Texas Association of Business 2011 Annual Conference Recap
Defending Free Enterprise
Dream Big Texas
I had the pleasure of leaving Virginia weather (and a snow day) behind to travel to Austin, TX for the 2011 Texas Association of Business Annual Conference last week. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Austin, I knew I was in Texas!
All of the sessions were held at the beautiful AT&T Conference Center on the edge of the University of Texas campus.
The Texas Association of Business had a packed agenda. They held panels on The Sunset Process, the budget and education. They were also able to squeeze in some fun at the Saengerrunde Hall for a Legislative and Capitol Staff Reception. Their closing luncheon featured Governor Rick Perry and they presented Texas Monthly’s “Best Companies to Work for in Texas.”
Texas State Senator Tommy Williams delivered opening remarks, standing in for Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurts. Sen. Williams said that the top three issues for the state senate this biennium are redistricting, the budget shortfall and school finance. They are also keeping a close eye on the federal government in regards to banking regulations, oil refinery flexible permits, off-shore drilling, Mexico’s government (border control, cleaning up narco-terrorism and future trading with Mexico) and transportation. He also mentioned that the senate intends to focus on homeland security as opposed to immigration this session.
The Sunset Process and its role in the upcoming Legislative Session Panel featured two members of the Sunset Advisory Commission. The Sunset Advisory Commission consists of twelve members, six from the house and six from the senate. The commission reviews the policies and programs of government agencies every 12 years to insure that they are still relevant and efficient.
The Budget Panel was comprised of the Lt. Governor’s Director of Intergovernmental Relations, the Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy, Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Each panelist had their own ideas for how to solve the budget crisis and how much of the “rainy day” fund should be spent to close the budget gap. Bill Hammond, President and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, said that TAB is hoping to save pre-K education and incentives for teachers.
The evening ended with a reception at Austin’s Saengerrunde Hall. Our group was entertained by Jesse Dayton and an evening full of two-stepping!
I wasn’t able to attend the sessions on Thursday, but Norma Ritz Johnson from Lubbock gave me a recap of the Education Panel that I was so disappointed to miss! She said that the greatest takeaway from the education discussion was how to best measure accountability and address funding versus performance versus growing population. There was a lot of discussion about best utilization of a state college grant program and how to enhance college graduation rates for those receiving the grants as well as college students in general.
Thank you for your hospitality, Austin! I can’t wait to visit again.