Thursday, December 14, 2017

Straus on Abbott, Bathroom Bill: “I Never Give Up On Anyone”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.

On the day the controversial “bathroom bill” is being heard in committee in the Texas Senate, House Speaker Joe Straus reiterated his opposition to the bill and held out hope that Gov. Greg Abbott would weigh in.  

“Clearly, I’m not a fan of the bill that they’re discussing,” Straus told reporters on Tuesday. “But I’m focused 100 percent on the House’s priorities. They have their agenda; we have ours. We’ll worry about our agenda and making progress on some issues that I think are important to every Texan.” 

Asked if he had given up hope that Abbott would weigh in on the issue, Straus responded: “Well, I never give up on anyone.” 

The Senate State Affairs Committee is debating Senate Bill 6, a legislative priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, that would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities that match their “biological sex.” The measure would also pre-empt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender residents to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. 

Straus’ comments Tuesday also come as Patrick’s allies ramp up their pressure on the House to support the legislation. Conservative Republicans of Texas, a political action committee, is spending over $100,000 on a cable ad buy in Straus’ district and Austin that urges House members to back the proposal, according to the group’s president, Jared Woodfill

“Tell Speaker Joe Straus to pass SB 6,” a narrator says in one ad, which shows a young girl being confronted by an older man in a bathroom stall. “Joe, the safety of our wives and daughters is priceless.” 

Asked about the ad buy Tuesday, Patrick said it is “not my business, didn’t know about it.” 

“I don’t approve or disapprove of what any outside group wants to do — that’s up to them,” Patrick told reporters at the Capitol. “It’s called their First Amendment right, and I’m sure there’s going to be more voices and more ads.” 

“I would say that those who lay in the back and do not take a stand — or those who oppose it — probably will hear from constituents,” Patrick added. 

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Top image: Rep. Joe Straus makes remarks after being being sworn in for his fifth term as speaker of the Texas House on Jan. 10, 2017. / photo credit: Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

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