The Belton Area Chamber of Commerce joined the Temple Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce in hosting a legislative update luncheon at the Bell County Expo Center Tuesday afternoon.

Local businesses and representatives from the different Chambers of Commerce in Bell County heard from Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business, about TAB’s legislative priorities and successes from the 2019 Texas legislative session.

State Representatives Hugh Shine (District 55) and Brad Buckley (District 54) also attended the luncheon. Shine led the crowd in prayer before the meal, while Buckley led with the pledges to the American and Texan flags.

The Texas Association of Business the largest business association in Texas and represents more than 2,800 businesses, from large corporations to small businesses. It was created in 1922, and it acts as the State Chamber of Commerce, with over 200 different chambers, according to Moseley.

“We covet and we really are proud of the fact that we are the State Chamber of Commerce, and we have a very close affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a result of that,” Moseley said. “So, if you really want to know where we stand on philosophy or politics, Google the U.S. Chamber, and that’s our North Star.”

The organization’s focus is to advocate for a pro-business environment.

“We’re excited about all the new people that are coming to Texas moving here and bringing their opportunity, but we also want to make sure that they remember that the Texas miracle was not some kind of a cosmic accident, that there was a lot of wisdom that went into putting a set of laws into place by legislature and signed by the Governor into law to promote a very pro-business livelihood, and some of our new Texans perhaps don’t always appreciate all the hard work that went into giving us this wonderful infrstructure where we’ve been such a strong producer of jobs,” Moseley said.

One of TAB’s advocacy platforms includes TXBiz Votes, which is a website that provides voters in Texas can research to find out more on where candidates and elected officials stand on issues important to Texas employees, industry sectors, and consumers. Employers are encouraged to have their employees visit the website to learn about what candidates are best for business.

TAB also has staff members and consultants who will go to Austin and work with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate and lobby for amendments to bills that support businesses.

TAB has committees that bring forth policy recommendations. In September, those recommendations are forwarded to the State Affairs or Federal Affairs committees and their recommendations then go to the board of directors in October where members will vote yes or no on TAB’s priorities for the legislative session.

One of those priorities this past legislative session was tort reform.

“There were times in our state’s history where in regions of the state, where you couldn’t find a doctor to deliver a baby because there was a kind of a need for a serious tort reform,” Moseley said.

TAB worked alongside Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) and other groups to help lawmakers achieve tort reform.

Some of the legislation dealing with tort reform included HB 2826 and SB 1189. HB 2826 dealt with contingency fee contracts for political subdivisions.

SB 1189 requires TV ads for attorneys to disclose that they are paid ads, who the sponsor of the ad is and whether the attorney will actually represent the client.

Another priority for TAB is jobs and bringing businesses in through economic development. A big win in the recent legislative session was the renewal of Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code, according to Moseley.

The Texas Legislature passed HB  3143, which extends the Chapter 312 tax abatement program by 10 years. The program allows cities and counties to enter into temporary property tax abatement agreements in exchange for businesses locating facilities in their jurisdiction.

Moseley said the next focus during the 2021 legislative session will be on Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code.

The TAB has also made education a priority.

“From a Texas Association of Business perspective, public education is workforce development, right? I mean, this is training our kids so they can be globally competitive,” Moseley said. “We know there’s a direct correlation to making sure that our workforce is competitive, and so early on back when Governor Abbot first talked about pre-K, we were enthusiastic supporters of that. We were very pleased to see lawmakers see the value of that.”

As part of the sweeping and comprehensive school finance reform bill, HB 3, all Texas public school districts are now required to offer full-day pre-kindergarten. S.B. 1679 mandates that a child who is eligible for free enrollment in a pre-K class at the age of three remains eligible for enrollment at the age of four.

Moseley also mentioned that TAB had joined 15 other business groups in forming a coalition called ASSET (the Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas) and bringing forth a legal challenge against the city of Austin after the city council passed an ordinance that mandated that all employers provide sick leave for employees. The state’s 3rd Court of Appeals declared the ordinance to be unconstitutional, saying it is preempted by the state’s minimum wage law. An appeal is currently pending in the Texas Supreme Court.

Regarding infrastructure, Moseley shared that Texas will grow by 12 million people in the next 20 years, from about 29 million now to more than 40 million by 2040.

TAB has created a coalition called Keep Texas Moving made up of business owners, employers, local chambers of commerce and citizens committed to additional, innovative, non-tax options for repairing and building needed roads.

Ending the luncheon with federal legislation, Moseley mentioned the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which replaces the current NAFTA agreement that governs trade in North America. While it has been negotiated by each country’s governments, it still must be ratified.

“We appreciate Congressman Carter and our entire Texas delegation signing their support of the ratification,” Moseley said. “It’s highly unusual for the entire 36 members of the Texas Congressional delegation to be unanimous, but every one of them signed-bipartisan, urban/rural- to say the ratification of the USMCA is the right thing to do.”

The TAB website has a scorecard which shows the different pieces of legislation that TAB prioritized and how legislators voted in regard to each bill: