The Texas legislature recently wrapped up the third called special session. Despite business issues taking a backseat to redistricting as the primary focus of this special session, the results for the small business community proved to be very positive.
One of the most consequential developments for small business owners came through the appropriation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). When Congress passed ARPA earlier this year, it designated roughly $16 billion to Texas. Once the state received those funds, it was up to the legislature to appropriate the money as they deemed necessary within the parameters set forth by Congress.
NFIB, along with several other organizations, successfully advocated for $7.2 billion to be allocated toward the state unemployment insurance program. During the COVID-19 shutdowns, the state borrowed this same amount from the federal government in an effort to keep the program solvent without raising rates on businesses. Now, with the allocation of these funds, the state can pay off that debt without having to raise rates on businesses. In addition to the UI funds, NFIB also successfully advocated for $500 million to be dedicated toward rural broadband development and an additional $180 million in economic recovery grants for the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.
Finally, NFIB join with many business and industry groups to successfully kill legislation that would have placed small business owners between conflicting state and federal mandates regarding vaccine mandates.
Additionally, the legislation proposed at the state level would have made small business owners the subject of endless litigation and exorbitant court costs even if the lawsuit was deemed frivolous. Without speaking to the veracity of the COVID-19 vaccine, NFIB did successfully argue that any government mandate, especially those that place small businesses in the crosshairs for frivolous lawsuits, will be bad for business and the overall economic recovery.
While small business did not get everything we hoped out of the regular session and the three called special sessions, we did have some very significant wins including those that came together in the waning hours of what was hopefully the final special session. Constitutionally, the Texas Legislature is required to meet for 140 days every two years. In 2021, they have been in Austin just shy of 250 days. But with members headed back to their districts and no longer able to “help” quite as easily, at least Halloween should be a little less scary than we had feared.