The 2019 Legislative Session is happening now. Keep up with THLA’s work by reading our updates, and viewing the bills we are tracking.
Over the past decade, THLA has expanded its legislative program from being primarily defensive to being a strong and proactive agenda of legislation that our trade association initiates. The proactive legislation has resulted in THLA passing the following state initiatives:
- Record Levels of state tourism funding to promote Texas for tourism and hotel activity.
- Over 30 percent increase to the state per diem rates.
- A cap on total hotel tax rates assessed by cities & counties.
- A limit on the number of years a city can audit a hotel for hotel occupancy taxes.
- Provided contract protections for hotel tax rate increases.
- A 51% Reduction in the mixed beverage gross receipts tax paid by Hotels, saving hotels millions of dollars annually in operating costs for serving mixed beverages.
- A 25% reduction in the state franchise tax.
- Authority to create tourism public improvement districts (TPIDs) in five Texas cities.
- Substantial state funding for beach restoration and preservation (rebate of 1/3 of the state hotel tax to coastal cities: South Padre, Galveston, Port Aransas, and Corpus Christi).
- Partnered with the Texas Travel Industry Association on a “Uniform School Start Date” law, ensuring a full summer travel.
- New uses for local hotel tax revenue with return-on-investment requirements, and protection of a percentage of hotel occupancy tax funds allocated for marketing hotel activity.
- Passed legislation to prevent state government entities from posting individual property hotel tax information on a public website.
THLA successfully opposed bills that are adverse to our industry. Examples include:
- Every state hotel tax increase that was opposed by the industry.
- Detrimental surcharges and fees against hotel nights.
- Burdensome facility, personnel & operational requirements.
- Non-tourism uses of the local hotel tax (education, pollution, daycare, city infrastructure).
- Union and “living wage” mandate bills.
- Preemption of local short-term rental ordinances.
Here are THLA’s top legislative issues for the 2019 Session
Maintain Funding for Tourism Promotion in the State Budget
Every legislative session, the hotel and travel industry advocate to protect the 1/12th dedicated portion of the state hotel occupancy tax that is used to promote Texas as a travel destination as part of the state appropriations bill.
The full 1/12th of the state hotel occupancy tax revenue remains dedicated to promoting tourism under state law and cannot be spent for any other purpose. This means the dedicated state hotel tax dollars must be spent promoting Texas as a tourism destination, which increases the State’s return-on-investment.
Texas needs tourism activity. According to data maintained by the Office of the Governor, tourism spending in Texas is over $74.7 billion annually. Tourism directly supports over 677,500 Texas jobs. This number nearly doubles if indirect employment is included.
As Texas continues to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, it is more important than ever to continue promoting Texas as a tourism and travel destination.
Preserving the dedicated nature of local hotel occupancy taxes
State law has always required that local hotel occupancy taxes be dedicated revenues that directly enhance and promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry. This standard has benefited Texas communities by generating significant economic activity from travel, tourism and hotel activity. Legislative proposals to use local hotel tax revenue for general city purposes harms our communities’ ability to generate more economic activity from tourism and hotel activity.
Hotels currently fund important local government activities through property tax exactions, sales tax revenues, and alcoholic beverage tax revenues—all of which are un-dedicated, general use funding sources for local governments. We ask our state legislative leaders to continue to support the dedicated nature of local hotel occupancy taxes and oppose any legislation offered that would change the dedicated nature of these funds, and not allow these funds to be used for general government functions.
Restoring the uniform school start date for Texas school districts
State law has traditionally required School districts required to begin classes no earlier than the fourth Monday in August. This ensures a full summer travel period for families, allows students the opportunity to have seasonal summer jobs, attend summer camps, and allows teachers the opportunity to take summer coursework or have a seasonal job.
However, beginning with the 2018/2019 school year, a state statutory exemption from the uniform school start date requirement through the Districts of Innovation (DOI) program has led to more than two-thirds of Texas school districts opting for their own unique start dates.
This has caused a significant detrimental economic impact to travel and tourism, all without any documented benefit on education outcomes for students. THLA is partnering with the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA) to advocate for the elimination of the school start date exemption in the DOI program to restore the uniform school start date that benefits both families and the Texas economy. No matter where you reside in Texas, each of the above items have a direct impact on the success of your business.
Pass tourism public improvement district enabling legislation in Texas communities where supported by local lodging operators
Oppose statewide preemption of local short-term rental ordinances for commercial STR operators
THLA believes in a level playing field for all lodging operators. We oppose efforts that would single out commercial short-term rental operators for special protections under the law.
Oppose Repeal of 30 Day Hotel Tax Exemption
Every legislative session, THLA has to fight back proposals to eliminate the exemption for “permanent residents” also known as the 30-day exemption. This exemption makes guests who stay over 30 days completely exempt from state and local hotel tax. Smaller cities, counties, sometimes seek repeal of this exemption in order to increase local tax revenues. They argue that the exemption was not intended to help big corporate entities such as oil companies, railroads, and airlines from paying the hotel tax for rooms that they keep long term for guests which switch out. THLA argues that the exemption for 30 days has been in existence as long as the hotel tax and there is nothing to suggest in the law that corporate entities could not use the exemption.THLA also argues that repealing the exemption is tantamount to a tax increase and we have joined with oil, railroad, and airline lobbyists to make this argument.