This November, Dallas voters will have the chance to improve and expand our streets, parks, libraries, cultural and performing arts, police and fire facilities and more without raising taxes. The City of Dallas bond package will be on the ballot with 10 items crucial to growing Dallas’ quality of life and economic vibrancy – and the Dallas Regional Chamber endorses them all.
We hope that you will vote “For” City of Dallas Propositions A – J and encourage your co-workers, friends, and family members to do so as well.
It’s been five years since the last bond campaign and improvements to Dallas’ streets and facilities are sorely needed for the continued growth and success of our region. Let’s pass all bond items and make this election a perfect 10 for Big D!
To learn more about the items on the bond, including an interactive map of proposed project, please click here.
Early voting begins Monday, October 23, and runs through Friday, November 3.
To find your early voting location, click here.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.
by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
The DRC recently hosted two public policy events to update members on the legislative landscape in Washington, D.C., and to allow Dallas business leaders to weigh in on federal issues that are most important to business.
Chairman Kevin Brady Luncheon
U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Houston) addressed the topic of tax reform at a luncheon with business leaders from across North Texas organized and held at the Dallas Regional Chamber.
Rep. Brady, who serves as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he and his peers in Congress are energized to revamp the federal tax code, which hasn’t undergone a major overhaul since the Reagan Administration. Brady said aspirations are to make the changes boldly, and permanently, and to emphasize the notion of simplifying the nation’s tax code. Among his goals are permanently eliminating the estate tax, while preserving deductions for interest paid on home mortgages, for charitable donations, and for dependents. Another reform Brady and others are advocating would allow 9 out of 10 Americans to complete their tax returns using a postcard-size form.
“When we set out on this, in the House, I set two goals,” Brady said. “I want a tax code built for growth, designed to grow jobs and wages in this economy, and while we’re doing that, leapfrog America from nearly dead last in competitiveness in tax codes (right now, we rank 31st out of 35) into the top three best places on the planet. Those two elements, growth and leapfrogging to the lead, drive every decision that I make, and Speaker Ryan as well, in tax reform.”
AT&T, an unwavering supporter of the Dallas Regional Chamber and our business community, graciously provided lunch for the event.
2017 DRC Congressional Forum: Free Trade, Advanced Training Key in Boosting North Texas Economy
More than 350 people filled the Stemmons Ballroom at the Hotel Anatole on Aug. 16 to attend the DRC’s 2017 Congressional Forum, which featured a candid discussion by North Texas Congressmen Pete Sessions, Joe Barton and Marc Veasey, and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.
All agreed that international trade is crucial to building the North Texas and national economy, though the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) needs to be updated.
“I think we should renegotiate NAFTA, but I don’t think we should throw it away,” said Barton, addressing the question of the fate of the agreement, posed by event moderator and Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby. “I’ve told President Trump that; it’s made us a more competitive nation. It’s cemented a partnership – not only economically, but politically – with Mexico and Canada.”
Barton, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he backed NAFTA when it was still legislation in the early 1990s.
“I helped round up votes for it,” Barton recalled. “I was in the Oval Office with President Clinton as part of the whip team. Took congressmen to Mexico,” he said. “It’s helped the United States. It’s helped Texas.”
Johnson, who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said Texas benefits greatly from commercial traffic on Interstate 35, which runs from Mexico to Canada.
“If you haven’t driven [I-35] recently, then you don’t realize how much traffic there is related to [NAFTA],” she said. “So, I’m very much in favor of improving the trade agreement, not tearing it up.”
Johnson added that one key export for North Texas and the United States is its technology, and that preparing students to step into such advances is key to remaining competitive in the marketplace.
“It’s clear to me that we’re not going to survive as an isolationist nation,” she said. “It’s very clear that the technology has made us very global. We want to be on a world stage. And the only way we’ll compete in a global environment [is] more training, accepting that tech and innovation will be part of our lives as any other element.”
Sessions, who chairs the House Rules Committee, suggested that Donald Trump appoint a negotiator who can identify mutual interests between Mexico and the United States, and who can build upon the relationship.
“We’ve got to send someone down who is knowledgeable; who views the Mexico-United States relationship as important,” Sessions said. “And that we should do no harm to either, but upgrade the agreement, to where it makes sense today, in 2018, and moving forward.”
Veasey said the key in gaining support for trade agreements in the future will be convincing the public that technology – not trade – is reducing manufacturing jobs. Veasey said any trade agreements will need to earn bi-partisan support, much as NAFTA did.
Those attending the event also were given the DRC’s pro-growth legislative accountability index, which can be viewed here.
The Aug. 16 forum coincides with the Chamber’s mission to protect and promote the region’s pro-business climate through its work in public policy.
Gold sponsors of the event, which was presided over by 2017 DRC Chair Hilda Galvan, were AdvoCare and Lockheed Martin. Silver sponsors were the Dallas County Community College District, Fidelity Investments, Texas Central Partners, Texas Instruments, and the UNT System/UNT Dallas.
Dallas Regional Chamber Fights to Preserve, Build Upon Texas’ Business Advantages
The 85th Texas Legislative Session adjourned on May 29. While many bills were left unheard or unresolved, the House and the Senate ultimately passed the one item mandated each biennium, settling on a $217 billion budget.
Through the support and guidance of our 1,100 member companies, the Dallas Regional Chamber worked to help shape legislation during the regular session in line with our support for pro-growth public policies that enhance our region’s quality of life, including issues to improve transportation and infrastructure, health care, and helping to create an educational system that better prepares our students for the workforce of tomorrow.
Arguably, some of our biggest wins came from defeating or diffusing bills that would likely have hurt our business climate.
In a tough budget year, economic incentive programs were maintained, although at lower levels than previous years. The Texas Enterprise Fund was allocated $86M for incentive grants, the Governor’s University Research Initiative was allocated $15.6M, and other funds – such as the Film and Music Marketing program – were maintained.
This session, our goal was to maintain incentive programs. A number of bills were filed threatening Chapter 313, a temporary school property tax abatement program that has proven to be one of our state’s most effective tools for encouraging business expansions and relocations to Texas. We worked diligently with our statewide partners and the urban chambers of commerce to ensure none of those bills passed.
Another economic development bill we have worked on the past two sessions finally passed: HB 108, the “Recruit Texas” bill. Workforce readiness continues to be the number one concern of employers considering doing business in Texas. This effort was championed by the Dallas County Community College District and will support employers expanding or relocating their operations in Texas by partnering colleges with businesses to provide technical training based on workforce needs. The legislation also puts Texas on competitive footing with several states that have similar programs.
Our biggest transportation win was killing all of the anti-high speed rail bills. Our efforts paid off again this session as no legislation inhibiting the Dallas to Houston project passed – although many attempts were made. More than 20 bills were filed to obstruct or inhibit the Texas Central Partners rail project, along with many amendments to the same effect. However, all of the bills were either amended favorably or did not pass both the House and Senate.
School Finance Reform
The DRC began in January with a statewide convening of education policy experts to gain traction on public school finance reform. Valiant attempts were made in the House to simplify the system and to add money to address some of the issues under HB 21. The House passed HB 21, a school finance reform bill that primarily would have provided an additional $1.5 billion for public schools, with nearly all school districts across Texas seeing an increase in funding. The bill would have also created a new funding weight to provide districts with additional money for educating dyslexic students, and more funding for career and technical education for eighth grade students.
Ultimately, attempts to reform Texas’ public school finance system ended when the Senate changed HB 21 dramatically, removing most of the funding and adding provisions that were not acceptable to the House. A final attempt to reconcile the two bills ended, with school finance and tuition vouchers remaining at odds.
There was a big push by public school administrators and parent groups to eliminate testing that helps track whether schools and their students are on grade level and working toward college and career readiness. There were bills to reduce high school graduation requirements and instate age-based promotion, regardless of content mastery. The DRC and its members fought hard to defend against these bills and were successful in holding the line on many of them.
Some testing was reduced and alternate graduation requirements were put in place for limited circumstances, but the most drastic bills were killed. Financial accountability was an issue with a push for vouchers or credits that would allow parents to spend public school funds on private schools or tutors without the requirements to prove that the spending resulted in improved academic outcomes. These bills were not successful during the regular session but the issue remains on the special-session list for special-needs students.
Expanding career technical education was successful through a Pathways to Technology (P-TECH) program (SB22) that the DRC and Dallas ISD supported, and is being implementing in the Dallas area.
Pre-K funding was a casualty of the session, as grant money for quality pre-K added in the 84th Session was cut from the budget. The resulting unfunded mandate requires ISDs to meet the higher standards established in 2015 but at 2013 funding levels. On the plus side, we were successful in expanding educator preparation opportunities, including certificates for optional early childhood-through-third-grade teaching, and an early childhood educator baccalaureate program.
The 85th Session began with concerns that the initial budget cut funding for all “special items” for Texas’ public higher education institutions. Special items fund a broad range of university programs, including research. The final budget added many special items back to the higher education budget, but there were still some cuts.
Working closely with Texas State Sen. Royce West, the DRC pushed hard for a number of improvements to the college credit transfer process, but only modest improvements were ultimately made and, therefore, North Texas will continue to have to work collectively to improve the earning and transfer of hours between institutions without new legislation.
As health care costs continue to grow across the country, we worked with our health care systems to relieve some of this pressure through the creation of a Local Provider Participation Fund (LPPF) in Dallas County. Legislation creating a Dallas County LPPF will allow our local safety net hospitals to leverage every resource at their disposal to ensure that those who live in our region have access to adequate health care as health care costs rise.
In a statewide health care victory, Texas will now allow telemedicine and telehealth services. SB 1107, signed by Gov. Abbott, expands access to telemedicine across the state, increasing care options for consumers while decreasing the cost and time of a face-to-face visit.
Dallas Police and Fire Pension Bill
After months of tense negotiations and legal action, a bill to address the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension system was signed by Gov. Abbott on May 31. HB 3158, written by Dan Flynn R-Canton, addresses the pension board governance, city and employee contribution rates, and DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan).
The final version of the bill allows the mayor to appoint six of the board’s 11 members, requires minimum contributions by the city and first responders into the fund, and requires a series of lumpsum payments in the amount of $13 million from the city for seven years. It also reduces member benefits, and increases firefighter and police officer contribution rates, and raises the retirement age. The bill also eliminates lumpsum DROP withdrawals except in emergencies. After months of contentious disagreements, all parties came together on a compromise bill that reflects shared sacrifice from all parties to save the fund from insolvency.
Bathroom Bill/SB 6
We managed to survive the session without the passage of a bathroom bill. However, the governor announced a special session to begin on July 18 to consider 20 items, including a bathroom bill modeled after State Rep. Ron Simmons’ bill, HB 2899. While HB 2899 was styled similarly to the compromise reached in North Carolina after HB 2 was repealed, Simmons’ bill removes all county and municipal anti-discrimination ordinances throughout the state, creating its own set of issues. Although this legislation did not target bathroom use, the scope would have many unintended consequences, removing the ability of local governments to protect vulnerable classes such as veterans and elderly. The bill was heard in committee during the regular session but was left pending.
SB 6, championed by the Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, passed the Senate early in the session but was never brought up by the House. This bill targeted transgender people using public restroom facilities and carried civil penalties. Many additional attempts were made to include bathroom-style language to other bills, including budgets, the operation of government facilities, and sunset bills, to no avail.
We, along with Metro 8, opposed SB 6/HB 2899.
In the final days of the session under the greatest pressure from the Senate to pass a bathroom bill, State Rep. Chris Paddie included an amendment allowing school districts to handle sensitive issues on a case-by-case basis, which was not accepted by the Senate and the compromise failed.
We continue to be in contact with state leadership opposing any bathroom bills brought up in the special session. The DRC will remain strongly opposed to any discriminatory legislation that would negatively impact Texans and the Texas economy.
Staying Focused on Our Mission
Texas legislators faced tight budget constraints and tough decisions this year. Despite some turbulence, the DRC and its partners mustered support for bills and amendments we deemed most important to improving the Dallas Region’s business environment, and opposed legislation that didn’t.
We held our own during the 85th Session, never losing sight of our mission, which remains making the Dallas Region the best place in America to live, work, and do business.
Under former Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s economic development office has employed a slogan: “Texas: Wide Open for Business.”
Texas has enjoyed more than a decade of being named Numero Uno for business by ranking entities such as Chief Executive, Site Selection and Forbes. Companies have flocked here from California, Illinois and other states with heavy tax burdens and onerous government regulations to enjoy our affordable, business-friendly environment.
In spite of this success, some elected leaders in our capital would slam the wide-open door for business in the face of those treasured companies with a state mandate that is based on hyperbole and fear, not facts.
These are also known as SB6 and HB 2899, the “bathroom bills.” In other words, we’re wide open for business, but not your business.
Texas cannot afford such legislation. We only have to look at the debacle in North Carolina to see evidence of this. North Carolina’s 2016 bathroom bill overrode local anti-discrimination protections and resulted in boycotts of national tournaments, conferences and corporate relocations, and in short order was repealed after a deluge of national negative publicity and statewide reputation damage.
This week, the Metro 8 Chambers of Commerce, composed of the Arlington, Austin, United Corpus Christi, Dallas Regional, Greater El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio chambers and the Greater Houston Partnership, sent a letter to our state legislators pleading for them to recognize that Texas is best served by policies that portray our state as a welcoming, open place to live and do business.
The Perryman Group, a well-known, respected economic research and analysis firm, recently published a report concluding that passage of bathroom legislation would cost Texas almost $3.3 billion per year, with a high probability of costs increasing even further in future years. Workforce talent recruitment will also be limited by any bathroom restrictions.
In terms of corporate expansions and relocations, Texas cities could be crossed off the list of contenders, especially for high-wage, global tech companies and professional services that rely on the creative class.
Furthermore, this matter is not one that state government should be legislating but should be the purview of city councils, county commissioners and school boards who were elected to address local issues and who are closest to the citizenry.
This legislation, and the danger of shutting down state agencies and calling special sessions until it is passed, is an economic and brand killer for Texas that could costs billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, increase costs to taxpayers and not provide any more privacy or safety for anyone than we already have through existing criminal laws.
We, the Metro 8, call on the Texas Legislature in the name of 20,000 Texas companies, 19.4 million urban residents, and $1.2 trillion in GDP to reject this unnecessary, unfunded, unenforceable mandate.
If not, Texas may have to get a new slogan.
Bob Harvey, President and CEO, Greater Houston Partnership, 2017 Metro 8 Chair
Mike Rollins, President and CEO, Austin Chamber of Commerce
Michael Jacobson, President and CEO, Arlington Chamber of Commerce
Kresten Cook, Interim President and CEO, United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce
Dale Petroskey, President and CEO, Dallas Regional Chamber
Richard Dayoub, President and CEO, El Paso Chamber of Commerce
Bill Thornton, President and CEO, Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce
Richard Perez, President and CEO, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce
This week the DRC dropped a card in support of HB 3314, which will help streamline the water rights amendment process. We dropped cards against HB 2104, which requires a high speed rail operator to file a bond, HB 2167, which requires the state to acquire a lien on any high speed rail operators, and HB 2163, which requires high speed rail tracks to be elevated in certain counties.
The Metro 8 Chambers, including the DRC, sent letters advocating for a total appropriation of $108 million to the Texas Enterprise Fund. The Enterprise Fund has a proven record of bringing businesses to Texas through offsetting Texas’ otherwise high tax rates on businesses, bringing jobs and investment to our state which would otherwise locate elsewhere. The Metro 8 also sent letters advocating for moderate use of the Rainy Day Fund.
The DRC’s Public Education team made 15 legislative office visits to improve the status of four bills. The DRC secured support for HB 2039, creating an optional Early Childhood – third grade (EC-3) teaching certificate, and it passed the House on Tuesday. The DRC successfully advocated for passage of HB 22 to refine and update the A-F academic accountability system, while also raising concerns about amendments that would weaken the statewide system. The DRC shared concerns regarding HB 515 and the reduction of statewide student testing, and secured an amendment by the bill author. Finally, the DRC advocated for passage of SB 22 and began recommending the inclusion of a Dallas business representative on the statewide P-TECH Commission that the bill will create.
This week the DRC also sent out Legislative Accountability Index notifications for SB 2039, HB 2861, HB 2697, and HB 108. HB 2039 creates an additional early childhood certification for teachers specializing in Pre-K through 3rd grade. HB 2861 provides a Comprehensive Development Agreement for transportation projects in the North Texas area. HB 2697 expands access to telehealth and telemedicine services across the state, and HB 108 creates the “Recruit Texas” program to provide turnkey workforce training to help make Texas the number one place in the nation for economic development workforce training.
Learn more about the DRC’s legislative agenda and priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature.
We welcome your questions and comments. To request more information about area businesses or to share an idea, contact us: