Legislative Agenda

87th Texas Legislative Session Priorities (2021)

(Adopted 10.14.20)

(Updated 2/1/21)


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.  

Our focus during the 87th Texas Legislative Session is three fold: 

1) to protect the appropriations and statutory protections secured to date;

2)  to promote the important role the legislature’s investment of public resources in the arts plays in the vitality, economic health, and civic pride of communities all across Texas; and

3) to work to identify opportunities for additional resources to mitigate the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the arts and culture sector.


The Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax


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

* Encourage municipalities that levy the HOT to maximize the full 15% for the arts 

* Oppose legislation expanding the eligible uses of the Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax to include general infrastructure items.



The Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) was enacted in 1965 and 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 correlation between a vibrant and dynamic arts and cultural community and a successful tourism and hotel industry. 

Texans for the Arts was a leading proponent of the passage of SB1221 in the 85th Legislative Session. SB1221, the “HOT Transparency Bill”, requires that municipalities report HOT collections and use annually to the Texas Comptroller.  This transparency bill provides publicly accessible data and promotes the effective use of the tax.

Since its inception, the local Hotel Tax has been statutorily dedicated to directly promoting local tourism, hotel and convention activity.  Bills expanding eligible uses for general infrastructure violates statutory dedication and would deflect local HOT revenue vital to ensuring continued local tourism promotion.


Texas Commission on the Arts Funding


* Support and promote the Texas Commission on the Art’s Cultural & Fine Arts District Program for the strong role it plays in harnessing the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization.

* Protect the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) baseline funding levels from fiscal year 20-21, including the $10 million in grant funds for cultural districts. 

* Restore $4 million cut from the TCA Cultural District grant program in SB1, the Senate budget bill, and protect the full $10 million currently in HB1, the House budget bill.



The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), established in 1965, 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.” 

Due to the strong support of the Texas Legislature in the 86th Session, the TCA jumped from the 46th lowest funded state agency in the US at 18cents per capita to the 34th lowest funded state at 52cents per capita. (https://nasaa-arts.org/nasaa_research/raise-your-ranking/)

With a mandate to provide equitable access to the arts across Texas, in 2016-2017 the TCA provided some 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 & Fine Arts Districts across the state and there are now 48 with more applying each year.  Municipalities recognize the economic development and community revitalization potential of these districts. The need and demand for grant program support is only growing as municipal leadership recognizes the economic and social value of these districts.  

In the 84th, the Legislature approved $10 million for the first time to fund TCA cultural districts. The Governor vetoed $5 million. In the 85th, the Legislature zeroed out the funding. In the 86th, the Legislature approved a full $10 million which is currently being invested in communities across the state.  This see-sawing of funding has made it challenging for cultural district's longer range planning.  It is Texans for the Arts goal to advocate for a sustainable and growing resource for investing public resources in cultural districts. 


Texas Commission on the Arts
Provide Relief to the Arts & Culture Industry to alleviate the disproportional impact of COVID-19


* Provide relief to the arts and culture sector to alleviate the disproportional impact of COVID-19. Funding would support one time grants to provide personal protection equipment and operational support, and assist with businesses losses.


The unique nature of COVID-19 and the ongoing economic crisis has made the nonprofit creative sector the hardest hit sector in the country - "first to close and last to reopen" - having lost $7.3 billion in revenue for creative economy businesses and $5.5 billion loss in revenue for creative workers in 2020.  It is critical to receive a public investment in the arts to be able to help restore community health and keep alive one of Texas' strongest economic engines.*

Possible funding sources: (1) repurpose a one-time $5 million appropriation to the Texas Commission on the Arts received during last session (not included in HB1 or SB1), (2) federal funds approved by Congress for COVID relief, or (3) other funds as identified by the Legislature.



* Brookings Institution, Lost Art, 2020

Texas Cultural Trust, “Impact of COVID-19 on the Arts and Culture Sector in Texas,” June 20, 2020.



Strategic Partnerships

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 as new legislation is filed and other issues of statewide importance are raised throughout the 87th 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 tourism 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 works to reestablish travel and tourism after the global pandemic, it is more important than ever to continue promoting Texas as a tourism and travel destination.


*Urge the Texas legislature to invest in arts education through policy decisions and appropriations.  Our goal is to ensure that every student has equal access and opportunity to an arts rich education, which helps prepare our children to succeed in school and life.


*Maintain or increase funding for the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (film, television, commercial, and digital interactive media incentives).  The Moving Image Industry Incentive is vital for keeping the creative industries thriving in Texas. The Texas legislature should increase funding to support economic development initiatives and help prevent Texas communities from losing business to more competitive states.


*Protect the Historic Texas Preservation Tax Credit Program for both for-profit and nonprofit owned properties.  Ensure that tax credits continue to incentivize rehabilitation of historic buildings, and create jobs, as well as the create affordable housing as part of revitalization efforts in historic Texas downtowns. 


* Fully fund the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation. This program sparks economic development and attracts cultural tourists.  Data shows the arts and culture tourists stay longer, travel in larger groups, and spend more than the average tourist.  In addition, Texas Commission on the Arts’ Cultural Districts that include restored historic courthouses in their geographic footprint have shown an increase in Hotel Occupancy Tax collection and enhanced economic and cultural activity.


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


*Monitor legislative action that impacts the nonprofit sector, such as tax exemptions and regulatory efforts. Texans for the Arts will actively monitor the legislative session for any legislative action that has the potential to impact the nonprofit sector generally.