The Austin Chamber of Commerce hosted our 2023 Capitol Advocacy Day on March 1. The Chamber plays a critical role in shaping policy at the state level that grows our economy, addresses affordability, bolsters our regional infrastructure and strengthens our workforce for generations to come.
More than 70 people, including Chamber members and staff, came together for the half-day event to talk with state lawmakers about our priorities for the 2023 legislative session.
For the 88th legislative session, the Chamber is encouraging legislators to work in a bipartisan manner to advance policies that strengthen our economy, create good-paying jobs, support small businesses and boost state investments into our education system. Central Texas has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. The entire state benefits from this economic growth and the Legislature plays an important role in advancing policies that improve the lives of all Texans and ensures that Central Texas remains a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Advocacy day started with a lunch and special guest speaker Adrianna Cruz from Governor Greg Abbott's office, where she spoke about the Governor's priorities related to economic development and tourism. Following Adriana's remarks, staff from the Austin Chamber gave an overview of our legislative priorities to our attendees.
After lunch, everyone headed off to the Capitol for a full afternoon of meetings with elected representatives from the Austin region and across the state. Our representatives met with staff and elected leaders from more than 40 offices during the afternoon.
Our group broke into teams and took some key meetings and that discussed our highest priorities.
Meeting with Governor Abbott Staff
A team of workforce development and business leaders met with Alexandra Becker, Policy Advisor to Governor Greg Abbott, to highlight the work the Austin Chamber is doing to bolster our regional talent pipeline and advocate for sustained investments in workforce development programs. Important to our region is the Skills Development Fund, a premier upskilling program that aims to boost skill levels and wages for our Texas workforce. Our team, which included Austin Chamber Board Chair Ali Khataw, spoke of the importance of this program and the strong need from the business community to have highly-skilled workers to fill the jobs of our 21st century economy.
Meeting with Senator Middleton Staff
Representatives from several higher education institutions met with Ryan Jones, Policy Analyst for Senator Mayes Middleton, who Chairs the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee. Keeping college affordable and accessible to all Texans is a key priority that the Austin Chamber advocates for, and our education leaders spoke to the importance of additional investments in financial aid programs that make college and career training affordable for Texas families. These investments include TEXAS Grant, Tuition Equalization Grants (TEG), and state work-study in addition to funding recommended for the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program (TEOG) in the Texas Commission on Community College Finance (TCCCF) recommendations.
Meeting with Rep. Donna Howard
Our group met with State Representative Donna Howard to discuss the importance of a new economic development incentive program that will keep Texas competitive, and the Austin Chamber’s efforts to keep college affordable and boost access to community colleges. The Austin Chamber firmly supports the recommendations from the Texas Commission on Community College Finance, and Rep. Donna Howard serves on the House Higher Education committee which has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to Texas’ college system. Further, our group heard updates from Representative Howard about her work on the House Appropriations Committee, where she serves as a senior member and Vice Chair of the Strategic Fiscal Review Committee.