As you know, we closed out the 86th Session (referred to in Austin as Sine Die) on Monday, May 27th. The Texas House adjourned shortly before 1 p.m., and the Texas Senate adjourned at approximately 4 p.m.
At the outset of the Session, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen outlined their priorities for the Session, that included Property Tax Reform, School Finance Reform and School Safety. They were clear that Bathroom Bills and other divisive legislation was not on the agenda, and for the most part we continued to see those priorities pushed to the back during Session.
Visit San Antonio and the Hospitality and Tourism Industry had several priorities, including: School Start Date, restore full funding for the Office of Tourism, protecting Hotel Occupancy Tax from unintended uses, and support the viability of San Antonio to continue to attract major sports events and conventions. Our agenda also indicated that as necessary we would support the agendas of our partners at TTIA, THLA, and VIA (specifically travel-related transportation), among others.
School Start Date
Our School Start Date legislation got off to a great start with Rep. Krause, Bexar County Delegates Rep Leo Pacheco and Senator Campbell filing school start date bills that would set the school start date for public schools and Districts of Innovation after Labor Day, and Districts no later than Memorial Day for end of school. While we did not anticipate these bills would end session with this language, we wanted to set a baseline from which to negotiate.
At the initial hearing for HB 233 (Krause) on Wednesday, March 13, Rep. Bernal indicated he would be willing to bring together ISDs and school association representatives in order to meet with us. At that hearing, Chairman Huberty indicated that he had heard of school districts starting as early as the first week of August and reiterated that was too early and was not the intention of the Districts of Innovation exemption. He encouraged the Hospitality and Tourism Industry to work with schools to negotiate on the issue.
Working with Rep. Bernal and TTIA, a coalition of ISDs from across the state, including SAISD, worked on a compromise that was acceptable for our industry and for the schools. The final language developed for the HB 233 Committee Substitution included: 3rd Monday start date for DOIs, and 4th Monday for public schools. This compromise was passed out of the House Public Education Committee on April 11th with a 7 to 5 vote with Representatives Bernal and Allison from San Antonio, both voting in favor of the Committee Substitute. From there, the bill went to Calendars Committee. TTIA and Visit SA worked diligently with the Committee to move the bill out of Calendars and the bill was placed on the General State Calendar and scheduled for a floor vote on Monday, May 6th.
The floor debate for HB 233 included two amendments. The first from Rep. Ken King, would have exempted all ISDs that were located more than 10 miles from an amusement park. The King Amendment was withdrawn. A second amendment that exempted ISDs with less than 5,000 students was offered and withdrawn as well. The bill was defeated on a 99 Nay to 41 Yay vote. The Bexar County Delegation voted as follows:
Yays: Cortez, Gervin-Hawkins, Gutierrez, Larson, Lopez, Minjarez, Pacheco (Rep. Pacheco voted nay on the floor, but changed his vote to a yay).
Nays: Allison, Martinez-Fischer, Bernal (Rep. Bernal voted yay on the floor but changed his Record Vote to a Nay)
Despite the defeat of HB 233, there was similar school start date language that was inserted into HB 3 (which is the school finance reform bill). Despite a significant grassroots effort from the tourism industry, the language was removed during conference committee. We will continue to work with our local delegation over the interim to ensure they understand the importance of the school start date on our local economy. Additionally, TTIA has indicated they will be releasing a statement calling on support of this issue from our legislators.
Full Funding for the Tourism Office
The House led the budget process with HB 1 that was released in January. The bill contained a rider that would divert unexpended funds from the Office of Tourism to communities that had experienced a disaster. The Senate budget bill (SB 1) contained similar language. Working with our local delegation and industry partners, that language was removed from the final bill that was released from conference committee on Saturday, May 25th. The language that will be sent to the Governor outlines $17,203,230 for 2020, and $16,946,993 for 2021 to be used for tourism promotion activities in the 2020-21 biennium. Additionally, $76,096,000 in estimated unexpended balances (balances not used during the previous budget cycle) remaining as of August 31, 2019, in General Revenue Hotel Occupancy Tax will be used for tourism promotion activities.
Tourism Public Improvement Districts
As anticipated, there were quite a few efforts to open TPID up to communities across the state, and they were largely successful. Additionally, another bill – HB 1136 (Price) – not only removed the 100 room minimum cap for TPID hotels, but also outlined that TPID funds can only be used for advertising, promotion, or business recruitment directly related to hotels. There have been several attempts to utilize TPID funds for a variety of non-industry related issues, and this TPID funds protection was a welcome addition this session. While San Antonio’s current TPID will not be impacted as it was implemented before this bill was passed, any subsequent TPID renewed in San Antonio will also have the same protections.
Support of Partner Issues
Visit San Antonio supported several partner initiatives this past legislative session. Several key items included: free entry for fifth graders into State Parks (HB 1561), proposed local vote to increase transportation funding for San Antonio (HB 3258), and full funding from the sporting goods tax for the use by Texas Parks and Wildlife (SB 26). Among these issues, free entry for fifth graders to State Parks cleared the House but did not make it through the Senate. VIA’s proposal to send a transportation funding initiative to local voters did not make it to a floor vote. And full funding from the sporting goods tax was sent to the Governor for signature.
Additional Bills Tracking
Paid Sick Leave, Ban The Box and Predictive Scheduling were high priorities for many of our partners. These issues were originally laid out in SB 15 which was expected to pass without issue. However, it became a divisive issue in the Senate when language was removed that would have protected local non-discrimination ordinances. SB 15 then was broken up into separate bills as follows: SB 2485 (Preemption of PSL), SB 2486 (Predictive scheduling & OT rules), SB 2487 (Employment leave), SB 2488 (Ban the box), but each of these again ran into issues because of their lack of NDO-exemption language. The legislative session ended without resolution on any of these issues. Without remedy in the courts, paid sick leave is expected to be implemented in San Antonio on August 1, 2019.
Related Non-Local Bills Sent to Governor For Signature
HB 2240 (Murphy)
Employers can now pay employees with a payroll card as long as the fees are disclosed to the employee.
SB 1319 (Birdwell/ Watson)
Requires Counties to report HOT collections (similar to the municipal bill that passed last session)
The Governor has until June 16th to sign or veto bills. It is not generally believed that the Governor will call a special session, despite paid sick leave legislation not making its way through.