This group will make a difference

October 12, 2020Doug Williamson, Director of Governmental Affairs

Last week, you heard from the current Chamber Chair, Marshall Morris (First Financial Bank), on your Chamber Board’s goals for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

In that note linked above, Marshall outlined our five goals for the year with the first being “deliver relevant and high-quality member services, information, programs and events.”

For 113 years your Chamber has been providing those that invest in our organization networking opportunities, quality of life programs, economic development and more. But at its core, your Chamber is and continues to be an advocacy organization. An organization that prides itself on serving as the region’s business advocacy group at the local, state, and federal levels ensuring a pro-business, pro-growth environment.

And that starts with you, our dedicated partners, providing feedback in our Government Affairs Committee meetings.

For years, these meetings have been an open committee with open meetings. Have an issue that needs to be on the Chamber’s radar? You could attend these meetings and gather feedback on how to deal with the issue or allowed the Chamber’s staff to assist you in solving the problem.

While this has been an effective process in driving change and maintaining a pro-business climate, your Chamber Board of Directors has set out to operate your Chamber organization with excellence. And that excellence requires us to get really good at the core of what we do – advocacy.

For a few years, your Chamber’s executive leadership combined with the Government Affairs Chair, Mitch Barnett (Barnett and Hill), has been examining ways to be even more effective in advocating for Abilene, Abilenians and local business. We’ve had big successes, but we want to multiply those.

The Chamber Board of Directors voted last month to replace the committee and form the new Business Advocacy Council (BAC). It is a small, highly focused group made up of individuals with advocacy backgrounds.

The Council will have five voting members from the Chamber who will be approved by the Chamber’s Executive Committee, and four non-voting members from the staffs of lawmakers representing Abilene in Austin and Washington.

This will allow your Chamber team and our volunteers who serve on the BAC to have a closer pulse on the issues that impact your business.

The group will meet monthly and volunteers will serve staggered two-year terms. From there, the BAC will bring issues, recommendations, game plans to the Chamber’s Executive Committee.

The BAC will advocate to the Texas Legislature, the U.S. Congress, the Abilene City Council, local school boards and various city commissions, boards, and committees.

While this does change the process of gaining your feedback, the issues that impact your business continue to be the most important issue for your Chamber and will be top of mind. Communication to our members and gaining feedback from the business community will be imperative to its success.

The BAC has already hit the ground running and already needs your help in developing the Chamber’s Legislative Agenda. In the next few days, you’ll receive an email requesting feedback in survey form. These results will help shape the issues that the BAC will tackle during the next Legislature. Please take a little time and complete it. It can make a big difference for all of us.

Speaking of Legislature, what is it going to look like?

I don’t know if you can say any session of the Texas Legislature is “normal,” but I’ll guarantee this one won’t be.

Taylor County Commissioner Chuck Statler invited your Chamber to sit in on some sessions at the state county judges and county commissioners annual meeting held in Abilene last week.

One session featured State Reps. Stan Lambert and Drew Darby, and Rep-Elect Dr. Glenn Rogers.

Lambert and Darby said final plans have not been made, but we can expect very, very little, if any, access to the Capitol and the chambers of the House and Senate. Thanks to the COVID crisis. Committee hearings, under the rules, cannot have virtual testimony, so it possible that some might follow the Sunset Commission’s lead and meet in other state buildings which have not be closed.

There really haven’t been any details announced, so we’ll let you know as soon as we know. The Legislature begins its 140-day session on January 12th.

Also, don’t forget November 3rd. Get out and vote.

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