During the 1st Quarter, the Government Relations Team continued to monitor the activity of the federal, state, and local levels of government for any impact on the travel and tourism industry.
The team worked with our federal, state, and local elected officials and their staff, state and national advocacy organizations, Visit San Antonio partners, local Chambers of Commerce, and local businesses to promote the regional and local hospitality and tourism industry.
Visit San Antonio continues to work with our partners at U.S. Travel Association to support federal initiatives, including these recent activities by the organization:
- Winning for the Industry: Congress passed a government-wide funding bill in late December, which contained many pro-travel provisions, including the establishment of a new Assistant Secretary of Travel and Tourism at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The travel industry has advocated at least as far back as 1995's White House Conference on Travel and Tourism for a presidentially appointed position to champion travel concerns within the federal government. This is a big win, and our thanks go to the collective industry and champions on Capitol Hill who made this possible.
- Spotlighting the Visa Issue: The “They Wait, We Lose” campaign has collected dozens of stories from international travelers and U.S. businesses and continues to garner media attention. We encourage you to direct clients to the website to share their compelling stories. To further the effort, industry leaders are adding U.S. mayors to a letter calling on the Biden administration to take action.
In December 2022, the Visit San Antonio Board of Directors approved the organizations 88th State Legislative Session priorities. The 88th State Legislative Session begins January 10 and the Visit San Antonio team continues to monitor activity, including the work of Governor Greg Abbott’s Economic Development and Tourism Office, as well as any and all bills filed that will impact the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) statute. The Visit San Antonio team will continue to work closely with our partners at the Texas Travel Alliance (TTA) on statewide advocacy efforts.
Please see below for a robust summary from our partners at the Texas Travel Alliance:
January 9, Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his revised Biennial Revenue Estimate, the amount of funds projected to be available for crafting the 2024-25 biennial budget. As of today, Texas is projected to have $188.2 billion available in general revenue for funding the business of the state over the 2024-25 biennium — an unprecedented 26% increase from what lawmakers had during the last budget cycle, with $32.7 billion in surplus. This is more than the Texas Constitution and state law will legally allow them to spend, barring any special legislative action to bypass those spending limits.
In July 2022, Hegar said Texas would have $149.07 billion in General Revenue funds available for general purpose spending in the 2023-23 biennium, or a $27 billion surplus, which was an increase of $14.95 billion from the November 2021 projection. (For comparison, going into the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers had $112.5 billion available.) That does not include the available balance in the Economic Stabilization or “rainy day” Fund of nearly $27.1 billion (by the end of the biennium). Contrary to popular belief, having a surplus frequently translates to a more difficult session than when the state has no extra money. With no financial surplus, the answer will always be “no” – any proposed legislation with a fiscal note or state cost associated with it tends to fail due to the lack of available funding. With such a large surplus, we expect a multitude of legislative proposals on how best to spend those excess funds, including how much to allocate to highly anticipated property tax relief. Additionally, Texas still has $6 billion in ARPA funds to spend and will be receiving some $35 billion in Federal transportation infrastructure funds.
The Legislature convened on Tuesday, January 10 and as its first action, the state House of Representatives reelected Speaker for the Session, Rep. Dade Phelan. The House welcomed 86 Republicans and 64 Democrats into the Chamber and 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats on the Senate side.
On January 11, the Sunset Commission met to report its decisions on, among other agencies and organizations, the Public Utility Commission (PUC), the Office of Public Utility Counsel, the Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT), and the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office.
All that’s not to say the 88th Session will have a slow, housekeeping start. Bill filing opened Monday, November 14, nearly one week after the General Election. In the almost two months since then, over 1,600 bills and resolutions have been filed. We expect many more pieces of legislation to be introduced before the March 10 non-local bill filing deadline, typically landing between 7,500-10,000 bills and resolutions.
While the exact timing for House and Senate Committee assignments is not prescribed, the historical pace suggests the Senate will announce assignments first, with the House announcing their appointments in late January or early February. As session progresses, the pace of activity will be driven by deadlines at the end of the calendar.
Legislative Bill Filing
The 88th Legislative Session began on January 10, 2023. Monday, November 14 marked the first day legislators could pre-file bills for the upcoming legislative session.
As we noted in our last update, the first day of filing for the 88th Legislature was record breaking. The Senate filed the second highest number of bills filed on the first day in the past nine sessions (since the 2007 - 80th) by filing 216 bills (the previous record was 247 in 2009). The House could not be outdone and blew past their record of 409 bills filed last session and filed a whopping 690 bills! That's a total of 906 bills. These are only bills and joint resolutions.
Of the bills filed so far, we have begun tracking numerous bills for TTA, with more to come. The subject matter of the bills ranges from HOT fund use, taxpayer-funded lobbying, amusement park ride regulation, and paid sick leave. We will continue to monitor the daily bill filing activities and track any that could impact your business and our industry.
Upcoming Dates of Interest
Friday, March 10, 2023: 60th Day Deadline for filing bills (not considered local bills)
Monday, May 29, 2023: Sine Die (Last Day of Session)
We are happy to report that on December 1, 2022, the San Antonio City Council approved the 2023 Tourism Public Improvement District (TPID) Service and Assessment Plan, the 2023 Assessment Roll, and will maintain the Assessment Rate for 2023 at 1.25%. The TPID is an integral part of Visit San Antonio’s funding for marketing and sales initiatives and the fees help us to maintain San Antonio as a premier visitor destination with a $16.2 billion annual economic impact.
The Visit San Antonio GR Team continues to monitor the City of San Antonio’s actions related to the Noise Ordinance review and the SA Climate Ready’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) initiative. As additional meeting information and developments unfold, the team will provide additional information on these two issues.