Big Business Gears for Capitol Fight
Amid Far Right Big Government Blitz

Capitol Inside
November 30, 2022

Texas business interests are bracing for an onslaught of legislation that would use the state as a weapon to coerce the private sector to enforce a far-right agenda that the sponsors are seeking to impose through prohibitions, punishment and retaliation in the civil courts.

With a novel abortion ban that relies on snitches as the template, a cadre of conservatives in the Texas House and Senate are pushing proposals that big business, the insurance industry, doctors and other professionals see as a dramatic infringement on the freedoms they've enjoyed up to now in the Lone Star State.

While GOP lawmakers weren't as business-friendly in 2021 than they'd been in nearly two decades of Republican rule in Austin, the party establishment in Austin faces its first real test in the regular session that convenes on January 10 at the Texas Capitol. The Republicans have gone 180 degrees during the past 20 years on principles they'd championed with a religious devotion like local control and less government at the outset of their long stint as the majority party in Texas. The state's unrivaled reputation as a pro-business mecca could be endangered as well with the wagons starting to circle in a highly-rare defensive posture as the regular session nears.

The Texas Civil Justice League - the original tort reform group in the Capital City - sounded the alarms this week in a memo to its members that analyzed examples of House bills that it views as a threat to them.

"We are already seeing significant manifestations of the type of legislation we have feared during the interim: new private causes of action, weakening the workers’ compensation system, extensions of the SB 8 model to other social causes, state interference in the employer-employee relationship, and limitations on the ability of businesses to conduct their affairs as they see fit," the TCJL warned. "Clearly, we face very substantial challenges in the coming session on an array of matters."

The alert list includes bills that GOP State Reps. Bryan Slaton of Royce City, Brian Harrison of Waxahachie and Steve Toth of The Woodlands have filed in a resumption of a gender dysphoria crusade that got started last year. The Harrison proposal would prohibit doctors from performing sex reassignment surgery and using puberty blockers for transitioning. Toth wants to ban insurance companies from covering such procedures while Slaton would add them to the definition of child abuse.

Banks and other sources of credit could face severe penalties under a another Toth proposal for using "value-based" criteria that considers an applicant's social media, memberships in groups, political affiliation or other personal beliefs. Harrison takes aim at COVID-19 vaccine mandates in one of the measures that the TCJL is monitoring.

The civil justice organization is concerned as well about several bills that Republican State Rep. Jared Patterson of Frisco has submitted in a package that targets the workers compensation system.

One of the Patterson measures "makes carriers liable for medical expenses even if there is a bona fide dispute over compensability that the administrative process later determines in favor of the injured employee," according to the TCJL analysis. "This is the door through which the workers’ compensation plaintiff’s bar will re-enter the system."

"Businesses are going to be caught between GOP proposals to punish them for providing certain health care benefits to their employees and Democratic efforts to protect their right to do so," the TCJL analysis said - citing House Bill 27 by Democratic State Rep. Vicki Goodwin of Austin as an example.

"All of the bills discussed here, save HB 27, have been introduced by GOP members from different points on the conservative spectrum. We must be prepared for the eventuality that these and similar bills will receive serious consideration and be the object of intense political pressure on state leadership and the members," the group added.

more to come ...







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