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State lawmakers reconvene for special session

 - Agenda sets stage for 2018 elections

Under the Texas Constitution, only the Governor can call a special session of the Legislature and only he decides which issues lawmakers can act upon. The special session that convened July 18 is starting with the urgent business at hand – reauthorizing a handful of state agencies – before they’re allowed to turn their attention to a laundry list of social and local governance issues that will form the platform of Gov. Greg Abbott’s just announced re-election campaign.

While the list is comprised of GOP primary red-meat issues, TAB is monitoring the special session closely to ensure no measures harmful to broadcasters’ interests are slipped into any bills that gain traction.  The agenda involves issues over which Republicans – which have commanding majorities in the House and Senate and control the Governor’s Mansion – find themselves bitterly divided, continuing the toxic atmosphere that dominated much of the regular session that ended just six weeks ago.

So it’s no surprise that most industries and lobby groups that don’t have a dog in this hunt are just standing back and watching intently to avoid becoming collateral damage. That’s where you’ll find TAB, though we’ll alert you immediately, as always, to any concerns and arm you with all the information you need to state your case effectively. 

For now, we reflect on what lawmakers did on our issues in the regular session.

Defense is Job #1
TAB’s success over the past decades on tax, advertising and newsroom policy fronts at the state level means we have much to defend.  Rarely has our defensive posture been so tested as in this year’s regular session. 

Tax Exemptions:  We slipped deftly into a bitter fight over one of the state’s major tax incentive programs to protect our sales tax exemptions for equipment and electricity used in production and transmission.  They were targeted for repeal, but we succeeded in ensuring they were protected and taken off the table.

Anti-SLAPP & Shield Laws:  A long-running personal political battle spilled into the legislative process as one key House member sought to gut the key protections for our industry against frivolous lawsuits provided by the Anti-SLAPP and Shield laws TAB passed over the last few sessions.  After lengthy negotiations, we were able to neutralize this major threat.

Process designed to kill, not pass, bills
TAB joined forces with the newspaper industry and FOI advocates to advance legislation to undo some disastrous Texas Supreme Court rulings that now prevent journalists and other taxpayers from seeing most government contracts with private companies.  We were also trying to fix some other legislation that passed in previous sessions.

While we succeeded – twice – in moving these measures through the Texas Senate, the House was another story altogether.  Big business dominates the lower chamber and succeeded in bottling up our bills and keep secret how they spend billions of tax dollars, in stark contrast to the upper chamber’s commitment to government transparency.  While this joint effort ultimately failed, we did succeed in securing the creation of a joint Senate/House study of the issues before the next regular session.

We’ll outline our interim legislative strategy for addressing these issues – and federal concerns such as the Ad Tax – at the upcoming TAB Annual Convention & Trade Show Aug. 9-10 in Austin.  REGISTER

Member stations make the difference
Stations’ membership dues fund TAB’s legislative efforts to protect your interests, and GMs’ personal engagement with individual lawmakers in response to our calls to action are key to our success.

While we have the benefit of expert lawyering by TAB Associate Members Laura Prather of Haynes Boone, Cindy Ohlenforst with K&L Gates, and Stacy Allen with Jackson Walker, the individual leadership of broadcasters in small and large markets alike are key to our ability to advance any issue. 

Again, there’s more to come with regard to laying the groundwork for our state and federal legislative agenda in the coming months, so be sure to join us in Austin Aug. 9-10 and hear first-hand the state of play.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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