Bill of the Week: HB 412

Graphic is blue over white banner. It has a blue capitol building on the left. The blue text on the banner reads Bill of The Week Senate Bill 412

For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.

Bill: House Bill (HB) 412, relating to the creation of a low-interest loan program for entrepreneurs with physical or mental disabilities.

Bill Author: Rep. Thresa “Terry” Meza, Texas House District 105 (Dallas)

What does the bill do?
HB 412 would direct the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to establish and administer a low-interest loan program to support entrepreneurship among people with physical or mental disabilities. The bill allows TWC to accept donations and grants from both public and private entities to put toward this program. For the purposes of the program, “disability” is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity of an individual.

If passed into law, the TWC would adopt rules to implement HB 412 no later than Jan. 1, 2022.

Background Information:
According to Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CEED), 10% of the general population is engaged in entrepreneurship at any given time. Of this number, as many as 15% could be entrepreneurs with a disability. There has been a recent push to recognize the positive impact of entrepreneurs with disabilities as a way to promote economic growth, change attitudes in the community, and increase the autonomy of people with disabilities. Moreover, CEED found that if each entrepreneur with a disability hired just one employee a year who also had a disability, it would result in an annual increase of 936,000 jobs held by individuals with disabilities.

The Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities, Inc. found that persons with disabilities are nearly twice as likely as others to choose self-employment. A recent study found that 48% of self-employed individuals with disabilities chose self-employment because they identified a need to address in their community. Additionally, 43% chose self-employment to accommodate a disability, recognizing the capacity for flexible hours and working conditions.

Statement from the bill author, Rep. Terry Meza: 

Rep Terry Meza

“It can be a difficult process for [individuals with disabilities] to obtain a loan due to income, debt-to-income ratio, high-interest rates, and employment status.

…I authored HB 412 because it grants individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enter the business world with a fair chance to grow a successful business.”

Where is the bill in the process?
On Feb. 25, 2021, HB 412 was referred to the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development, where it waits to be scheduled for a public hearing.

Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were taken from an April 8, 2019, public hearing of the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development on a bill nearly identical to HB 412:

  • Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD): Chris Masey, speaking in his previous position as senior public policy specialist with CTD, testified in support of the bill, informing the committee that there is an entrepreneurial spirit in the disability community. He claimed that this spirit exists because when a person with a disability acts as their own boss, they have the opportunity to account for any accommodations they need. Masey emphasized the fact that the bill would establish a program of loans that must be paid back; therefore, it’s not creating a “hand-out,” but rather a “hand-up” for these small-business owners.

Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition to the bill was registered at the 2019 public hearing.

Additional testimony:

  • The Arc of Texas: Lauren Gerken, speaking in her previous position as a TCDD Policy Fellow at The Arc of Texas (Gerken is currently a public policy analyst at TCDD), testified that she believed the 2019 legislation would help create financial opportunities for people with disabilities. She told the committee that people with disabilities have a lot of untapped skills and creativity that are underutilized because the workforce has not been innovative enough to uncover them. Gerken stated that she is glad that there has been a trend of more consideration and inclusion of people with disabilities but asserted that there is still a long way to go.
  • TWC: Courtney Arbour, Division Director of TWC’s Workforce Development Division, provided insight regarding how the 2019 legislation would affect TWC. She told the committee that TWC does not currently host any other loan program, but she agreed that the implementation of the bill would rightfully fall under its jurisdiction. Arbour also pointed out that TWC has been actively working to understand the mechanics of implementing a loan program, preparing it for an initiative such as this.

Additional information:
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s 2020 Revised Texas Promoting Independence Plan includes a recommendation intended to promote Texans with disabilities entering the workforce through entrepreneurship. The cited rationale for the recommendation includes the following statement: “the overall economy will grow as individuals with disabilities enter higher tax brackets while concurrently reducing their dependence on government supports.”

How much will the bill cost?
In 2019, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) determined that the fiscal impact of a bill nearly identical to HB 412 could not be determined due to the uncertainty of the number of participants and low-interest loans that would be provided as part of the program.

Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
No identical bill has been filed in the Senate at this time.

Related Bills:

  • HB 676 by Rep. Ana Hernandez, relating to the consideration of ownership interests of certain persons with a disability in determining whether a business is a historically underutilized business for purposes of state contracting.

Stay informed:
For the latest information about where HB 412 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.


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