The start of FY2021 was generally quiet, with political posturing at the federal and state levels played out regarding the spread of COVID-19, emerging variants, vaccine and mask mandates and the 2022 election cycle. The Government Relations Team monitored the governmental activity at the federal, state and local levels for any impacts the travel and tourism industry.
The team worked with our federal, state and local elected officials and their staffs, state and national advocacy organizations, Visit San Antonio partners, local Chambers of Commerce, local businesses and thought leaders to promote the regional and local hospitality and tourism industry.
As the fiscal year ended, President Joe Biden passed one of his two priority initiatives, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF). He was also trying to secure enough votes to pass his other initiative, the Build Back Better Act. Summaries of both the BIF (as signed into law) and BBB (pending action) are located below:
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework was signed into law by Biden in November. The BIF is designed to target significant investments into a wide range of infrastructure shortfalls across the nation; the law provides approximately $1.2 trillion in funds. An estimated $550 billion of that funding is new spending, which will be spread out over five years. The remaining $650 billion in the bill would have been allocated for existing transportation and highway programs under previously planned funding. New funding in the bill will go toward a wide range of projects including, but not limited to:
- $110 billion for roads and bridges
- $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
- $65 billion for expanding broadband access
- $65 billion to update the electric grid
- $55 billion for water and wastewater
- $39 billion for public transit, including electric buses
- $25 billion for airports
- $17 billion for ports and waterways
- $7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers
- $1 billion for reconnecting communities
- The $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB) package invests heavily in health care, the social safety net and climate. A summary can be found on the White House webpage.
- Visit San Antonio continues working with the U.S. Travel Association to secure support and encourage members of Congress to cosponsor the bipartisan Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act (S. 477/H.R. 1346). The bill would help generate $227 billion in economic activity that would not otherwise occur, aid in restoring the 2.8 million hospitality jobs that remain lost to the pandemic and contribute to the overall acceleration of travel’s recovery.
At the conclusion of the 3rd Called Special Session of the 87th Legislature, $16 billion in federal funding the State of Texas received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was allocated to various state agencies. The travel industry was able to secure $180 million in funding for the Trusted Programs within the Office of the Governor: travel, tourism and hospitality grants. The much-needed funding will help a burdened industry regain a foothold for more future growth in jobs and revenue. The Government Relations team engaged the Legislature to advocate for these funds along with other destination management organizations, convention and visitors’ bureaus and the Travel Texas Alliance (TTA).
Governor Greg Abbott’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism is currently in the process of establishing grant program rules and guidelines. Visit San Antonio will work with the Office of Economic Development and Tourism and TTA in the development of this grant program. As grant information becomes available, we will provide additional information regarding availability and eligibility for this grant program.
Bexar County and the City of San Antonio continued their court challenge of the Governor’s Executive Order GA-36, which prohibits governmental entities and officials from mandating face coverings. This legal tug-of-war remains in the Texas court system.
2022 Bonds Program
The City of San Antonio is getting closer to the finish line for the 2022 Bond Program. The bond program will go to the voters, if approved by City Council, in May 2022. A list of projects under the following categories with total funding amounts is listed below:
- Streets, Bridges, Sidewalks - $450 million
- Parks - $300 million
- Drainage - $150 million
- Housing - $150 million
- Facilities - $150 million
The Government Relations Team continues to monitor San Antonio’s noise ordinance and the actions of the 15-member Task Force created in March 2021 to study this ordinance, adopted 20 years ago. The city’s adopted FY22 budget created a “pilot program” for code enforcement officers to accompany police officers to noise complaints and determined how to make the noise ordinance more effective. The pilot program began activity in October and is slated to operate for three months. At the end of city staffs work, the task force will make recommendations addressing the noise ordinance to the city based on the findings. Government Relations will remain engaged in this issue and provide additional information as it becomes available.