Business leaders: ‘Bathroom bill’ will damage Texas economy
Monday, August 07, 2017
Texas is the latest state trying to enforce a so-called "bathroom bill" that, like North Carolina, could have a damaging effect on tourism and businesses across the Lone Star State. The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 3 on July 25 on a 21-10 vote, but the bill has stalled in the House as the legislative deadline approaches.
"Senate Bill 3 offers a statewide solution, and hitting the reset button, what it does is move the authority on setting this policy for our political subdivisions to the state, so that we don't see this playing out school district by school district, city by city, county by county," said bill author Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham).
If passed, the bill would require people to use the bathroom that matches their "biological sex." By making the law at the state level, it would prevent local legislation that allows transgender Texans to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
While politicians and some religious leaders see the bill as a necessity, business and tourism leaders see the bill not only as a threat to their business livelihoods but also a threat to the Texas economy.
"The negative community impacts will be long-lasting, from hotel occupancy and state taxes to wage-earners and local businesses that benefit from the influx of tourists to our region," Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, said in a statement opposing the bill. "Our job is to speak up before damage happens, and to do everything in our power to protect the livelihoods and jobs of the Texans who make our great tourism economy what it is."
The damage has already begun as one state has decided to take their business elsewhere. California recently banned state employees from business trips in a total of four states including Texas because of the limitation of rights of LGBT people.
"It's unfortunate the state of California is choosing to use travel as an economic weapon," said Texas Travel Industry Association CEO David Teel said in an email statement in June. "Travel isn't a weapon, it's an experience. And, in Texas, we welcome everyone — Californians included — to experience the wonderful diversity of peoples, cultures, places and activities our great state has to offer. Visitors will always find something they like about Texas, and California politics can't change that."
However, California is not the only entity that is rethinking doing business within the Lone Star State.
According to research by Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of businesses, organizations and tourism leaders, $66 million in convention business has already been canceled across major cities in Texas. An additional $205.2 million could be lost if the bill becomes law.
"The Texas Association of Business (TAB) supports and advances sound policies that strengthen the economic climate of our state," said Jeff Moseley, the association's CEO. "When businesses succeed, Texas communities and families succeed. The bathroom bill would result in terrible economic consequences — on talent, on tourism, on investment, on growth and on small businesses. That's why TAB and the business community remain steadfastly opposed to this unnecessary legislation."
The Texas Association of Business along with the Keep Texas Open for Business Coalition took the fight up another level when they recently announced a $1 million ad buy in opposition of the bathroom bill.
Businesses have also taken to sending letters to voice opposition.
On July 17, 14 major Dallas-area businesses, including AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Kimberly-Clark, sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott against the bathroom bill.
"Our companies are competing every day to bring the best and brightest talent to Dallas," the letter reads. "To that end, we strongly support diversity and inclusion. This legislation threatens our ability to attract and retain the best talent in Texas, as well as the greatest sporting and cultural attractions in the world."
Even the oil industry is getting involved as the heads of Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil also recently sent a letter to Abbott opposing the bill.
While businesses and tourism leaders believe the bill discriminates against the LGBT community, others do not think the bill is discriminatory at all.
"It does not discriminate against anyone," Lt. Gov Dan Patrick said in a YouTube clip. "It's simply common sense, common decency and public safety to protect the women of the state of Texas."
Texas may be going down the same path as North Carolina did in 2016. The Tar Heel State is expected to suffer more than $3.76 billion in lost business over the next several years due to its version of the bill, H.B. 2.
"The pursuit of a bathroom bill represents a willful disregard for those vulnerable people and for businesses, workers and communities all across our state," said VisitDallas CEO Phillip Jones. "The economic costs are already being felt, and they cut to the heart of our tourism industry, our small businesses and everyday Texans working to make ends meet."
So far Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has made no effort to bring the bill to a vote, defying Republican leaders in the state as the clock ticks toward the end of the special legislative session, which comes in one week (Aug. 14).
"Why would Texas, after seeing the example in North Carolina, want to walk headfirst into a giant cactus?" Straus said in an interview with NPR. "I think it's a good question, and I hope that we don't go there."
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