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Special session must fix patchwork of labor laws

This article by Glenn Hamer and Cristina Aldrete originally appeared in San Antonio Express-News on June 16, 2021. (Photo by Lynne Sladky, Associated Press)

Texas is on the cusp of an economic boom, the likes of which our state has never seen. The pandemic has been hard on businesses throughout the state, but with vaccines now readily available, it is time to get back to work and once again lead the nation in economic output and job creation.

The Texas model of limited government, low taxes and a favorable regulatory environment has made our economy the envy of the nation. And this past legislative session, additional tools were passed, such as expanded access to telemedicine, workforce credentialing and pandemic liability protection, that will help us continue that trend.

During the session, legislators had a chance to make Texas even more conducive to economic opportunity by approving Senate Bill 14. This legislation would have prohibited local governments from enacting labor and employment mandates on private businesses already regulated by the state’s wage and hour laws. It also would have ended the potential patchwork of competing local ordinances and regulations across Texas.

House and Senate legislators worked diligently to tailor a solution that received bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the Texas House was not able to vote on the conference committee report before sine die.

Thousands of Texas businesses — large and small — closed over the past year while many more struggled to keep their doors open amid the pandemic. Many small businesses simply do not have the resources to pay for additional regulatory burdens mandated by local governments. Think of the mom-and-pop, family-owned shops on the River Walk or your favorite neighborhood restaurant. These businesses are just getting by.

Consistency in regulations from one city to the next would help businesses continue to recover by offering the financial flexibility they need to grow, create more jobs and provide steady paychecks to spur the state’s economy. That is why Gov. Greg Abbott must add the Business Freedom and Uniformity Act, which would pre-empt local governments from mandating private employment practices on businesses, to the special session agenda.

Despite its strong support from the Texas House, Senate and governor’s office, this bill failed to be heard in the session’s final days amid partisan squabbling. Something so important to our state’s economic future should not be left unfinished.

As representatives of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Association of Business and the thousands of small businesses we jointly represent, we are respectfully asking Abbott to add this vital issue to his special session call. As the governor has made clear, getting Texans back to work is one of his top priorities — and adding this legislation will go a long way in achieving that.

Glenn Hamer is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business. Cristina Aldrete is the CEO and president of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.


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