BROWNSVILLE, RGV – State Rep. René Oliveira has welcomed a new report by the Texas House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness – a panel he sits on.
The committee’s report drew on testimony from 42 prominent and expert witnesses representing small and large business, law enforcement, educational institutions and local communities.
The report is highly critical of the so-called “bathroom bill,” which would have regulated bathroom use by transgender Texans. The bill was blocked from becoming law by the Texas House.
The report says it is important for Texas that the legislature avoids unnecessary distractions such as manufactured social issues that are unreasonable, unenforceable and harmful to the economy.
In another part of the new report there is a recommendation that the legislature regularly adjusts public education funding to account for growth in population and inflation. The report also says more money needs to be spent on infrastructure. And it says that the tax and economic development initiatives used to lure companies to Texas should be applied consistently across the state and be available to companies of all sizes.
“The report shows that there are certain governmental functions that, if we ignore them, we do so at our peril,” Oliveira, D-Brownsville, told the Rio Grande Guardian. “For example, most of the money in the Brownsville ISD budget comes from the state. If we stagnate state funding on public education, the BISD falls behind, while wealthier districts advance. Even if we do that for just a year or two, it will take several years and a lot more money to get the BISD caught up again.”
Oliveira said the legislature “should not divert its attention from issues that help everyone to deal with issues that might drive businesses way.”
Oliveira added: ”The report is very big picture, and, hopefully, it will refocus legislators on fundamental services that help business and employees prosper. As a member of the committee, I have taken what we learned and am already developing legislative and financial strategies to meet the goals.”
The chairman of the Texas House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness is state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. Like House Speaker Joe Straus, Cook opposed the “bathroom bill.” Like Straus, Cook is retiring from the legislature.
Cook said the committee report takes a comprehensive look at how Texas can remain a place for businesses to grow and prosper. He said it also exposes vulnerabilities to Texas’ economic viability and offers solutions and recommendations to the 86th Legislature for challenges such as inadequate school funding and outdated infrastructure.
Cook said: “Businesses ultimately became involved in the fight against the divisive and pointless legislation known as the ‘bathroom bill’ when the governor called lawmakers back for a special session and made it a top priority. His actions surprised many because the governor’s top aides had made it clear, to me and others, during the regular legislative session that the governor did not want that bill on his desk.”
In both the regular and special sessions Cook argued that the “bathroom bill” was ineffectual and dangerous to the state’s economy. “Hopefully if this nonsensical legislation is proposed again, House members and the business community will do what is in the best interest for all Texans,” Cook said.
Cook hopes leading Texas state officials acknowledge that the “bathroom bill” should not have been pursued and publicly state that it will not be considered again. “Unless and until this public commitment is made by the governor, the 86th Legislature may be distracted from addressing issues important to taxpayers that could make Texas even greater — matters such as property taxes, education and the state budget,” Cook said.
Texas economist Ray Perryman also came out strongly agains the “bathroom bill.” Perryman devotes this week’s guest column in the Rio Grande Guardian to the report by the Texas House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness.
In the column, Perryman argues that the Texas economy has benefitted from a state government that consistently values a strong business climate. He said he was pleased the report acknowledged this.
“The need to avoid legislation that distracts from critical priorities and is viewed by many as enabling discrimination against certain groups or classes of Texans is also emphasized,” Perryman wrote. “In addition to the bathroom bill, the last session included a bill that prohibits local governments from enacting policies that prohibit the enforcement of state and federal immigration law. The bill as passed was seen as problematic by law enforcement as well as discriminatory.”
Perryman concludes his column by writing:
“One comment which sums up the findings of the Select Committee points out that because of “‘he seriousness of the challenges ahead in this fast-growing state, policymakers should prioritize issues that can directly and positively impact private-sector growth and economic competitiveness, such as workforce development, education, transportation and property-tax relief.’
“I couldn’t agree more. Economic growth and the resulting opportunities and resources will enable us to get where we need to be, providing funds to meet the needs of the future and opportunities for an ever-expanding and more diverse group of Texans.”
Editor’s Note: Click here to read Perryman’s column.