Chamber Well-Prepared for Upcoming Legislative Session

December 7, 2018Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

When you think of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, what comes to mind?  Networking?  Dyess Air Force Base?  Referrals?  Events?  Our airmen and their families?  Resources for business?  Connections? Training and seminars? Destination marketing?  The arts? Community engagement?  Downtown revitalization?  Industrial recruiting, retention and expansion?  Workforce preparedness?

How about advocacy?  At the heart of the Abilene Chamber is our work in the area of government affairs, an area often overlooked by those who don’t know us well.  Our advocacy work on behalf of our membership is purposeful and based on relationships that are central to the effort. The Chamber has worked hard for 110 years to ensure the conditions for Abilene business and the prospects for a strong local economy are strong. That effort continues as we move into the 86th Legislative Session of the State of Texas.

Central to our work in Austin, Washington and even at the local level, is the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.  As the group charged with monitoring our business landscape, interpreting policy and recommending action, our advocacy work begins there. When members express a concern, it’s the Government Affairs committee – with support from the staff – who make the determination on our approach to addressing it.

I’m particularly proud of the work undertaken by the Government Affairs Committee in researching and preparing the Chamber’s legislative agenda for the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature.  The group has developed a policy directive that addresses many current and future concerns that have direct or potential impact on our community with specific implications on business and our economy.  That agenda has received the full, unanimous support of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

While our advocacy work doesn’t begin and end in Austin, the work we do there matters. We also have a physical presence in Washington, D.C. and we work daily with the leadership in City Hall and the Commissioners Court.

But when we go to Austin, which we’ll do frequently beginning again in January, what is it that we advocate for? You might be surprised by the breadth and depth of the policy work we undertake on your behalf.

To review the Chamber’s adopted Legislative Agenda in its entirety, click here. For an abridged version, read on.

The Chamber is committed to pursuing a pro-growth agenda that creates and sustains an environment that encourages job growth, population growth and entrepreneurship.

We do that with a central focus around economic development and issues that can directly impact your company, large or small. In the category of economic development, you’ll find the Chamber working with our elected officials and their staffs on workforce-related policy; rural economic development which promotes the interests of the regional economy that directly impacts Abilene; tax-related issues including economic development funding and local control. We are also supporting the Texas 2050 Plan, which is a framework for long-term economic growth and pro-business policies at the state level.

We are supporting business and transportation infrastructure to help ensure West Texas employers and business owners the ability to thrive.  We’ll do that by advocating that Texas remain a right to work state; the maintenance of franchise tax relief for small business; improved access through investment in infrastructure; opposing efforts to mandate workers’ compensation coverage and more.

The Chamber’s nearly 70-year commitment to our military and veterans will include work to develop and maintain licensure reciprocity agreements statewide; the appropriation of resources for the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG) program that has benefited our region in the past; and legislative reforms that provide for the seamless transition of our military and veterans into the Texas workforce.

Also included in the Agenda are continued efforts to ensure water, agriculture and natural resources legislation that benefits our region.  We’ll oppose efforts to alter the existing structure of water rights laws in Texas; we will urge and support the Farm Bill legislation that ensures a strong safety net for the agriculture industry.  We will also work to ensure there is support for state and federal funding for water-related research projects, so long as a project benefits the region and doesn’t negatively impact area producers and other water users.

Abilene is known for its arts presence, so we’ll work to support high-quality arts education and learning in all schools; promote the protection of the use of municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) as an important ingredient in arts funding and ask for the restoration of the 28 percent cut to the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) from the 84th Legislative Session.

And when it comes to protecting the $450 million economic impact that tourism has on our region, the Chamber will be out in front and working to preserve full funding for the state tourism promotion office; ensure that dedicated HOT funds are used for their intended purposes and we’ll support comprehensive transportation infrastructure planning alongside the Move Texas Forward coalition.

That’s just a snippet of the Chamber’s focus for the upcoming session. We’ll communicate our agenda regularly with our elected representatives and others who can influence pro-business outcomes. You won’t find the Abilene Chamber at a public podium, pounding our fists and demanding action. Our approach is gracious yet persistent, and most often doesn’t make the news. Bloodying the nose of government proves little. Respected relationships, in my humble opinion, yield far better long-term results. Most often, we’re able to resolve challenges before they become problems. And we do that so you don’t have to – and so you can focus on growing your bottom line.

I welcome you to join us as we travel to Austin on February 13 for the Abilene Chamber Day at the Capitol. We’ll depart Abilene together by bus, and return the same day.  We’ll visit with our elected leaders, share the Abilene perspective and enjoy a “behind the scenes” tour of our state capitol building. Watch for information on this opportunity to arrive soon. If you’d like more information or to reserve your spot, please contact Erica Pangburn.

If you see something that’s missing, please let me know personally. As the point person for our government advocacy efforts, your perspective matters to me. I’m always happy to share your perspective with those in positions of influence.

So I hope you’ll continue to take advantage of all those things for which the Chamber is known, and support those things that we work on quietly everyday that have impact on your bottom line.  When you support the Chamber through membership, you support this collective effort undertaken by the voice of more than 1,300 member businesses.

One effort, one strong, unified voice.  After all, if not the Chamber, then who?

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