Retail states its case in Austin
market insight

Retail states its case in Austin

By Holt Browning, Associate, Weitzman D-FW

In a changing retail environment, making our state legislators aware of issues affecting shopping centers is critical. That’s why I joined a total of 27 members of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Government Relation (GR) Committee to travel to Austin to meet with lawmakers.

For Texas Day at the Capital, we went with the goal of making Texas legislators aware of the ICSC as a trade association and to make them aware of not only the importance of the shopping center industry but some of the issues that it faces.

Shopping centers have a major impact on the Texas economy:
  • Texas has 12,700 shopping centers. 
  • 11 % of all shopping centers in the United States are in Texas. 
  • Texas shopping centers employs a total of 1 million people, accounting for 9 % of all non-agriculture employment. 
  • Shopping centers, on an annual basis, generate more than $15 billion in sales taxes. 
Some of the issues we brought up with the legislators included:

Property tax equality with businesses and homeowners.

Texas ranks No. 5 in the nation for the lowest homeowner’s tax. According to the council on State Taxation, businesses in Texas pay 59.8% of state taxes, 63.3% of local taxes and 61.5% percent of both state and local taxes, well above the national average of 44.1% of both state and local combined. Most in legislature were aware this was an issues and expect it to be addressed in the current session.

ADA “Drive-By” Lawsuits

Lawyers often take advantage of retailers and landlords by sending demand letters that threaten to sue under the Texas Disabilities Act if they don’t pay a specified settlement amount. ADA Title III lawsuits increased by 37 %in 2016 over 2015, and Texas is ranked fifth among states with the most ADA lawsuits, coming in behind California, Florida, New York and Arizona. Currently, Texas has no “right-to-cure period”, and ICSC is lobbying for a 60-day notice and additional 60 days to cure the infraction.Many in the state legislature could not believe no right to cure existed today. Lawsuits that do not offer a right to cure don’t just hurt our national tenants but often affect local mom and pops as they struggle to comply with a legal action that could put them out of business.

This was my first Texas Day at the Capital with ICSC, but probably not my last. The day offered an excellent experience and the opportunity to get in front of Texas legislators to introduce ourselves and create a relationship for future opportunities. I encourage others to participate next year. No experience necessary; you just need the desire to make a difference!

FYI: ICSC operates a political action committee (PAC), yet only 10% of Texas’ more than 5,300 ICSC members participate.The PAC supports efforts that are important to our industry, and the GR Committee’s goal is to raise awareness of its value and bring participation to 12% by 2018.