Visit San Antonio: Legislative Affairs, December 2020
On Dec. 11, the Senate passed a one-week stopgap bill, hours ahead of a government shutdown deadline. The bill, approved by a voice vote, will move the funding deadline from the end of the day Friday to Dec. 18. The one-week continuing resolution (CR) already passed the House on Dec. 9, meaning it now goes to President Trump’s desk. He’ll need to sign it by midnight for the federal government to continue its normal operations.
Even though it appears that a government shutdown was averted, Congressional negotiators are still working to finalize and approve a massive funding agreement that would include the 12 fiscal 2021 bills and fund the entire government until Oct. 1, 2021.
In addition, the Administration and Congress continue negotiations on an additional COVID-19 funding relief package. The current proposals vary between $908 billion and $916 billion; unfortunately, talks are stalling over disagreements related to liability protections for businesses, an additional $600 stimulus check and an extension of time for assistance, but with a reduced amount of unemployment benefits. However, there is good news related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As we have advocated for months, it appears that inclusion of 501c(6) and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO) in the PPP are contained in the current “draft” proposal; however, there are many moving parts with these negotiations and things are changing on daily basis. Several members of Congress have stated publicly that a $500 billion or $600 billion package made up of funding for a new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans and other targeted assistance would pass Congress.
The Visit San Antonio Government Affairs Team will remain engaged with advocating for federal assistance for the travel and tourism industry. We continue to make the case of the importance of our sector to the national, state and local economies. We’re working with our federal delegation, the U.S. Travel Association and other travel partners and stakeholders to secure federal relief and funding for all of the struggling businesses in our region.
Due to the high level of activity, information in the Federal Section of this report is accurate as of Friday, Dec. 11, 2020.
As Texas prepares for the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines, the number of positive pandemic cases continue to rise statewide. We encourage everyone to continue to wear face masks, socially distance and wash their hands, as we know this will help reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and speed up economic recovery.
Operations of the 87th State Legislature
It still remains unclear how the Legislature will conduct daily operations as the 87th State Legislative Session begins on Jan. 12. We do anticipate limited access in the State Capitol, including masking requirements and the potential need for individual COVID-19 testing prior to entering. As the Senate and House of Representatives adopt operational rules, we will keep you updated on those measures.
The Bexar County State Delegation
On Dec. 9, Visit San Antonio led a hospitality industry briefing of the Bexar County state delegation and their staffs to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry. We also provided the delegation with a briefing on the top legislative and regulatory issues for our respective industries. Visit San Antonio was joined by participants from the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association, San Antonio Restaurant Association and San Antonio Visitors Alliance.
Members of the delegation joining the Zoom meeting included Sen. Jose Menendez and Representatives Steve Allison, Diego Bernal and Barbara Gervin-Hawkins. Several Chiefs of Staff for other delegation members also participated.
During the hour-long meeting, Visit San Antonio President & CEO Casandra Matej provided an overview of the negative impacts of COVID-19 on our local travel and tourism economy. I emphasized to the delegation that our industry sees itself as their partners and offered our collective support to them – now and in the future. Jeff Arndt, the chairman of the Visit San Antonio Board of Directors, provided additional insights about industry.
Issues discussed included:
- The Economic Development and Tourism Office
- The Events Trust Fund
- The Hotel Occupancy Tax fund
- Human trafficking
- Workforce development
- Economic development
Delegation members also mentioned:
- Medicaid expansion
- Legalizing gambling
- Medical cannabis
Members of our delegation were very engaged with us during the Zoom meeting and indicated their support for the issues of concern to the hospitality industry. They noted the statewide budget will present difficult challenges. Decisions will need to be made to ensure the state has a balanced budget. They echoed our comments that travel and tourism is a “revenue-generating industry” that needs to be supported.
Texas Travel Alliance (TTA)
“Stay Connected With Your Legislators for the 87th State Legislature”
As a reminder, the Texas Travel Alliance (TTA) has developed a text notification advocacy system for alerts, notifications and calls to action for the coming State Legislative Session. TTA anticipates that there may be limited access to legislators and their staff during the coming regular and any special Legislative Sessions. The text system is a way for them to get information out to you and for you to contact legislators, when necessary.
Please take a few minutes and text to 40649, type in Travel, and then hit send. You will get a confirmation text with the opportunity to fill out your name, address and other contact information.
With the budget challenges facing the 87th State Legislature, it will be important that we make our voices heard for the support and promotion of travel and tourism throughout Texas.
With no new or amended Executive Orders from Governor Greg Abbott, the current state Executive Order in place is GA-32. On Dec. 8, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued Executive Order NW-18. Bexar County bars were ordered to close again as of 11 p.m. on Dec. 10. The new order from the county judge requires that all bars and similar establishments that hold a TABC permit, and are not defined as a restaurant, must close until further notice. The order cited significant increase in the rate of (COVID-19) infections as the reasoning behind the decision to close bars.
Judge Wolff sent a letter to TABC officials on Dec. 8 to notify them that Bexar County was choosing to opt out of Governor Abbott’s GA-32 allowing county judges to determine whether bars and similar establishments in their jurisdiction can reopen.
The City of San Antonio has not issued any new or amended Emergency Orders.