2017 Legislative Priorities

2017 Legislative Priorities

TAXATION, REGULATIONS & FEES

Tax reform is the number one issue for businesses in the Lake Houston. We are concerned with taxes being too high for businesses and support a tax structure that is fair and equitable to businesses in order to foster a sound economy while funding critical government services that benefit all citizens.

 

Equity.  Support legislative measures to equitably distribute the burden of business sector taxes among all businesses, including service and manufacturing. Also, support legislation ensuring that homeowners and businesses share support for public education.

 

Federal Funding.  Support state policies and programs that maximize the receipt and use of federal matching and other funds for state purposes.

 

Inventory tax. Support elimination or reduction of local inventory taxes. Texas is one of only six states that permit the levy of a property tax on inventories. This places the state at a severe economic disadvantage.

 

Incentives. Support government tax policies and incentive programs that are effective in increasing investment to create new jobs and greatly expand economic activity. Support specific exemptions, like those for manufacturing use, construction and electricity use, as well as reasonable abatements, enterprise funds, the Texas Moving Image Incentive Program and reinvestment zones.

 

Location of Payor. Oppose any component of a business or franchise tax that penalizes those located in Texas.

 

Marketplace Fairness. Support Marketplace Fairness legislation. Marketplace Fairness grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no  matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do.

 

Mandates

Oppose unfunded government mandates that shift the cost of financing programs to either the private sector or other levels of government.

 

New Regulatory Fees & Taxes. Oppose any new taxes to pay for additional regulatory programs. Oppose the imposition of any new fees to recover the cost of regulatory programs unless the program can be shown to clearly address a critical public need. Fees should only be assessed to recover the actual costs imposed on government by the activities of the regulated entities. The fees must reasonably allocate the costs between members of a regulated universe, and they must be adjusted periodically to actually match agency budgets and legislative appropriations.

 

Real Estate Transactions. Oppose mandatory price disclosure on commercial real estate transactions.

 

Regulatory Policy. Support legislative efforts to maintain a regulatory climate that does not impose hidden taxes on employers through excessive fees and fines, but rather reduces excessive regulations to promote, rather than impede, economic growth and job creation.

 

Small Business Tax Relief.  Maintain franchise tax relief for small business.

 

HEALTHCARE

LHA Chamber advocates for the highest quality health care at the best cost available for both employers who provide health insurance to their employees and for the state taxpayers who fund Medicaid. LHA Chamber’s legislative priorities are wide-ranging, covering issues such as access, transparency, health literacy and quality of service.

 

Access.  Increase access to choices of health care programs by supporting market-driven health care policies that maximize consumer and public benefit and allow for the continuation of employer-sponsored voluntary health care coverage. Encourage the establishment of programs that would allow employers selection of the highest quality benefits and the lowest, most competitive prices.

 

Administration. Support legislation to improve the administration of healthcare services through the education of physician office staff and streamline the process to enhance outcomes and lower administrative burdens, such as encouraging providers to submit claims electronically. To the extent that they do not do so already, encourage insurance carriers and administrators to accept claims electronically.

 

Affordability.  Oppose any measure that increases costs for Texas employers and their employees and families.  The high cost of health services and health insurance is a primary contributor to the number of uninsured and to the rising percentage of budgets that households, businesses and government spend on healthcare.  Support measures that would increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of health services and health insurance. Expand coverage to include integrative health services including but not limited to acupuncture, massage, Naturopathy, EAV testing.

 

Consumer Information. Empower employees and consumers with information

regarding the cost and quality of health care services, including integrative therapies, to allow consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. Support giving state agencies adequate funds to analyze and publish data in ways that stimulate improvements in quality of care and consumer comparisons. Support efforts to facilitate health plans providing members with information on the allowable amount and patient responsibility in advance of receiving services.

 

Health Care Professionals.  Support legislation and appropriations to expand the educational pipeline for physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other health care professionals by public colleges and universities.

 

Immunizations. Support legislation to expand pharmacists’ scope as an immunization provider. By allowing pharmacists to immunize on protocol to the age of seven, access is increased, and patients are more likely to actually receive the vaccines recommended for them.

 

Interstate Insurance. Support legislation to allow Texans to purchase insurance policies, which have been approved by the insurance boards of any state and contain adequate consumer disclosure, across state lines, therefore increasing options for Texas citizens in purchasing health care policies.

 

Mental & Behavioral Health.  Support increased funding and improved implementation of health and human services programs addressing mental and behavioral health needs of Texans. In each of the last two legislative sessions, state lawmakers have provided increased funding for mental and behavioral health services. During the current legislative interim, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus created the House Select Committee on Mental Health, and tasked the committee with evaluating the array of mental health services rendered by numerous state regulatory agencies, and to make recommendations for improving the quality and efficiency of the delivery of those critical services.

 

Medicaid 1115 Transformation Waiver.  Support the Medicaid 1115 Transformation Waiver. The 1115 Waiver provides almost $6 billion per year in critical federal funding for Texas safety net hospitals, those providers rendering the greatest amount of care to Texas’ large uninsured and Medicaid populations.  These funds are especially significant because Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the country; and the Houston MSA has the highest percentage of uninsured of any major metropolitan area of the country.  Finally, continuation of the waiver provides access to the most significant source of funding for Texas hospitals, given that the state has refused to expand its Medicaid program, as was contemplated in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare); and the 2017 Legislature has signaled unequivocally that it will not expand the Medicaid program next session.

 

Medication Synchronization. Support legislation that would require drug plans to cover interim fills to facilitate medication synchronization programs. Medication Synchronization plans allow the pharmacist to proactively synchronize a pick-up date for medications. Medication synchronization aligns all of a patient’s medications to be refilled on the same day. Patients can then make a single trip to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions each month, making it more convenient to stay on track with their long-term medications and boost patients’ medication adherence. In addition, the service affords patients and caregivers the opportunity for a more in-depth consultation with a pharmacist, such as about proper medication usage or mitigating side effects.

 

Recognized as Healthcare Providers. Support legislation that would improve patient access to care through expanded utilization of pharmacists and licensed, degreed integrative providers by extending them healthcare provider status.

 

State Trauma Fund Preservation. Support legislation to sustain the State Trauma Fund.

 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The state and local economic development entities must have necessary tools to compete for corporate relocations and expansions. The LHAC will continue to support measures that provide businesses in Texas a competitive advantage when making decisions to invest capital.

 

Economic Development Programs. Continue support for state and local tools used to compete for corporate expansions/relocations and job growth, such as the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Texas Enterprise Zone Fund and the tax incentives available under the Texas Economic Development Act under Chapter 313 of the Tax Code. LHA Chamber supports refreshing the Texas Enterprise Fund with adequate funding to keep it competitive by maintaining a $200 million balance at the beginning of each biennium.

 

Education Tax Incentives. Support legislative efforts to provide tax incentives to encourage business participation in education initiatives.

 

Innovation

Maintaining a vibrant and innovative economy will be dependent on our ability to create and cultivate innovation-intensive companies, and greater research and commercialization capacities.

  • Support investment in world-class research to spur groundbreaking innovation, including the Governor’s University Initiative.
  • Support the promotion of and leveraging partnerships between private industry and academia, thus bridging the gap between innovation occurring on the campuses of Texas universities and the marketplace.
  • Provide pilot proof of concept funding to accelerate university tech transfer and commercialization.
  • Maintain R&D tax credit.
  • Oppose any unnecessary regulations or legal requirements that increase cost, reduce consumer choice, hamper innovation, and limit technology advancement and availability.

 

Sales Tax for Economic Development

  • Support continued use of a locally approved 1/2-cent sales tax collected by cities to fund economic development efforts.
  • Oppose efforts to reduce local control of these funds or efforts to limit the uses of these funds. Because these funds are local funds, taxpayers should retain the right to manage their use so long as they are used for economic development purposes.
  • Support the removal of county average wage restrictions that limit a local government’s use of these funds for local job training purposes.
  • Support efforts to clarify that the purpose of the sales tax funds is to serve as economic development tools and to prevent raids on the funds for projects that are not related to economic development.

 

Skills Development Program. Support increased funding for the Skills Development

Program administered by the Texas Workforce Commission. Maintain Skills Development Fund grants at the Texas Workforce Commission to improve workforce training.

 

Tax Abatements & Other Economic Development Incentives. Continue to support local control and flexibility in the use of tax abatements, tax increment financing, reinvestment zones and other incentives to promote economic development and job creation.

 

Transportation & Infrastructure

An adequate transportation system is absolutely essential to the movement of people, goods and services and the preservation of economic opportunity in Texas. All transportation policy decisions must be focused on increasing the efficient and cost-effective movement of commerce between our neighboring states and countries. We must identify the transportation system that Texas needs and then determine all reasonable means to pay for it.

 

All modes of transportation that support our economy and jobs deserve support, as well as maintenance and modernization of our existing infrastructure. All methods of finance, including toll roads, alternative methods of funding and state revenues will be essential to providing all levels of government – state, regional and local – the tools to plan, design and implement transportation projects that serve the needs of this state.

 

System Needs

Transportation Funding. The 84th Legislature made valuable progress in improving transportation funding in Texas without authorizing any new fees or taxes. With these efforts, however, we can only hope to maintain current levels of traffic congestion. In order to meaningfully reduce congestion and meet the needs of our growing population, new and sustainable sources of revenue are inevitably required. LHA Chamber will oppose any efforts to reduce the availability of recent revenue gains in attempts to fund other budget priorities.

 

Improved Transportation Systems. Support improved highways, ports of entry and other infrastructure that facilitates trade, increases the effective flow of goods and services, promotes tourism and increases public safety wherever these improvements can improve economic opportunity and state productivity.

 

Waterway, Port, and Ship Channel Improvements.  Support any opportunities available to the Legislature or state agencies to facilitate ongoing efforts to improve the maintenance and modernization of commercial waterways and ports. Support local communities seeking funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or other sources, and support state agency review and coordination of federal or state permits or authorizations. Further, support the continued priority of use of the State

Highway Fund (Fund 6) for marine transportation needs.

 

State Water Plan.  Support efforts to implement the State Water Plan to ensure the availability of water resources for the State a viable future for economic development in Texas and the maintenance of a good quality of life for Texans.

 

Financing Options

Bonds. Despite the appropriate concern over both state and local government debt, LHA Chamber supports the issuance of bonds as funding mechanisms for highway and related construction where the long-term financing of infrastructure makes financial sense, generates positive economic returns and provides adequate revenues to retire the obligations. We support the early retirement of transportation debt where financial analysis clearly shows that such options provide the best return on investment of transportation funds and adequate funds.

 

Transportation Regulation

Eminent Domain

Support efforts to improve the eminent domain process that protect both the interests and rights of property owners, improve the efficiency of the process for any party acquiring property through eminent domain, reduce the costs of infrastructure projects to taxpayers and ratepayers and ensure a balance of interests between both public utilities and landowners. Oppose any efforts to unfairly or arbitrarily deny access to the eminent domain process to any class or type of utility or public infrastructure provider, whether public or private.

 

Workforce & Education

Career & Technology.  Support career and technology education in conjunction with public schools and community colleges where appropriate to meet the needs of Texas employers.

 

Unfunded Education Mandates. Oppose any mandates imposed on public schools without accompanying funding.

 

Local Control. Support measures that give school districts the flexibility to meet the needs of their students. Support at-will employment for teachers, removing the state from setting the terms and conditions of employment.

 

Skills Development Program. Support increased funding for the Skills Development Program administered by the Texas Workforce Commission. Maintain Skills Development Fund grants at the Texas Workforce Commission to improve workforce training.

 

Technology Workforce Development Grant Program. Support the continuation of funding for the Texas Technology Workforce Development Grant program, which is awarded for computer science and electrical engineering instruction at various institutions of higher education in Texas.