Houston, San Antonio Executives Tell Abbott: Do Not Pass Any Bathroom Bills

Business and non-profit leaders from Houston and San Antonio signed letters this week opposing legislation restricting bathrooms access to transgender individuals and preempting any similar municipal ordinances.

The letters are signed by an array of business, chamber of commerce executives and non-profit leaders from both metropolitan areas. 

They join other executives from Dallas-Fort Worth who penned a similar letter earlier this month.

“As members of Houston’s business community, we write to express our concern with the proposed ‘bathroom bill’ being considered in this special legislative session,” states the letter from the Greater Houston Partnership, a coalition of businesses and non-profits, to Gov. Greg Abbott. “We support diversity and inclusion, and we believe that any such bill risks harming Texas’ reputation and impacting the state’s economic growth and ability to create new jobs.”

Among the signatories is John Nau, president and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors, who is also Abbott’s campaign treasurer. Joining Nau are nearly 50 other oil and gas executives, including those from British Petroleum America, ConocoPhillips and Shell.

San Antonio executives were more forceful in their arguments against the bill. They cited a report from Waco-based economic forecasting firm The Perryman Group that San Antonio would lose $411 million annually if any legislation passed.

“Policies that discriminate against individuals or groups based upon gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran status, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability are not in keeping with the long history of inclusion that has been San Antonio’s promise, and they hamper Texas’ ability to compete in the global marketplace,” the letter signed by leaders of the city’s chambers of commerce stated. 

The two chambers are divided on the bill. Speaker of the House Joe Straus opposes the bill. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, however, supports it.

The original version, Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, passed the Senate in the regular session; it died in the House before getting a committee hearing. A similar bill by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, House Bill 2899, was heard in the House State Affairs Committee. Like Kolkhorst’s bill, it would preempt any local ordinances allowing transgender individuals to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity. It did not receive a committee vote.

Abbott included “privacy” legislation among his 20 must pass items during the current special session. He tasked Kokhorst and Simmons as authors of the legislation.

The bills will likely meet the same fate as during the session. Kolkhorst’s Senate Bill 3 passed the Senate 21-10, with conservative Democrat Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville voting with all Republicans. It was sent to the House, where it is expected to die before getting a vote. 

Simmons’ House Bill 46 currently awaits a hearing in a skeptical State Affairs.

According to a five surveys released this week, only 26 percent of Republican primary voters in Texas support the bill.

The Texas Association of Business, which opposes the bills, commissioned the surveys. They focused on five diverse Republican-controlled legislative districts across the state: Senate District 8 in Collin County, Senate District 22 in Central Texas, House District 106 in Denton County in North Texas, HD15 in Montgomery County and HD136, northwest of Austin.

“There was remarkably little variation from district-to-district and the cumulative statewide results mirrored the individual district results. The number of interviews (1,500) was very large and we are quite confident that the combined results are a very accurate reflection of Republican Primary voter sentiments on the issue,” said pollster Joe Counter in a press release.

The special session ends August 16. Abbott has not said whether or not he will call a second special session.

 

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