Pressure from business leaders kills Texas ‘bathroom bill’
Friday, August 18, 2017
The so-called "bathroom bill" in Texas has finally met its end — at least for now. The bill died quietly Aug. 15, after the House adjourned its special 30-day legislative session. This was in part thanks to the pressure that big business put on lawmakers in opposition to the bill.
"I think what I'm most unhappy with is the House quit tonight," Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday. "They walked off the job."
If it had passed, the bill would have required people to use the bathroom that matches their "biological sex." By making the law at the state level, it would have prevented local legislation that allows transgender Texans to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
"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).
This prompted Fortune 500 businesses in Texas — such as AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, IBM and Kimberly-Clark — to take swift action in condemning the bathroom bill by forming coalitions such as Keep Texas Open For Business and Texas Welcomes All to voice their defiance against the bill. Even the oil industry got involved as the heads of Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott opposing the bill.
"For me, having the business community weighing in as strongly as they did to say this would have a chilling effect on the business climate and opportunity in this state is a huge factor," said Byron Cook, the Republican chairman of the House State Affairs Committee.
Businesses were staring down a $1.4 billion loss in convention business if the bill had passed.
"We are grateful to the legislators and leaders who thoughtfully engaged with us to understand the very real human and economic risks of pursuing unnecessary and discriminatory legislation," said Philip Jones, President and CEO of VisitDallas in a statement.
During the bathroom bill uproar, $66 million in convention business was lost, and the state of California banned state employees from traveling to Texas for business.
Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) said in a statement that "this effort is consistent with our fundamental belief that a stronger Texas is grounded in policies and laws that foster an open, welcoming and business-friendly state for businesses, their employees and their families."
Despite the sigh of relief from businesses for the time being, pressure is mounting on Abbott from supporters of the bill to call yet another special session or resurrect the bill when the legislature adjourns again in 2019.
"This chapter on the bathroom bill is completed, but please know that there may be additional battles to come," said Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association. "There is currently pressure being exerted on the Governor to call legislators back to another special session to once again take up property tax reform, the bathroom legislation, and possibly congressional redistricting.
"Whether such a session will be called and when are issues that have yet to be resolved."
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