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Small businesses like my BBQ restaurant now need government to get out of the way

Small businesses like my BBQ restaurant now need government to get out of the way

By Skeeter Miller, April 27, 2021

By the numbers, COVID-19 has had a severe economic impact in Texas. Unemployment doubled as some 600,000 jobs disappeared, erasing the paychecks and benefits that Texas families depended on. Less visible on a spreadsheet is the downturn’s impact on the communities we call home. Tens of thousands of local businesses have closed. These are the places that not only supply us with goods and services, but also help define our neighborhoods.

The Texas economy is slowly making its way back, but our recovery is incomplete. The Texas unemployment rate was higher in February than it was in January, and costs have increased for many products. While there are signs of real progress, this remains a pivotal moment for those of us who operate businesses, as well as the employees and customers relying on us.

The Texas Legislature has the opportunity to put our economy on firmer ground and accelerate our recovery by passing Senate Bill 14 into law. Authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and sponsored by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, this legislation would prevent local governments from implementing regulations on private-sector employment — such as mandates on paid time off, overtime or predictive scheduling — that exceed or conflict with state and federal law. This needed bill seeks to remove obstacles to growth created by a patchwork of labor and employment regulations on everything from wages to leave policies. Some of these regulations have already been found in court to be unconstitutional.

As someone who employs more than 500 people across eight restaurants in three Texas cities, I can attest that conflicting labor and employment regulations in different jurisdictions create confusion and staggering compliance costs. This is especially true for industries like hospitality and construction, where many of our employees work at more than one location.

Further, employers have used every tool at our disposal over the last year to keep our doors open and our workers on the payroll. I used all of the money I received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to support employees even when it didn’t make financial sense for me to do so. The extra employment regulations that local governments impose on the private sector not only interfere with the free market, but they also eat away at the resources we need to keep people working.

We depend on our workers, and like other employers, I believe that labor and employment regulations should protect them. But those regulations should be made at the state and federal levels in order to provide the consistency and predictability our economy needs. Further, these extra regulations are often unnecessary because the market provides incentives for businesses to treat employees well. One of the reasons I’ve been in business 45 years — and kept many employees for decades — is because we offer health insurance, retirement savings, interest-free loans and others benefits that make our employees want to stay. If businesses do not treat employees well, employers will lose their best talent and struggle to stay afloat.

I might make potato salad for a living, but I’m smart enough to know my restaurants are only successful because of our great employees.

It’s these market principles that have historically made Texas the best state to start and grow a business. With those principles intact, we are inching our way back. But we cannot allow heavy-handed local regulations to obstruct this already- tepid recovery.

The past year has been difficult enough. We need elected officials to clear away the unnecessary obstacles preventing a full recovery. It’s time to get more Texans back to work and start rebuilding the businesses that our communities cherish.

Skeeter Miller is the owner of The County Line, an Austin-based barbecue restaurant. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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