It’s been more than a week since the Texas Legislature adjourned, and yet the 87th session is likely still not over. Some representatives in the Texas House all but assured a special session this summer when they walked out off the House floor. The walkout also ensured that numerous good pieces of legislation failed to become law.
Among the rubble was Senate Bill 14, a bill that would have prohibited cities and counties from implementing employment mandates and stricter regulations on private businesses. This has been and continues to be a growing issue throughout the state. Over the last few years, local governments, like Austin and San Antonio, have attempted to implement strict regulations, including mandated paid sick leave, hiring and scheduling practices, and fair chance hiring. But these mandates hurt more than they help.
Requiring private businesses to take on the regulatory hurdles and increased costs of such mandates will hurt businesses, employees, and consumers. Employers will be forced to shift costs, due to a lack of increased output. Workers will lose out on potential job opportunities, other benefits, and higher wages. And consumers will inevitably see increased prices for goods and services—and fewer options.
These one-size-fits-all mandates not only hurt the very people they try to help, but they also take away the freedom of an employer and worker to negotiate terms of employment. Prohibiting cities from enforcing these burdensome regulations is a step toward protecting Texans from local government overreach. That is what Senate Bill 14 would have accomplished.
Instead, the failure to pass this legislation was a blow to Texans and the Texas economy.
But luckily for legislators, there’s time to fix this mistake.
It’s probable that there will be a special session called by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in which legislators will have a chance to take another shot at legislation left in the wake of the walkout. While there has not been an official announcement of when it will happen or what will be included, there is plenty of reason to include SB 14 in any special session call.
Texans deserve this employment protection. Texas businesses deserve protection from overreaching local governments that want to impose such burdensome regulations. Texans and Texas businesses are still recovering from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns. Thousands of businesses closed permanently and many others have struggled to stay afloat. The closing of businesses has not only hurt the economy, it has also caused much suffering among Texans, who did everything they could to open in the first place.
Senate Bill 14 brought the business community together in hopes that these patchwork regulations could be ended. Businesses already have a full plate of regulations to deal with, and differences in employment mandates from city to city ought not be another one.
For the sake of every Texan and the Texas economy, Gov. Abbott should add employment freedom to the list of items legislators can act on during the upcoming special session.