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 municipal 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.  




Texans for the Arts seeks $500,000 in new appropriations for the Texas Commission on the Arts to expand the TCA's Arts Respond Program to support the use of the creative arts therapies and the fine arts as interventions for healing with Veterans and Active Duty Servicemen/women and their families.


Texas is home to a significant and increasing number of active-duty service members and veterans, and their families, many of whom have experienced severe physical and/or psychological hardships related to their military deployment. A wealth of research confirms the therapeutic benefits of creative-arts-based programs for these constituents. Building on its experiences at the 2018 Texas Creative Forces Arts and Military Conference at Fort Hood, participants of whom also included Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States, and Cecilia Abbott, First Lady of Texas, the agency is requesting grant funding for organizations to provide arts-based programming to serve these populations on active military bases and in their surrounding communities across the state.

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.”

Texas currently ranks 2nd in the United States for the highest percentage of veterans and will be first by 2027.

With input from the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the federal “Creative Forces” initiative (a program of the US Department of Defense, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Americans for the Arts), Texans for the Arts supports increasing the state’s investment in arts therapy for veterans and active duty military.




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. 


* Support the 86th Legislative Agenda of the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association and the Texas Travel Industry Association including:  appropriate full funding for State Tourism Promotion through the investment of the state Hotel Occupancy Tax in HB1/SB1; opposition to expanding statutory uses of the Municipal Hotel Tax to include General Infrastructure items.

* Support SB 1319, legislation requiring an annual report be submitted to the Texas Comptroller by any county that imposes a county hotel occupancy tax (Chapter 352 of the Texas Tax Code).

* 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.

* Support HB 787 and SB 539, legislation to study state recognition of music therapy in Texas. This bill would direct Health and Human Services Commission to assemble an advisory council to study the need for state recognition of music therapists.

* Support HB 4480, legislation to establish a task force to study the utility, efficacy, and feasibility of providing art therapy to improve the mental health of public school students in Texas.

* 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!

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