Dilution of Historically Underutilized Business Program considered by Texas House
Recommended changes could have detrimental effect
AUSTIN, Texas, April 24, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The State Affairs Committee of the Texas House of Representatives is currently considering two bills – HB1565 and HB3362 – that would detrimentally impact all gains that the Texas Historically Underutilized Business Program (HUB), created in 1991, is designed to achieve.
Concerned by what the recommended changes might mean for the future of HUB, representatives with the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce (TAAACC) and U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association of Austin spoke in opposition of the bills before Committee members on Monday, April 8, 2019.
Initially instigated by the United States Supreme Court, the HUB program sought to increase opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses with the award of state contracts: “In accordance with Chapter 2161 of the Texas Government Code, State agencies, including institutions of higher education, shall make a good faith effort to utilize HUBs in state contracts, including contracts for construction, services, and commodities.” (Source: Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts)
To qualify for HUB status currently, a business must be at least 51% owned by Asian Pacific American, Black American, Hispanic American, Native American, American woman or a Service-Disabled Veteran.
Both HB1565, sponsored by Representative Thresa “Terry” Meza, D-Irving, and HB3362 sponsored by Representative Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, would add to the list of business owners who could seek HUB certification to anyone with a “qualified” disability.
“We are certainly not against helping people with disabilities,” shared Samuel Guzman, TAMACC Chairman of the Board. “What we are against is diluting the HUB program and in effect negating the very purpose for which it was created. We urge Representatives Meza and Hernandez, as well as other supporters in the House, to instead recommend changes to the existing Texas Human Resource Code §122 program, which currently provides many of the same protections it is specifically aimed at assisting people with disabilities.”
On that same day before the Committee, supportive testimony for the bills centered around the fact that the disabled community suffers from discrimination similar to those groups currently eligible to apply for HUB certification.
In responsive testimony, Frank Fuentes, Chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association of Austin, explained: “We don’t question whether discrimination exists when it comes to employment and/or the awarding of State-backed contracts to the disabled community. However, there is already an existing statute that specifically addresses this protected group and serves to assist in employment and contracting efforts. A focus on strengthening that program, promoting it better and ensuring that the disabled community – specifically business owners – are familiar with it would, I believe, achieve what Representatives Meza and Hernandez are trying to accomplish with their current efforts.”
Another potentially detrimental aspect: Should the recommended changes to the HUB program be approved as proposed, a physician would be able to make the determination as to whether individuals “fit” the definition of disabled, and given medical privacy laws (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – i.e. HIPAA), there would be limited ability to investigate potential abuses.
Charles O’Neal, President of TAAACC, further shared with Committee Members: “None of us here in opposition of the recommended bill revisions want to deny opportunities to anyone among the disabled community. On the contrary, we want to see them treated fairly and respectively, similar to what we’ve been pushing for through the HUB program. What we don’t want to see is a dilution of the HUB program – a program that for all practical purposes is doing well, but still has a way to go in truly being considered a successful program.”
Currently, both bills are pending in the Committee. However, representatives with TAMACC, TAAACC and the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association are anticipating more attacks on the HUB program this session. “We all are committed to continue to advocate on behalf of women – and minority-owned businesses to keep the integrity of the HUB program and not let it be reduced to an ineffective program that ultimately will help no one,” says Pauline E. Anton, TAMACC President and CEO.
About The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC):
The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) is a nonprofit 501 (c)(6) organization created to promote business leadership, create economic opportunities and provide legislative advocacy for the Hispanic business community in Texas. TAMACC was founded in 1975 to encourage opportunities in commerce and to organize local programs to improve the economic condition of the Hispanic population. TAMACC is an association with more than 15,000 members and advocates for over 700,000 Hispanic businesses in Texas.