Ballet Austin - Light/The Holocaust and Humanity Project, photo by Tony Spielberg

Texas Legislative Agenda

86th Texas Legislative Session Priorities (2019)

The arts are a cornerstone of the Texas economy and the Texas identity. Texans for the Arts advocates for the development and implementation of statewide public policy and for public funding that supports a strong and vibrant arts and cultural industry across Texas, working in partnership with legislators, arts and business leaders, organizational partners, members, and citizen advocates.

Texans for the Arts Legislative Priorities for the 86th Texas Legislative Session are listed below.




* Protect use of Municipality Hotel Occupancy Tax (MHOT) to fund the arts.

* Encourage municipalities that levy the HOT to maximize the full, allowable 15% arts allocation.


The Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT), established in1965, is levied both on a state and local level to guests renting a hotel or guest room. This tax was created to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry. In 1977, the Legislature added that up to 15% of municipal HOT funds may be dedicated to “the encouragement, promotion, improvement, and application of the arts”. This was in acknowledgement that there is a direct economic correlation between a vibrant and dynamic arts and cultural community and a successful tourism and hotel industry. SB1221, initiated by Texans for the Arts in the 85th, and signed into law by the Governor, provides transparent data collection for HOT receipts across the state.




* Protect and grow funding to the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) after a 28% cut in 2017.

* Restore $5 million in General Revenue for FY 2020-2021 to the Texas Commission on the Art’s Cultural District Grant Program, and advocate for an additional $5 million as initially approved by the 84th Legislature.


The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) is the state agency responsible for fostering the fine arts throughout the state. Their mission is “to advance our state economically and culturally by investing in a creative Texas. TCA supports a diverse and innovative arts community in Texas, throughout the nation and internationally by providing resources to enhance economic development, arts education, cultural tourism and artist sustainability initiatives.”

The TCA is the 47th lowest funded state agency in the US at 18 cents per capita. With a mandate to provide equitable access to the arts across Texas, in 2016-2017 the TCA provided some grant funding to artists/arts organizations in all Texas 31 Senate Districts and over 135 of the 150 Texas House Districts.

In 2005, the TCA was given authority by the Texas legislature to designate cultural districts across the state as “special zones that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization.” By 2015 there were 26 TCA designated Cultural Districts and by September 2018 there were 40.  Municipalities recognize the economic development and community revitalization potential of these districts. The need and demand for grant program support is only growing.  




* Working with the Texas Commission on the Arts and other statewide partners, increase the state’s investment in arts and music therapy for veterans and active duty military and their families through appropriations for “Creative Forces”.  “Creative Forces” is a program of the US Department of Defense, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Americans for the Arts, in partnership in Texas with the Texas Commission on the Arts.


Throughout the US, the arts – music, dance, theatre, literature, visual art, and more – are being used to enhance healthcare, promote public health and support community well being in a variety of settings. Examples of the arts serving healthcare can be found throughout America’s communities, and increasingly so to serve the needs of veterans and active military, and their families.

 In the words of Second Lady Karen Pence: “One of the most exciting things taking place in the field of art therapy is in the area of treating our veterans with PTSD, TBI, and other psychological health conditions. Over and over again, we hear amazing stories about how the art therapist working with vets has changed their lives forever.”

The Texas Veterans Commission has an existing Veterans Mental Health grant program that serves the veterans community and arts organizations are eligible to apply.  In addition, Texans for the Arts seeks to increase resources to this field to ensure that a portion of the grants are awarded to arts and music therapy programs.  




Texans for the Arts, in concert with its extensive roster of members and partner advocates, will keep a watchful eye on additional issues, which may change in the interim and once the 86th Session has begun, as new legislation is filed and other issues of statewide importance are raised. 


* Increase funding for the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (Film and Commercial Incentives). Film incentives are vital for keeping the film business thriving in Texas.  The Texas legislature cut the film incentive program significantly in 2015. The film industry is losing business to neighboring states with higher incentive programs. 

* Protect state historic preservation tax credits for both for profit and nonprofit corporations owning historic properties.  Ensure that tax credits continue to incentivize restoration of significant historic interiors, as well as the creation of affordable housing as part of revitalization efforts in historic Texas downtowns. 

* Fund Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program and State Heritage Tourism Programs.  These programs spark economic development and attract cultural tourists.  Data shows the arts and culture tourists stay longer, travel in larger groups, and spend more than the average tourist.  In addition, both programs have shown a positive impact through increased Hotel Occupancy Tax and enhanced economic and cultural activity in Texas Commission on the Arts’ Cultural District programs that include historic courthouses in their geographic footprint.

* Explore opportunities to fund arts programming and initiatives through other agencies including Health & Human Services, and the Texas Education Agency – citing national research models that show the critical role the arts can play in health and healing, education, and more.

* Monitor legislative action that impacts the nonprofit sector, such as tax exemptions, regulatory efforts, etc.

Thank you!