For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: House Bill (HB) 1911, relating to the creation of a low-interest loan program for entrepreneurs with physical or mental disabilities.
Bill author: Rep. Thresa “Terry” Meza, Texas House District 105 (Dallas)
What does the bill do?
HB 1911 would direct the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to establish and administer a low-interest loan program to support entrepreneurship among people with physical or mental disabilities. The bill allows TWC to accept donations and grants from both public and private entities to put towards this program. For the purposes of the program, “disability” is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity of an individual.
Statement from the bill author, Rep. Terry Meza:
“People with disabilities frequently have trouble finding employment, and when they do, they often face discrimination and wage theft … Businesses owned by people with disabilities are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to finding employment that doesn’t fit the skills of each particular person … Given that people with disabilities often face difficulty seeking loans from financial institutions due to discrimination, it’s important that the state provides an alternative avenue for funding.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On April 8, HB 1911 received a public hearing before the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development and was left pending. When a bill is left pending, this means that the committee did not vote on the bill and it could be considered again at a future committee meeting. The video of the hearing can be found here. (Discussion on HB 1911 begins at the 1:27:30 mark)
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were taken from the bill’s public hearing on April 8:
- CTD: Chris Masey, Senior Public Policy Specialist with the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD), testified in support of the bill, informing the committee that there is an entrepreneurial spirit in the disability community. He claimed that this spirit exists because when a person with a disability acts as their own boss, they have the opportunity to account for any accommodations they need. Masey emphasized the fact that this bill would establish a program of loans that must be paid back; therefore it’s not creating a “hand-out,” but rather a “hand-up” for these small business owners.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition to the bill has been identified at this time.
- The Arc of Texas: Lauren Gerken, TCDD Policy Fellow at The Arc of Texas, testified that she believes HB 1911 will help create financial opportunities for people with disabilities. She told the committee that people with disabilities have a lot of untapped skills and creativity that are underutilized because the workforce has not been innovative enough to uncover them. Gerken stated that she is glad that there has been a trend of more consideration and inclusion of people with disabilities, but asserted that there is still a long way to go.
- TWC: Courtney Arbour, Division Director of TWC’s Workforce Development Division, provided insight regarding how HB 1911 would affect TWC. She told the committee that TWC does not currently host any other loan program, but she agreed that the implementation of the bill would rightfully fall under its jurisdiction. Arbour also pointed out that TWC has been actively working to understand the mechanics of implementing a loan program, preparing it for an initiative such as this.
How much will the bill cost?
According to the Legislative Budget Board, the fiscal impact of HB 1911 cannot be determined at this time due to the uncertainty of the number of participants and low-interest loans that would be provided as part of the program.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
HB 1911 has no Senate companion.
For the latest information about where HB 1911 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.