In a speech to the leading business group opposing Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s transgender bathroom bill today, Speaker Joe Straus warned that such legislation could harm the Texas economy.
“I want to say from the outset that I believe those who supporting legislation relating to bathrooms are sincere,” Straus told the Texas Association of Business legislative conference. “The competition for jobs among the states and even countries is intense. Usually Texas competes pretty well. Entrepreneurs appreciate our pro-growth business climate here, and the people they employ appreciate our quality of life.”
Patrick’s bill, which he calls the privacy act, would prevent transgender people from using a gender-specific public restroom that does not match their sex at birth. Patrick said the bill is needed to prevent male sexual predators from entering women’s restrooms by claiming they are female. Opponents have labeled the effort discrimination against transgender Texans. Similar legislation in North Carolina led businesses to halt expansion plans and to cancel concerts and professional and collegiate sports events in the state. Straus’s hometown of San Antonio is supposed to host the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2018.
Straus said such legislation is a threat to economic growth in Texas. “Our economy is modern and diverse and dynamic. … Contrary to popular myth, it is not a miracle. And we want to continue that success. … One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”
San Antonio officials estimate the Final Four will generate $234 million in local economic activity. “It’s not just about basketball tournaments or conventions. Many people where I’m from are concerned about anything that could slow down overall job creation.” His constituents see the North Carolina blowback and are “not enthusiastic about getting that type of attention,” Straus said. “We should be very careful about doing something that would make Texas less competitive for investments, jobs, and the highly skilled workforce needed to compete.”
A House speaker can, if he wants, direct his committee chairs to block legislation he does not like. Speaking to reporters after his remarks, Straus said he expected the House to have a “good conversation” about the bill. “We’ll talk to other House members and see how they feel.”
The audio file below has Straus talking about the House’s recently released budget outline as well as the bathroom bill.