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Addition of disabled vets to HUB policy is a travesty

Charles O’neal | 5/27/2013, 4:38 p.m.
Charles O'Neal

AUSTIN – The Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce expressed disappointment in the passage of HB194 during last week’s flurry of late bill activity.

“Misguided is the best way to characterize the passage of HB194,” TAAACC Chairman Jim Wyatt said. “We attempted to explain our position to Rep. Farias and supporters of his bill, but clearly it was more important for them to make a symbolic gesture to disabled veterans than to substantively address the state’s dismal performance in utilizing HUB enterprises.”

Current policy guiding the utilization of minority and women-owned businesses is underpinned by the state’s own availability and disparity study. Findings from the study, released in 2009, confirm that historically underutilized businesses continue to lag behind White, male-owned businesses in procurement awards from Texas agencies. The Comptroller of Public Accounts’ fiscal year 2012 report on statewide spending shows HUBs netting13.87 percent. Black businesses earned 1.63 percent, Hispanic businesses earned 3.36 percent, and woman-owned businesses snared the largest HUB total, earning 7.32 percent of the more than $14 billion in agency spending.

“It is clear that despite nearly 30 years of hard-fought gains, Texas’ Black-owned businesses continue to struggle to win business from state agencies,” Wyatt noted. “Despite court rulings, the state’s own A&D study, and the hard work of advocacy organizations and legislators, the government we work to support spends less than 2 percent with Black businesses.

“That shameful record is now in jeopardy of sliding even further, given the distraction of Rep. Farias’ bill,” Wyatt continued. “No court has ever held that disabled veterans are denied contracting opportunities as a result of their disability. No study has ever documented that service disabled veterans experience anything akin to the discrimination experienced by businesses covered by current HUB regulations. This appears to be nothing more than a grandstanding play that will ultimately do more harm to Texas HUBs than good for disabled veterans.”

Wyatt stressed that his organization’s opposition is to the dilution of existing HUB regulations, not to providing opportunities to disabled service men and women.

“Any effort to characterize our opposition to HB194 as anti-veteran is indicative of what we believe to be the real intent of the bill – confusion,” Wyatt explained. “Disabled veterans are either Black, or Hispanic, white or female. If they are Black, Hispanic or female, they are covered under existing HUB legislation. White male veterans – if current data is accurate – will have no difficulty at all winning state contract awards. State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, fought valiantly to get her House colleagues to understand the distinction, unfortunately, to no avail.” Wyatt noted that the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, Dallas-Fort Worth Minority Business Council, Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Houston Minority Business Council and other groups across the state are also encouraging their members and constituents to send their message of opposition to members of the Texas Senate and House.