You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Bathroom bill dominates day 2 at Capitol


Highlights

Wonkish debate on House rules veers into transgender bathroom policy with Republican’s amendment.

Convention professionals decry bathroom bill, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rises to its defense.

The Capitol debate over transgender bathroom policies began, unexpectedly, Wednesday as the 85th Legislature entered its second day.

A House vote on rules for the session, a typically wonkish affair, suddenly veered into bathrooms when state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, proposed an amendment requiring people to use House-controlled restrooms that correspond to their “biological sex.”

Bathroom policy was on other minds as well.

On the Capitol’s south steps, tourism officials and convention professionals faced news cameras to criticize a proposal banning transgender-friendly bathroom policies in public schools and government buildings, calling Senate Bill 6 discriminatory, unnecessary and potentially devastating to the state’s economy.

And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who made passage of SB 6 one of his top legislative priorities, vigorously defended the bill against attacks, dismissing fears of economic harm as “bogus” and insisting that it was a matter of public safety, not discrimination.

This 140-day session was supposed to be dominated by difficult budget decisions due to lower-than-expected revenue, but as Wednesday’s events showed, the transgender bathroom debate has taken on a life of its own.

In the House, Schaefer proposed amending the rules to require that House-controlled multioccupancy bathrooms be limited for use based upon biological sex “in view of every person’s fundamental interest in privacy while in a state of undress.”

It was an early bid to inject the socially conservative politics of the House’s tea party wing. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has said SB 6 is not a priority.

House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, a Straus lieutenant, called a point of order, saying the Capitol bathrooms are managed by the State Preservation Board, meaning there are no bathrooms “under the jurisdiction of the House.”

Schaefer eventually withdrew his proposal, and the House moved on to a series of rule changes proposed by tea party-aligned legislators aimed at wresting power away from House leaders. Those measures were soundly defeated.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

One of the few administrative changes the House did approve came from state Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat who proposed establishing a private space near the House floor for legislators, staff members and credentialed journalists to use for breast feeding or breast pumping.

Also Wednesday, officials with convention and visitors bureaus — including those in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Arlington — announced the formation of “Texas Welcomes All,” an effort to defeat “discriminatory” legislation such as SB 6 and other proposals, not yet filed, that would allow businesses, individuals and some government officials to refuse to serve same-sex couples based on religious objections.

“Any attempt to pass legislation that is designed to discriminate against our fellow citizens, under the guise of privacy or anything else, will result in a multibillion-dollar disaster for the state of Texas,” Phillip Jones, president of VisitDallas, said during the Capitol news conference.

A recent study by the Texas Association of Business, Jones said, quantified the potential hit on the Texas economy — up to $8.5 billion annually in lost tourism, boycotts and businesses that decline to move to Texas or expand operations in the state.

If SB 6 passes, Texas can expect to lose large and small conventions from associations and businesses that want to ensure all participants would be welcome, said Susan Robertson, executive vice president of the American Society of Association Executives.

“An unwelcoming environment created by a state makes meeting planners and their attendees also unwelcome,” Robertson said. “SB 6 is a bad bill. It’s also on the wrong side of history.”

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

Patrick dismissed concerns about economic fallout, saying estimates of potential losses have been exaggerated. The economy in North Carolina, where a similar bill became law, is booming, he said, adding that Houston, where the Super Bowl will be played Feb. 5, faced no economic repercussions after voters in 2015 overturned an anti-discrimination ordinance that included gay, lesbian and transgender protections.

“But let’s say there is some economic impact. Are we for sale? Are our values for sale? I don’t think so,” he told Evan Smith, chief executive of the Texas Tribune, during a Wednesday morning forum.

SB 6 also would void city and county ordinances that require bathroom policies that accommodate transgender people.

Patrick denied that the bill was discriminatory, saying it limits bathroom use to the sex listed on a current birth certificate — not the original birth certificate as North Carolina’s law stipulated.

“If you are a true transgender person and you go to the court and get your birth certificate changed, we’re not discriminating against you,” he said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Community news: Mobility solutions workshop March 4

TRAVIS COUNTY DOWNTOWN AUSTIN Mobility solutions workshop March 4 Capital Metro and the city of Austin will host a mobility solutions workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 4 at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 Congress Ave. The event will allow participants to provide feedback on the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan. Reservations are due...
Texas sinks the Kraken to help build new reefs in the Gulf
Texas sinks the Kraken to help build new reefs in the Gulf

Late last month, contractors hired by the state of Texas steered the Kraken from a Brownsville port to its final resting place, 67 miles from Galveston. There, they sank the stripped-down hulk of the shipping vessel to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, a red snapper swam down its watery halls — possibly the first resident of the...
Could Jollyville Road drivers survive a ‘road diet’?
Could Jollyville Road drivers survive a ‘road diet’?

Just to calm the waters up around the Arboretum, if I can, know first that the city of Austin is not about to narrow Jollyville Road from its current five lanes to three lanes. At least not in the next few years. City transportation officials told me this last week, and I believe them. So Northwest Austin residents who have been atwitter about the...
Nonprofits to descend on the Legislature this spring
Nonprofits to descend on the Legislature this spring

Austin-area nonprofits are gearing up for their big day at the state Capitol, building on years of work in government advocacy. This spring, nonprofit fundraising professionals will hold about 60 meetings with state legislators and their staffs to educate them about the causes they represent and the fact that fundraising is a profession, not just work...
5 things to know about buying or selling products through social media

Austin police are urging people who plan on buying or selling products online to be careful after an uptick in robberies related to social media transactions. Here are five things to know: 1. Robberies in Region 3. Police said the department has seen several robberies involving online sales recently in its patrol areas in south-central and East Austin...
More Stories