Bill Hammond is hanging up his leadership shoes as chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce at the end of the year.
It's been a long and thoughtful 19-year run.
Hammond, who owned the Dallas Tent and Awning Co., spent eight years in the Texas House of Representatives (1983-91). He was best remembered from that time for carrying the Sunset bill for the Texas Education Agency.
He irked teachers in the process. One of his comments for improving the teacher corps was
“The first name of every geography teacher in Texas is ‘Coach.’”
The TEA Sunset bill effort helped earn him a slot on Texas Monthly's list of Ten Best legislators for that legislative session.
Before going to work for TAB, Hammond was appointed by Gov. George W. Bush in 1995 to chair the Texas Workforce Commission.
In that job, as the employer representative, Hammond was aggressive in pushing a welfare-to-work agenda – sometimes, critics thought, with too much aggressiveness.
Hammond left the Workforce Commission post for the TAB job in 1998.
A true business-oriented conservative, Hammond refused, as the Tea Party influence grew in the Republican party in the Legislature, to have TAB dragged into ideological battles over social policy.
When the evangelical far right was pushing a constitutional amendment in the name of religious freedom, to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Hammond spoke at a joint press conference in 2015 with Democrats and representatives of civil rights groups opposing the effort.
Hammond and others in the business community were well aware of the backlash in states like North Carolina and Indiana, that had adopted such an approach – only to see businesses, other organizations, and others cancel conventions and drop expansion plans.
That included the National Basketball Association's decision to drop Charlotte, NC, as the venue for its All-Star game next year.
The TAB also urged Texas to accept Medicaid expansion, almost completely at federal expense, as good for business and the health and job situations for Texans. The Texas Medical Association and Texas Hospital Association also backed that position.
But Gov. Rick Perry and successor Greg Abbott, who have spent a lot of time campaigning against the federal government since Democrat Barack Obama became president, both turned thumbs down on accepting the Medicaid expansion.
While Texans don't get the benefit of their federal tax expenditures, local taxpayers and people with insurance in cities like Dallas and Houston continue to pay for care of indigents at their hospitals.
"It's our money that we're sending to Washington, D.C., and we aren't getting it back," Hammond pointed out. "We pay for it with corporate income taxes, we pay for it with our personal income tax and we pay for it in the fact that our premiums are higher than they would be if everyone was insured."
Hammond's enthusiastic interest in education has been a continuing influence on his tenure with the business association. TAB has endorsed, and pushed, expanding pre-kindergarten to full day for all students who already qualify for half-day Pre-K.
The organization also has been a continuing force in seeking to expand and educate the Texas workforce. It has endorsed and encouraged alternative pathways to get a college degree for non-traditional, older students, through on-line courses and other means.
While standing up for several things as important to the state, and to business, one area in which Hammond could be taken to task is not endorsing enough tax money to sufficiently fund some of his goals, like improving education.
But his overall record has helped the business community maintain a strong presence in Texas public affairs.
Hammond says he will open a media and lobby operation, and will continue to represent the business-oriented values he holds dear.
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Stayin' Alive -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, seeking to capitalize on the progressive movement he helped develop while running for president, is trying to share it with others.
He hopes to help Democratic progressives raise money in hopes Democrats can reach the four votes they need to regain control of the Senate.
If they do, and Hillary Clinton and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine win the White House, that would make Vice-President Kaine, as presiding officer of the Senate, the tie-breaking vote for control.
Sanders is trying to raise money for Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Ted Strickland in Ohio, and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.
The first three are challenging Republican incumbents in swing states. Masto, in Nevada, hopes to hold the seat of retiring Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Sanders is asking his supporters to support the four progressives, by sending in $2.70 – a tenth of the $27 average contribution per donor that he raised. The proceeds will be split among them.
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