With exactly one year to the day before the swearing in of the 86th Legislative Session in Austin, the North Texas Commission announced Monday, Jan. 8, in Irving a new initiative, titled the North Texas Advocacy Coalition, with the stated goal to keep North Texas business-friendly.
The North Texas Advocacy Coalition will include the business community, chambers of commerce, municipalities, higher education institutions, and other partner organizations. North Texas, as defined by the North Texas Commission, includes 7.2 million people in 12 counties, and is increasing by one person every 3 minutes and 20 seconds.
“During the last legislative session, the business, higher education, municipal community along with many professional organizations, came together to ensure Texas remains business friendly,” said James D. Spaniolo, President and CEO, North Texas Commission. “Our goal is to keep that momentum going to support business-friendly policies and ensure our legislators hear the business, municipal, and higher education voices in Austin. In addition, we want to ensure the businesses that have moved here in the past several years feel welcomed.”
The initial focus of the North Texas Advocacy Coalition will be helping the region’s business community encourage their employees to participate in the March primary elections. Traditionally, only 4-6 percent of eligible Texas voters actually vote in the primaries, according to Spaniolo.
“The North Texas Advocacy Coalition is planning to be a big tent where discussion of user issues and voter turnout will be encouraged,” Spaniolo said. “Dissemination of best practices that some of our members are using for informing and engaging employees on the issues and getting them to turn out to vote without telling them how to vote, while at the same time making sure they are as informed as possible based on facts will be included.”
The second focus for members of the coalition will be to participate in sub-committees focused on issues including education, transportation, business competitiveness, and communication. These task forces will meet to develop a legislative agenda, supporting tactics and communication.
“The goal is to get prepared for and have an agenda for policy issues in order to make sure those legislators who are in place one year from now hear in a definitive powerful way what the business friendly environment needs on issues as they emerge over the next year,” Spaniolo said.
Chuck Allen, Chairman of the Board of the North Texas Commission and Managing Director of Government Affairs for American Airlines, described the current business friendly environment in North Texas.
“North Texas, and Texas have had the good fortune of being a magnet for business growth,” Allen said. “From Toyota to Facebook, Exxon to my own company, American Airlines, we’re based here because Texas supports business and offers a world-class quality of life for our employees. But, if we lose the business-friendly environment in Texas, our economy will suffer, those who came here for jobs will leave, and the trickle-down effect will be devastating. That’s why the North Texas Commission is launching the North Texas Advocacy Coalition. This is an idea borne out of the fight against the bathroom bill in the legislative session, but it’s much more than that.
“The goal of the North Texas Advocacy Coalition is to convene our region’s stakeholders to support legislative priorities that keep us competitive, to encourage investment in innovation to fuel job growth,” Allen said. “We support our local governments, giving municipalities control of property taxation decisions, and appraisals, and oppose legislation that would place revenue caps, allow for tax rollbacks or put appraisal caps on local governments as this would affect their ability to finance local priorities, and would have an adverse effect on their bond ratings.
“We oppose any bill that would be viewed as discriminatory on the basis of gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, or identity that would damage Texas’ reputation as a “business-friendly” state. Looking back on last year’s session, we were close to following the self-destructive path chosen by another state, which later reversed course after significant economic harm was clearly experienced. In short, we need to remind our legislators that the key to continued growth and economic prosperity for all of our citizens is a pro-business focus,” Allen said.
“This is exciting, because this isn’t an initiative focused on one profession, or limited to one city or county,” Scott Orr, Fidelity Investments, said. “The North Texas Commission reaches across the entire Dallas-Fort Worth region, and because we support all stakeholders of the region, we are uniquely positioned to convene all the organizations who want to ensure that North Texas remains open for business. This is a non-partisan approach. We will not endorse candidates. We’re simply focusing on the issues.”
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