85th TEXAS LEGISLATIVE SESSION UPDATE
With your direct involvement, “the arts” received tremendously increased visibility in the Texas State Capitol during the 85th Legislative Session that began on January 9, 2017. Barring the calling of a “Special Session”, the 85th Session will end on Monday, May 29th and we are already thinking ahead to 2019 and the start of the 86th Legislative Session.
Your commitment, your voice, and your engagement this Session were critical in heightening the fact that the arts are a dynamic part of the Texas economy and a vital part of making our communities vibrant, healthy and equitable all across Texas. Thank you!
But first, an important recap of all that we accomplished, and all that did not come our way.
A WIN WIN – is the passage of SB 1221 – the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) Reporting Bill. This was Texans for the Arts’ very first Bill and will require municipalities to annually provide data around arts expenditures (and other eligible HOT uses). This data will greatly inform our work in the coming years so that we can work with you and your municipalities to ensure that investing in the arts and cultural tourism is a part of your municipal budget!
A huge shout-out to Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and Representative Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), for serving as our Bill sponsors in the Senate and House, respectively, and to their staffs for working tirelessly to see this Bill through. For a glimpse at the pathway the Bill has had to take click here.
The only caveat is that, like all legislative action, we have to wait until June 19th and the end of the Governor’s veto period, to ensure SB 1221 becomes law. Mark your calendars.
A DEFINITIVE LOSS – was the Senate and House cuts to the $5 million appropriation to Texas Commission on the Arts’ (TCA) Cultural & Fine Arts District grant program. As you know, Texans for the Arts, led the legislative strategy that secured those $ for the first time in 2017. The $5 million was wisely invested in TCA cultural districts across the state and with studies conducted by the Texas Cultural Trust and TXP Inc., we shared data and stories to attest to their success and high ROI. We started the Session with the assurances that the $5 million would be part of the TCA’s “base funding”, but it never made it into the Senate and House budget bills SB1 and HB 2.
As Senator Jane Nelson, Chair of the Senate Finance and Co-Chair of Budget Conference Committee, said in her comments before announcing the final Conference Committee budget, the issues in Article 1 “…are particularly important to so many Texans – history, the arts, tourism and economic development”.
That said, up against reduced state-wide revenues, where ALL agencies saw a minimum 4% cut, the TCA's budget cuts of 28% hit hard! The Budget Conference Committee did restore an additional $723,917 Senate cut to the TCA’s Arts Education grant program bringing the TCA’s total appropriation for 2018-2019 to $12,711,276.
With your keen participation and in close partnership with the Texas Cultural Trust, we advocated for five straight months to restore those funds:
* Arts Advocacy Day 2017 had a record attendance of over 270 activists who made over 91 legislative visits;
* Four ‘Action Alerts’ over the course of the session elicited over 1,700 messages to over 99 legislative offices;
* Countless visits to the 181 Senate and House legislative offices were made delivering articles and news about the impact and value of the arts, advocacy materials, and more across the state;
* Social Media exposure was significant and constant throughout the Session;
* Editorials, OpEds, local news arts impact stories, and more appeared in dozens of newspapers and media outlets across the state.
Together, we turned over every stone, called and visited and emailed and Tweeted and Facebooked every Texas legislative office, over and again!
And…we raised the bar that the arts matter across Texas!
We thank our Texas legislators for their public service and we thank their staffs for always welcoming us to their offices and for giving us time to share our stories.
* Wait for June 19, 2017 and the end of the Governor’s veto period, to ensure the final budget and passage of SB 1221.
* Gear up with Texans for the Arts to BUILD ON the relationships we started this session with all of our Texas Legislators.
* Get ready for the November 2018 elections - local, state and national - to ensure the election of pro-arts candidates.
* Get to know your legislators! Invite them to your programs and performances, follow you on social media, and learn more about what you do. Visit them when they are “home”! Follow their interests and work to ensure the arts are a part of their own story!
100% of our income comes from membership of individuals and arts organizations like you from across the state and goes directly towards advocating and lobbying to increase public support for the arts and empowering YOU to use your voice in the legislative process.
We will have more to share in the coming weeks, including reaching out to our Texans for the Arts' members to survey them on their needs, concerns, opportunities and threats. We’ll support ongoing advocacy to keep the National Endowment for the Arts for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting alive and funded through the federal budget process. And, we’ll keep you apprised of the public funding landscape of the arts across Texas.
Thank you for being a critical part of the grassroots movement to build more vibrant, healthy and equitable communities across Texas through the arts! Please get in touch with any questions, ideas, thoughts, challenges. We look forward to hearing from you!
- March 20-21, 2017, a delegation of Texas arts leaders attended National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. to meet with our Texas Congressional leaders about arts issues at the federal level - in particular threatened cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional issue areas included pending changes to tax policy, immigration policy, health care, and more. To learn more about the campaign to save the National Endowment for the Arts and to take action click here!
Texans for the Arts Foundation held a most successful 2017 Texas Arts Advocacy Day on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the Texas State Capitol in Austin! Over 245 arts leaders and citizen activists gathered from across the state to learn, share, and participate in the democratic process. Everyone has a story about how the arts make a difference in their own lives, in that of their families, and in their communities. On February 9th, we used our voices to speak up about the importance of investing public resources in the arts across our towns, cities, regions, state and nation. Click here to learn more about this year's highlights,
Special thanks to the Texas Commission on the Arts for their generous support of 2017 Arts Advocacy Day through a grant to Texans for the Arts Foundation and to the Texas Cultural Trust for underwriting our Happy Hour Reception. AND, thank you Texas State Senators and Representatives for meeting with us and listening!
- Did you know that the arts generate $5.5 BILLION for the Texas economy? That the arts contribute nearly $343.7 MILLION in state sales tax? That at-risk high school students who complete more than one art class are half as likely to drop out? These and other dynamic data reflect the power of the arts to grow the economy of Texas and help students succeed! Check out the Texas Cultural Trust’s 2017 "Invest in the Arts" study here!
- A very special thank you to Creative Waco, the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Waco Hippodrome Theatre for hosting our signature Arts Funding & Leadership Development Workshop on February 24, 2016 in Waco. The Workshop was a tremendous success and included insightful commentary about advocacy and about the important role the arts play in our schools and in our communities by Texas Representatives "Doc" Anderson (R-Waco) and Kyle Kacal (R-Bryan). Special appreciation to Fiona Bond, Executive Director of Creative Waco, for extending the initial invitation to Texans for the Arts and for working with our Texans for the Arts' members of the Board of Directors who presented the workshop's curriculum. Over 60 attendees participated in the day long workshop.
A very special thank you to TFA Board members George Ramirez, President of the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts, and Cristina Balli, now Executive Director of Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, for hosting our rewarding Arts Funding & Leadership Development Workshop in Brownsville, TX on October 8, 2015. Joined by arts leaders from across the Rio Grande Valley, TFA Board members and TFA Executive Director was the Honorable Rene Oliveira, State Representative from District 37, who shared his perspective of what it is like to 'receive' advocacy and lobbying efforts.
Special thanks to the students of MIS 374 at the McCombs Business School of the University of Texas at Austin for building this site!