First organized in 1989, Jobs for Texas (JFT) brings together all sectors of the Texas business and economic development community under one umbrella to undertake legislative initiatives that require a coordinated statewide effort. Unlike other industry, trade, and business associations, JFT only becomes active when legislation is of such great importance to the Texas business climate that it demands a united, univocal response. JFT thus has no permanent staff or continuous policy program. Although JFT occasionally participates in partisan political campaigns in a limited way through the Jobs for Texas PAC, the founding principles of the organization hold that certain economic development priorities transcend partisan politics and that JFT should never be identified as promoting a partisan agenda. JFT has remained and will always remain a bipartisan voice for all Texans interested in a robust, diversified, and dynamic economy that provides good jobs for Texas families and strong local tax bases to support the infrastructure and public services necessary for our current and future needs.
JFT’s history demonstrates the fulfillment of these fundamental principles. Since its initial formation, JFT has only been activated six times:
- 1989: JFT is organized to coordinate support for overhauling the Texas workers’ compensation system. Spearheaded by organizations such as the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, Texas Restaurant Association, Associated General Contractors-Building Branch, Texas Municipal League, Texas Civil Justice League, Texas Association of Business, Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas Chemical Council, National Federation of Independent Business, and dozens of chambers of commerce across the state, JFT planned and executed the strategy that led to the passage of landmark bipartisan reform after a regular session and five special sessions. This successful effort produced one of the healthiest and least costly workers’ compensation systems in the nation, which is still in place today.
- 1991-93: JFT was reactivated for the purpose of promoting legislation to reinstate the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which has been abolished by the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Dow Chemical Co. v. Castro Alfaro, 786 S.W.2d 674 (Tex. 1990). That decision, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, transformed Texas into the “courthouse for the world and made Texas courts the venue of choice for lawsuits brought by residents of other states and nations against companies doing business in Texas. The Texas Legislature enacted legislation restoring the doctrine to Texas law in the 1993 session.
- 1997: JFT returned to the legislative arena, once again to coordinate the effort to close certain loopholes in the 1993 forum non conveniens legislation, particular with regard to asbestos lawsuits. The asbestos loophole exempted lawsuits based on exposure to asbestos from dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds. The 1997 effort succeeded in eliminating this exemption.
- 2009: JFT came back on the scene to coordinate the business community’s legislative response to construction safety issues. Unlike its previous efforts, which were aimed at enacting specific legislation, JFT coordinated negotiations and legislative advocacy on a suite of risk management and construction contracting issues involving property owners (including governmental entities), general contractors, and workers’ compensation and commercial liability insurance carriers.
- 2013: In this legislative session public education curriculum reform constituted the most critical priority for the business community. JFT coordinated a unified response to HB 5, which for the first time introduced a vocational and technological pathway to a high school degree. The bill was designed to enhance educational opportunities for students seeking careers in trade and technical professions and build the type of workforce demanded by Texas’ growing industry sectors. The successful enactment of this legislation substantially contributed to the immense investments in our industrial base over the last decade.
- 2021: JFT coalesced for the purpose of coordinating the business community’s response to dozens of legislative proposals affecting the employer-employee relationship, as well as various proposals implicating private data security.
- 2022: In the wake of the expiration of Chapter 313, Tax Code, which provided an incentive for business and industry seeking to make substantial capital investments in the Texas economy, JFT came together once more to conduct research and to explore the formulation of a new incentive program that would keep Texas competitive with other states. This effort involved extensive discussions with policymakers with regard to a path forward, as well as the collection of a useful trove of data that may form the basis of a legislative initiative in 2023 and beyond.
It is important to note that in all cases JFT performs both a policy research function and a legislative advocacy function. While the former must necessarily precede the successful performance of the latter, the policy research phase may or may not proceed immediately to a legislative phase. JFT’s constituent organizations make that decision based on a careful evaluation of the research product and the larger policy and political factors in play at the time. JFT’s portability and capacity for rapid activation (or deactivation, as the case may be) makes it the ideal vehicle for coalition-building on the broadest possible basis.