Keeping Chamber Advocacy on Target
The Chamber’s Governmental Affairs team doesn’t take a many-months-long vacation when the Texas Legislature is not in session.
Let me give you some examples of what we’ve been doing and will be doing.
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: Every two years, we research and compose a Legislative Agenda. Not only is it used as a guideline for our positions on business and other issues that will come up before the Legislature, but it describes what is important to us and how we want to deal with issues.
Our five-member Business Advocacy Council (BAC) will begin work in June developing our Legislative Agenda for the coming session. Mitch Barnett (Chair), Norm Archibald, Jay Hardaway, Gary Grubbs and I are the members of the BAC.
We need your input, so keep watching. We’ll develop opportunities for Chamber members to give us ideas of what’s important.
REQUESTS FOR ACTION: Both in and out of Session, the Chamber gets requests from members, other chambers of commerce and business organizations to support or oppose certain issues or legislation. Many times, those issues will fall into the positions we’ve outlined in the Legislative Agenda, so it is pretty quick and easy to decide. If not, we’ll talk to local experts, do some more research and make a recommendation to the Chamber Executive Committee, or the Board as a whole.
CONSTANTLY WATCHING: We are focused on upcoming issues on the state level, but we are equally focused on monitoring and, when appropriate, advocating on Abilene and Big Country issues with the Abilene City Council, Taylor County Commissioners Court, Abilene and Wylie school boards and local, state and federal agencies.
In an average month, we will attend or follow through streaming media two City Council meetings, two Commissioners Court meetings, the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, the Abilene School Board workshop and regular meetings, the Wylie School Board meeting and others. With the governmental entities providing more transparency through live broadcast on the Internet, it makes it easier for the Chamber to have a presence.
LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE HEARINGS:
During the legislative session, committees hold dozens of hearings on various issues and most bills. We monitor their agendas for items of interest and will either watch on streaming media, attend, or attend and testify.
When the legislature is out of session, committees still meet on issues that the Governor, Lt. Governor or Speaker of the House have placed in their “interim charges.” We follow those in the same way.
OUT-OF-TOWN CONFERENCES: In the last couple of years, we’ve attended a number of conferences to both make important contacts and to get Abilene’s name and interest out on a variety of issues. Here are some examples:
- Texas Broadband Summit in Bryan, sponsored by Texas Rural Funders. This meeting brought together not only the statewide leaders involved in the expansion of broadband coverage to rural and under-covered urban areas, but local and national experts.
- West Texas Legislative Summit in San Angelo is always a strong get-together with members of the Texas congressional delegation and state leaders. This is one we don’t miss attending.
- Texas Association of Business in Austin has a strong governmental affairs team. TAB holds several sessions a year that we attend to make contacts and learn about issues. They also have frequent conference calls for chamber advocates.
- Texas Alliance of Energy Producers conducted an industry conference in Fort Worth, where we were able to solidify our relations with the oil and gas industry – a vital part of our economy.
REPRESENTING THE CHAMBER: We hold positions on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Advisory Committee and on the ThriveABI Workforce and Economic Development Cause Area Working Group. Through these, we are able to represent the interests of Abilene’s business community.
You can count on Chamber Governmental Affairs to work vigorously to strengthen our local economy and workforce.