesty, and leftist social policies with a “business” veneer. As mentioned earlier, TAB received a substantial sum ($130,000 of its $200,000 campaign budget) from national LGBT groups including the Gill Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign.
 
III. WHAT’S MISSING?
No legislation related to reforming the property tax or appraisal system was included in TAB’s legislative ratings. Doing so would have hurt Democrats and liberal Republicans, and helped conservative lawmakers in both the Senate and House.
SB 1, 85(1), Amd 1 – Lowering Rollback Rate from 6% to 4%
Reducing the annual rate that local taxing entities can increase property tax burdens, without any approval of taxpayers, is an issue that directly impacts businesses. Lowering the rollback rate would have slowed the growth of tax increases.
SB 1, 85(1), Motion to Call Previous Question – Cutting Off Debate on Pro-Taxpayer Amendments to Property Tax Reform Bill
The House refused to allow further debate on the property tax issue late in the special session, in defiance of Gov. Abbott, and later killed the weakened bill altogether.
Record Vote 88 – Fast-Tracking Minimum Wage Increase Through Committee Process
Economist have held for decades that minimum wage laws distort wage prices and adversely affect businesses, consumers, and destroy low-skill jobs
HB 486 – Allowing Certain School Districts Greater Flexibility to Raise Taxes
Higher property taxes burden businesses and individuals alike. Making it easier for taxing entities to raise taxes is an easily identifiable issue for all Texas businesses.
HB 10 – Mental Health Insurance Mandate
Voting against new insurance mandates and promoting market solutions are actual pro-business positions
HB 100, Amd 3 – Striking Rideshare Regulations for Free Market Solution
The most pro-business solution that would thrust Texas onto the cutting edge of ridesharing would have been to liberate TNCs and cab companies alike from burdensome regulation.
HB 1260, Amd 1 – Removing Licensing Requirement for Shrimp Boat Unloading
HB 490 – Creating New Hearing Aid/Implant Insurance Mandate
HB 3329 – Prohibiting Local Fees on Electricians
HB 3360 – Property Tax Incentive Promotion by Incentive Oversight Board
HB 1449 – Prohibiting Local Gov’t From Imposing Certain Fees on New Construction
SB 1003 – Removing Lifeline Service Mandate on Telecom Companies
HB 1917 – Mandating Vendor Drug Program; Increasing Rx Prices
HB 3172 – Creating a State Economic Development Handout Application System
HB 3664 – Creating Texas Wine Assessment Program and Board
HB 2664 – Expanding Federal Nutrition Standards to Daycare Providers
HB 1290 – Requiring State Agencies Repeal One Rule for Each Adopted
HB 3287, Amd 3 – Allowing Breweries to Sell for Off-Premise Consumption
HB 3287, Amd 6 – Requiring Beer Distributors Only Charge for Verifiable Costs to Brewers
HB 3287 – Creating Additional Regulations, Mandates, and Restrictions on Alcohol Production/Sales
HB 1300 – Expanding Hotel Occupancy Tax to Short-Term Rentals
SB 586 – Extension of Rural & Small Telecom Subsidies
SB 312 – Increasing Amount of Contracting with “Underutilized Businesses”
SB 975 – Burdening Private Rail with Security Regulations
SB 654 – Expanding Allowable Practice Areas for Advance Practice Nurses
HB 208, 85(1), Point of Order – Upholding Ruling by Chair; Killing State Spending Limit
 
 

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