As the first speaker at the State Bar annual seminar, I presented a summary of relevant legislative activity in the 2021 Texas Legislature Regular Session. The summary can be read and printed here. Two called special sessions after the regular session, and a third set for September 20, may provide further developments, which will be updated as necessary.
The 2021 legislative session featured a number of bills reflecting issues and policies that leaders in the Texas nonprofit sector should consider. My final summary can be read and printed here. There were few bills that appeared contra to the interests of nonprofit organization operations and governance or that impose new regulations on nonprofits. Despite COVID restrictions when the session began plus the February ice storm, legislators warmed up things later in the session and left several contested subjects for a planned special session later in 2021: redistricting, criminal bail reform, voting procedures and whatever else the governor directs. Among the bills that did not pass listed below are seeds of opportunity for subsequent sessions. There were 6,927 total bills and resolutions filed in the House and Senate, and 1073 passed or were adopted in some form. Print the Summary
Legislative proposals affecting nonprofit organizations, state associations and foundations are among the 7,000-plus bills on file at this halfway point in the 140-day 2021 session. My complete summary can be read and printed here. In a challenging economic environment, nonprofits should look to opportunities for contracting and partnerships with state and local governments as well as accessing funding programs that have been generated through government disaster response, pandemic response and economic stimulus measures. Look through the legislative summary for new revenue-generating sources and expanded programs that align with your mission.
Year 2020 challenged non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with a pandemic, an economic slowdown and uncertainty about the responses of newly-elected government leaders, including the legislators now gathered in Austin for the 87th Regular Session. Nonprofit organizations, foundations and associations of all types are searching for new programs to serve the public and their stakeholders. Leaders from across the nation gathered January 21-22 for the 38th Annual University of Texas School of Law Nonprofit Organizations Institute. I delivered my observations along with co-presenter, Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune. (Read and print the entire paper here.)
Although it’s hard to predict the direction the legislature will take, there are numerous opportunities to engage issues that should not be ignored: formalized and centralized disaster relief response by nonprofits and volunteer groups; surviving and operating under changing federal and state disaster declarations, emergency orders and federal and state regulatory edicts; access to federal relief funds passed down to local agencies; using the 2020 census and redistricted political boundaries to grow into new relationships; and societal change underlying civil rights, criminal law enforcement and social justice issues.
My observations and other earlier legislative summaries are available here and will be updated during the 2021 Texas Legislative Session.
Organizations of all types that serve the public good have been challenged to sustain their programs in the troubling COVID-19 environment. Sound governance, prudent financial management, a focused mission and sound business plan can sustain most nonprofit enterprises and associations. Others less prepared may face an uncertain future. My presentation (view and print it here) at the Texas State Bar’s 18th annual nonprofit organizations course echoed the advice of other professionals, who also recognize new realities presented in 2020 and the need to adapt programs and operations. My co-presenter was Adrianna Cuellar Rojas, President and CEO of United Ways of Texas.