Texas Business, Tourism, Chamber Leaders Call on Texas Lawmakers to Reject Discriminatory Legislation as Divisive, Unnecessary, and Economically Dangerous


AUSTIN, TEXAS– March 27, 2019 –Texas business and tourism leaders gathered at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to reject unnecessary and discriminatory legislation, including the sweeping SB 17 and the Committee Substitute for SB 15, as well as more than a dozen other bills that would create a “bathroom bill 2.0” situation and cast Texas in a negative light.  Business, chamber, convention and visitor bureaus and tourism executives discussed the negative impacts of unnecessary and discriminatory legislation on Texas’ economy, jobs, investment, brand, and reputation.

Leaders from Texas Welcomes All, Texas Competes, the North Texas Commission, Chambers of Commerce and Texas largest employers said two of the bills the Lt. Gov. Patrick placed on his “top 30” priority list and at least a dozen other bills filed are unnecessary and will bring significant damage to the Texas economy and brand.

A long list of Texas employers, chambers, associations, CVBs, and business coalitions also released an open letter on the importance of diversity and inclusion and in opposition to discriminatory measures.

“Wholly unnecessary and highly discriminatory legislation is threatening Texas’ reputation as open and welcoming for businesses and families. The pursuit of the committee substitute for SB 15 and SB 17 and more than a dozen other bills represent a willful disregard for those vulnerable people and for businesses, workers and communities across our state,” said Phillip Jones, President & CEO, VisitDallas and Chairman of the Board for Texas Welcomes All.  “The economic costs are still being felt from the focus on the 2017 bathroom bill and they cut to the heart of our tourism industry, our small businesses and everyday Texans working to make ends meet.”

According to data tracked by Texas Welcomes All, during 2017, $66 million in conventions were cancelled in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Arlington because of the focus on the bathroom bill. That’s almost 38,000 hotel room nights. An additional $205.2 million in conventions said they would cancel if a bathroom law passed, totaling another 167,000 hotel nights. And, a further $1.5 billion is on the line, with conventions and events that have said they were on the fence, that’s another 423,000 hotel nights across the state.

“ASAE opposes the committee substitute for SB 15 and SB 17 and any legislation that permits or even gives the appearance of tolerating discrimination,” said John Graham, president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). “Associations are a driving force behind the meetings and conventions industry, bringing their business (and dollars) to cities that bid against each other to host their events. ASAE is scheduled to bring its Annual Meeting to Dallas in 2021, which will result in millions of dollars injected into the city’s economy. However, the state’s reputation and economic outlook are at risk if the state Legislature continues to pursue legislation that tolerates and legalizes discrimination as it did in 2017.  I can tell you that in choosing the host city for our meetings, we look closely at whether there are municipal non-discrimination ordinances in place to ensure that our attendees feel welcome and safe while they are at our meeting.”

Last session, an economic impact study conducted by AngelouEconomics found that Texas risks losses of up to $5.6 billion statewide through 2026 if the bathroom bill was passed.

“Discriminatory legislation is one of the top policy deterrents for planning conventions, conferences and meetings,” said Michelle Crowley, VP Global Growth, Professional Convention Management Association of the Professional Convention Management Association. “Know that our industry holds 1.83 million meetings annually and brings $28 billion in U.S. federal, state and local taxes annually; with more than $280 billion in annual U.S. direct spending spurred by our sector. Should the committee substitute for SB 15 and SB 17 or other discriminatory legislation be signed into law, you ensure Texas’s future percentage of these taxes and spending will exponentially be reduced.”

“The North Texas Commission supports and advances sound policies that strengthen the economic climate of our state. When businesses succeed, Texas communities and families succeed. Passage of the committee substitute of SB 15, SB 17 and other discriminatory bills would result in terrible economic consequences – on talent, on tourism, on investment, on growth, and on small businesses. That’s why NTC and the business community remain steadfastly opposed to this unnecessary legislation,” said Chris Wallace, CEO of the North Texas Commission who represents 95 Chambers of Commerce, 15 cities, and dozens of businesses and in 13-county region of 7.4 million people.

“A global company with over 10,000 employees here in Texas, IBM stands firmly against any discriminatory legislation that would hurt our ability to attract and retain talent in the state. Diversity and inclusion are longstanding values of IBM, and those values go hand-in-hand with innovation. We want to continue to see a world-class pipeline of innovators and thinkers who are excited to put down roots in Texas, and discriminatory measures put that at risk. IBM is going straight to the legislature to make our case that these types of laws are bad for business and bad for Texas,” said Phil Gilbert, Global Head of Design, IBM.

“The Committee Substitute for SB 17 that stripped out protections for our long-standing non-discrimination ordinances in Ft. Worth and other major cities across Texas, if passed would have negative economic impacts that will be long-lasting, from hotel occupancy and state taxes to wage-earners and local businesses that benefit from the influx of tourists to our region,” said Bob Jameson, President and CEO of Visit Ft. Worth. “Our job is to speak up beforedamage happens, and to do everything in our power to protect the livelihoods and jobs of the Texans who make our great tourism economy what it is.”

We will also live stream the event for reporters across the state who can’t attend in person on Facebook @TexasWelcomesAll