[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-flag” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#000000″]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]
An incoming state senator suggested Thursday that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will focus on schools, not businesses or sporting venues, as he crafts an already controversial proposal to prohibit transgender Texans from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The remarks by state Sen.-elect Dawn Buckingham, R-Austin, come as Patrick faces new pressure to abandon the push for a so-called “bathroom bill,” which critics say could hurt Texas’ economy by making the state appear intolerant. The legislation, which he is calling the Women’s Privacy and Business Protection Act, has not yet been released, but the lieutenant governor has named it one of his top 10 priorities for the upcoming session.
“His focus is really the schools, and he’s gonna — my understanding is the businesses, the sporting venues, will not be affected by this law,” Buckingham said during a conversation with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith, citing conversations with Patrick. “His focus is really the bathrooms in the schools.”
Asked if she was saying businesses and sporting venues will be exempt under the bill, Buckingham replied, “Well, we’ll see what the language looks like, but it’s my understanding that that’s the intent — to realize that there are some complicating factors there and our priorities are really the schools.”
Patrick became a national voice on the issue earlier this year, when President Barack Obama issued guidelines directing public schools to accommodate transgender students, including allowing them to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. Reached Thursday, Patrick’s office did not speak directly to Buckingham’s suggestion that the legislation will focus on schools but acknowledged schools were part of Patrick’s original motivation to pursue the bill.
“Senator-elect Buckingham is correct that the need for this legislation was largely generated by President Obama’s presidential bathroom edict that would have forced schools to adopt a politically correct bathroom, locker room and shower policy that was an affront to common sense, safety and decency,” Patrick spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester said, noting the legislation is “still being drafted.”
Sylvester did not respond to additional requests for clarification Thursday afternoon.
Business leaders are closely watching the legislation as it takes shape, worried it could lead to the kind of uproar that tainted North Carolina’s image when it passed a similar bill. On Wednesday, the Texas Association of Business released a study that warned such legislation could cost the Lone Star State between $964 million and $8.5 billion and more than 100,000 jobs.
Patrick’s office issued a statement firing back at the business group, dismissing the report as “misinformation and fear-mongering regarding a bill they haven’t even seen.”
Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-camera” type=”color-background” background=”#999999″ color=”#ffffff”]Top image photo credit: Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith moderated “A Conversation with Dawn Buckingham” on April 21, 2016. / photo credit: Shelby Knowles/ Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]