Did Texas’ pro-business reputation take hit in legislative session?


State lawmakers approved some bills during the recently concluded legislative session that are aimed at restricting the autonomy of private businesses.

Republican state leaders routinely describe Texas as something of a paradise for private enterprise, touting its hands-off regulatory climate and entrepreneurial spirit.

But a number of bills approved by the GOP-controlled state Legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott seemingly fly in the face of that free-market ethos.

The measures are aimed at curbing the autonomy of individual business owners or punishing their behavior — in favor of government-sanctioned action — when it comes to a range of high-profile social issues, such as guns, climate change, proof of vaccinations and the playing of the national anthem.

The new laws include:

  • Senate Bills 13 and 19, which take effect Sept. 1 and block businesses with 10 or more employees from obtaining government contracts worth $100,000 or more in Texas if they boycott the fossil fuel sector or the gun industry, respectively. SB 13 also will prevent state funds from being invested with financial companies that boycott the fossil fuel sector.
  • SB 968, legislation that will deny state contracts to businesses of all sizes, and possibly result in loss of operating licenses, if they require customers to show proof of coronavirus vaccinations. The new law took effect last month.
  • SB 20, a new law that takes effect Sept. 1 and bans hotels with more than 10 rooms from prohibiting guests from storing ammunition and firearms — even high-powered assault-style rifles — in their rooms.
  • SB 4, which will require professional sports teams in Texas to play the national anthem at the start of  home games or risk losing subsidies and other funding from state and local governments. SB 4 takes effect Sept. 1.

Backers of the measures — all of which were introduced by Republicans but, in several cases, received substantial support from Democrats — have heralded them as needed protections for important Texas industries, traditional values or individual rights.

Representatives of some business groups don’t necessarily see it that way, however.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a number of bills into law this year that were opposed by Texas business groups.

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The Texas Association of Manufacturers, a statewide lobbying organization, opposed SB 968, which bans so-called “vaccine passports,” preventing private companies from requiring vaccine proof from customers.

“The ability for businesses to implement public health policies pertinent to a safer and healthier work environment should be encouraged and protected,” said Tony Bennett, president of the manufacturers’ group.


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