Visit San Antonio: Legislative Updates, December 2017 - January 2018

There is an important electoral deadline right around the corner: Monday, February 5, is the last day you can register in order to vote in the March 6 primaries. Regretfully, Texas is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to voter turnout during the primaries. In fact, in non-presidential years, primary voter turnout is typically anywhere from 4 to 6 percent.

What that means is that only 4 to 6 percent of registered voters in Texas determine who makes it on to the November ballot. With so many critical issues on the state agenda for the 2019 session (school start date, Hotel Occupancy Tax protection, restoring funding for the Tourism Office, etc.), the primaries have never been more critical.

It’s important for companies to encourage their staffs and team members to vote. While Visit San Antonio is not attempting to promote any specific candidate over another, its long-term goal is to increase understanding of the voting process and thus increase voter turnout.

Hospitality and Tourism is the third-largest industry in the state, behind only oil and gas and real estate. If each industry encouraged its employees to vote and get engaged in the legislative process, it would provide a tremendous show of force of the power of our industry. And that would certainly be a worthy message for our elected officials to hear.

If you would like information on the various voter initiatives, reach out directly to our Government Relations Team. They will be more than happy to chat about how you can get a voter registration drive at your individual company.

At the end of the month, several leaders within our industry will be traveling to Washington, D.C., for the annual SA to DC trip. This important joint-Chamber event provides our team the opportunity to visit with legislators to discuss critical federal issues. Hospitality and Tourism members will include Justin Holley (SAHLA Board Chair and VSA Board Member); Liza Barratachea (President, SAHLA); Marco Barros (President and CEO, SATC); Maggie Thompson (Executive Director, San Antonio River Walk Association); Davis Phillips (President and CEO, Phillips Entertainment/ Action Attractions); Shermeka Hudson (Sr. Corporate Relations Coordinator, Spurs Sports and Entertainment); Roland Gonzales (Principal, Cokino Young) and Art Chavarria (Group Director of Compliance, Whataburger Restaurants).

The team will be meeting with individuals from the offices of Chairwoman Titus and Chairman Bilirakis (co-chairs of the House Tourism Caucus) as well as Congressmen LoBiondo and Larsen (ranking members of the Airport Subcommittee). Our team will also meet with the U.S. Travel Association, Destinations International and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, as well as with every member of the Bexar County delegation. While on the Hill, the issues the team will discuss will include the passenger facility charge, visa waiver program, preservation of open skies and continued funding for Brand USA.

On the state level, Chairman Estes has set the first meeting for the Senate interim hearing on Hotel Occupancy Tax for Thursday, February 1, in Houston. This important hearing will lay the groundwork for how we will tackle protecting our Hotel Occupancy Tax during the 2019 session.

These next few months will be critical for our State and Federal agendas and you’re encouraged to reach out and find out how you can engage and become involved in this important process.