2017 File Photo/Staff
Business leaders pushed back against the bathroom bill during the last legislative session. Phillip Jones, of Visit Dallas and Texas Welcomes All, spoke at a news conference opposing the bill.
Businesses Say ‘Enough’
Chambers band together to fight GOP excesses

The local chamber of commerce has never exactly been a bastion of the progressive left, with its eagerness to use regulation to push a social agenda.

Quite the opposite, chambers have stood for protecting business from the choking hand of government.

You might be surprised to learn, then, that 92 chambers of commerce in and around Dallas-Fort Worth are banding together for the first time in a massive coalition — not to fight government strangulation from the left — but to challenge anti-business impulses that increasingly issue from the far right.

From attempts to legislate who goes into what bathroom to strident anti-immigration efforts, the worry is rising in Texas boardrooms that those who hold power have lost sight of what is good for Texas’ economy.

It isn’t just about social issues, either. There are worries that state lawmakers are hampering infrastructure development and choking off government’s traditional power to enable the construction of roads, power lines and water projects. There is worry, too, that the costs of public schools are being shoved onto residents and business owners in the form of ever-rising property taxes at the same time state government is trying to cap how much revenue local governments can raise.

Meanwhile, state government has a nasty habit of heaping unfunded mandates on local governments only to be invisible when the bill comes due.

We share many of the concerns expressed by D-FW-area chambers and support their effort to come together to represent traditional business interests in Austin.

Nine primary chambers in the area — all active in state government — are leading the effort under the North Texas Commission. The nine include the Dallas Regional Chamber, the Fort Worth Chamber, the North Dallas Chamber and the chambers of Arlington, Frisco, Irving, McKinney, Plano and Richardson. As they continue to organize, we can expect to see them become more vocal during legislative sessions and more influential during primary as well as general elections.

These chambers include serious business people with serious conservative bona tides. Dale Petroskey, president and chief executive of the Dallas Regional Chamber, served in the Reagan administration to name just one.

Their concerns about the state’s direction are concerns that fellow conservatives shotdd hear and consider as we approach the 86th Legislature.

To many business leaders, the last legislative session was among the most anti business in memory, said Chris Wallace, president and chief executive of the North Texas Commission.

The bad publicity that issued from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s attempt to force transgender people into the bathroom of their birth gender was enough to cause CEOs around Texas to push back against an unnecessary and mean-spirited piece of legislation.

Immigration is another area where business leaders know that smart, fair policy that keeps workers in this country is good for the Texas economy, a strong tide that has lifted many people into wealth.

Business leaders are paying closer attention now to the rise of deep-pocketed but often misguided ideologues who have funded far-right political groups including Empower Texans that have outsized influence on the Texas Republican Party.

Primary season has become a sad and unserious demonstration of who can get farther to the right of the other guy on the culture wars that tear at the country’s fabric.

Too many of these fights have seen good and experienced legislators washed out of government in favor of dubiously qualified but predictably loud replacements who do little to keep Texas the envy of the nation.

Local chambers know what has made Texas successful because many of their members have been at the root of that success.

It was once hard to imagine such groups gathering together to oppose so many efforts of a GOP Legislature in Texas.

But such are the times, and the times are telling.