By John S. Marshall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 8:56 pm, Friday, May 5, 2017
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, that would require that only steel made in America be used in state construction projects is moving forward after easily passing the Texas Senate.
Creighton's Senate Bill 1289 is with the Texas House after being approved in a 23-7 Senate vote. If passed and signed into law, it would require large state projects - such as buildings, roads and bridges - be built only with steel made by U.S. companies. A similar "Buy America" bill is being considered by a House committee.
"This bill advancing is a great step for Texas iron and steel manufacturers," Creighton said after the Senate's approval. "Too many Texas facilities have closed with the influx of government-backed foreign steel hurting American free market competition."
Although Texas isn't a state necessarily known for its iron and steel manufacturing, it is nevertheless home to dozens of steel plants that employ scores of people, especially when the facilities are running at full capacity. The industry group Friends of Texas Iron & Steel says Texas steel industry jobs pay an average of $50,000 before benefits, while also supporting an additional 68,000 jobs across the state. The industry also sends millions of dollars of tax revenue to state coffers, while also serving as the state's number one recycler.
Likewise during a steel industry, slump local communities are hit especially hard when a plant shuts down. In Conroe, Tenaris laid off 230 workers when it suspended work at its welded tubes mill in April 2015. At the time, the Houston-based company blamed "unfairly traded imports" from South Korea for the closure.
"Texas companies should have to compete against other companies no matter where they are from," Creighton said. "But Texas companies should not have to compete against other governments."
Creighton's bill, and the companion bill being considered by the Texas House committee, comes as President Trump has been pledging to boost manufacturing in the U.S. and to slow the loss of jobs to foreign manufacturers. Last month, the president issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to "Buy American and Hire American." The directive is intended to boost protections for American-made goods and to save U.S. jobs. The order also calls for a review of the H-1B visa program for skilled foreign workers.
In another matter, what Creighton is describing as "the strongest pro-Israel legislation in the country" will soon be the law in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law House Bill 89, a companion bill to Creighton's SB 29, which prohibits the state from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel.
The governor signed the bill on Tuesday, coinciding with Israel's Independence Day. The day commemorates the formal establishment of the State of Israel.
"We sent a message to the state, country and entire world – Texas stands with Israel today, tomorrow and every day," Creighton said after the bill was signed. The law goes into effect Sept. 1.