By Richard Parker, Dallas Morning News
Welcome to Texas, Toyota, and all the accountants, lawyers, contractors and other companies — big and small — that are making the long trek to relocate here.
You will find Texas to be immensely friendly. We’re especially friendly to business, which is why you’re coming, of course. Hence, the outlook for Texas is bullish: It’s on track to supplant Germany as the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2050. Texas is so friendly to business that even Democrats stress the word pro-business before mumbling the word Democrat.
But there’s something the eager chambers of commerce and glad-handing mayors probably didn’t tell you before you made up your mind to come to Texas. There’s a political party emerging in Austin the likes of which we’ve never seen.
Until recently known as the tea party, it’s the Anti-Business Party of Texas, and it’s about to open the door to a future of uncertainty that will affect your workers, worry your shareholders and befuddle your customers.
If you saw the uproar from businesses — from Apple to American Airlines — in Indiana over a so-called religious freedom act, then brace yourself, because Texas could be next.
Two measures in the Legislature would unravel a law that seems to have worked well since 1999. State Sen. Donna Campbell and Rep. Matt Krause, both of the Anti-Business Party, propose to bar state or local governments from enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the event of a religious claim. They even want to enshrine the ban in the Texas Constitution. This would effectively gut anti-discrimination protections, particularly for gay people, in most cities.
Campbell also is effectively trying to deny an affordable college education to the children of unauthorized immigrants.
Since 2001, those who meet the same residency requirements as anyone else have paid in-state tuition at Texas universities. Now, Campbell would double the cost of a state university education from about $10,000 to $20,000 per year. Right now, that would be out of reach for most of the 20,000 students affected — as it would be for almost anyone. Her rationale? Cheaper tuition causes undocumented immigration. Her proof? None.
Significantly, the biggest business lobby in Texas, the Texas Association of Business, opposes both initiatives. That’s tantamount to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tangling with the tea party in Congress. It’s easy to see why. Imagine telling your gay employees to expect legally sanctioned discrimination. Imagine telling shareholders that the pool of college graduates where you just moved dropped by tens of thousands. Think of the lurking liability problems and costs. Now imagine the impacts in a globally competitive environment.
But we’re not done. You’ll need to prepare for guns on college campuses, and you’ll need a sign that meets new state requirements to keep guns out of your business, too. Get ready to explain to your Muslim and Jewish employees that they can’t rely upon their religious traditions to settle nonjudicial disputes — something the secular among us call binding arbitration.
Best to warn your Hispanic shareholders that when they come in for the annual meeting, they might be asked by the cops to prove their citizenship. Also make a note to call the mayor and the city council. They probably promised you all kinds of things, but what they didn’t know is that the Anti-Business Party would soon expand the power of the state to overrule cities on all manner of critical issues related to quality of life. You might not be able to count on that local law or long-promised incentive.
Better than anyone, conservatives should know that government does not create economic activity but rather the conditions of confidence, or uncertainty, in which business invests. It’s called risk. Your risk just went up because the Anti-Business Party is in charge. Predictability? Well, that’s just not their thing.
Don’t lose hope: You have nearly every reason to be bullish about coming here. Just be forewarned: There is one reason to be very bearish. Hey, welcome to Texas.
Richard Parker is the author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America.” Email him by visiting richardparkertx.com /about