87th Texas Legislature Accomplishments (2021):

When the Texas Legislature convened in January 2021, it began a ten-month journey that would be filled with pandemic response, balancing a smaller state budget, addressing critical utility failures revealed by Winter Storm Uri, and a host of other issues ranging from abortion to gun rights. With such a full agenda, the Legislature ended up passing only about 15% of the 7,148 bills that were filed.

In spite of these challenges, the Texas Restaurant Association had a breakthrough session, thanks to a bold strategy, strong grassroots engagement, and strategic alliances.

TRA's Impact By The Numbers – 87th Regular Session

  • 19 bills passed, including 75% of our priority bills  
  • 100% success rate at blocking TRA-opposed bills  
  • 865 bills tracked  
  • 3,289 emails sent from TRA's grassroots network to lawmakers 

 

After achieving TRA’s most successful regular legislative session in memory, we secured additional wins for the industry during a special session that was called in September 2021. Working through powerful coalitions that we helped to lead, the TRA secured:

  • $7.2 billion for the unemployment insurance trust fund, preventing significant tax hikes on restaurants and other businesses; and 
  • $180 million in grants for hospitality and tourism businesses that were injured by the pandemic. Now we’re working with the governor’s office to ensure the application process is fair and efficient. Currently, we expect the grant portal to open during the summer of 2022. 

Even before the 2021 legislative session started, we went to work to help the foodservice industry respond to our greatest challenge—the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of grave uncertainty, our voice became a roar.

Working with our lawmakers, regulators, members, and allied partners, the Texas Restaurant Association created critical lifelines to support the industry’s recovery from the economic devastation created by COVID-19. Together, we:

  • Assembled a task force of key chain and independent restaurant and bar owners and created the Texas Restaurant Promise and the Texas Bar Promise, which were both used to develop the governor’s minimum standard health protocols that enabled businesses to reopen under one set of statewide rules. Because of this work, Texas food and beverage businesses opened and increased their capacity months before businesses in other states. 
  • Partnered with Congressman Roy (R-TX) and Congressman Phillips (D-MN) to draft and pass the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, extending a critical lifeline to all PPP recipients. 
  • Secured the ability for restaurants to sell alcohol to-go, creating an important new revenue stream to sustain restaurants with closed dining rooms.  
  • Successfully lobbied alcohol stakeholders and the governor’s office to expand the alcohol to-go waiver to include cocktails mixed onsite. 
  • Established the TX Restaurant Relief Fund—raising and distributing more than $3.5M to support over 800 independent restaurants and their employees. 
  • Partnered with TABC to reopen restaurants that were misclassified under the restaurant COVID-19 safety protocols. 
  • Secured the ability for restaurants to sell bulk retail items—opening the supply chain and ensuring Texans had access to food while creating a new revenue stream for restaurants. 
  • Secured the ability for restaurants to sell their pre-made meals in grocery stores, again, opening a new revenue channel. 
  • Partnered with the state to create CARE packages—meals purchased from local restaurants to feed those most in need.  
  • Fed over 100,000+ first responders through special initiatives with BCBSTX, Exxon Mobil, Chipotle, Whataburger, and independent restaurants across Texas. 
  • Partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission, Dallas College, and A Closer Look to build and launch the first training, certification, and validation program for restaurants operating in the COVID-19 world—The Texas Restaurant Promise Certification. Provided this program for free to hundreds of restaurants. 
  • Partnered with TABC to expedite parklet permits and to change two-year fees into one-year fees, helping with cash flow.  
  • Worked with local officials to keep restaurants open and encourage dining out safely. 

Earlier Wins

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Texas, the TRA had a legacy of promoting and protecting the foodservice industry. Previous wins include:

  • 2019: Passed legislation to allow restaurants with a mixed beverage permit to deliver alcoholic beverages in their manufacturer-sealed containers to consumers as part of a food order. 
  • 2019: Passed legislation to establish a brand-new oyster farming industry in Texas. 
  • 2019: Passed legislation strengthening and clarifying the bill that the TRA championed in 2017 to exempt restaurants from weight and scale regulations. 
  • 2017: Passed legislation to increase the alcohol sales threshold for mixed beverage permittees from 50% to 60% of total sales, provide a more uniform calculation by the TABC, and provide due process rights to permittees. 
  • 2017: Passed legislation to exempt places that serve food for immediate consumption from the Texas Department of Agriculture’s requirement that an establishment maintain a certified scale with a visible consumer protection sticker. 
  • 2017: Passed legislation to eliminate all local food handler fees and documentation requirements for all food service employees who successfully pass an ANSI accredited or state registered food handler course. 
  • 2015: Passed legislation to lower unemployment insurance taxes for restaurant franchises. 
  • 2013: Passed legislation allowing beer and wine permits in areas that are designated as wet for mixed beverages. 
  • 2013: Passed legislation cutting in half the mixed beverage tax that restaurants and bars are required to pay