Texas business leaders fight discriminatory ‘bathroom bill’

In an interesting case study of conflict between economic and political ideologies at the state level, Texas business leaders are struggling to make their voices heard in regard to a controversial bathroom bill.

Republican representation in the statehouse, in tandem with Gov. Abbott, have made it their priority to pass a “privacy protecting” bill that would disallow municipal governments and school districts from passing “transgender friendly” bathroom policies.

“The main concern is our schools and making sure that privacy is protected in those arenas,” state Rep. Ron Simmons (R) told the Texas Tribune.

When both versions of the bill failed during the 85th meeting of the Texas state legislature this past May, an exasperated Gov. Abbott called a special session for July 18th where Republicans plan to reintroduce another version of the bill.

“Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today,” Abbott said in a statement. “A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session.”

Abbott’s opposition notes that he is in a difficult position, as the wishes of his far right base are in conflict with what the business community has urged him to do. His call for a special session demonstrates the direction in which he is leaning.

The campaign manager for Wendy Davis, Abbott’s competition in 2014, Rep. Chris Turner commented on the situation to the New York Times, “My take is that he is clearly panicked about the far right, and he feels the need to shovel as much red meat to the far right of his party as he can.”

The Texas business community have planted themselves firmly opposite Abbott on this matter and made it clear in a letter addressed to him and the sponsors of the bill:

“As leaders in the Texas business community, we have an obligation to our employees, customers, shareholders and the Texas communities we serve to oppose discriminatory legislation that jeopardizes the positive environment for our Texas business operations. As large employers in the state, we are gravely concerned that any such legislation would deeply tarnish Texas’ reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families. Our ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent, encourage new business relocations, expansions and investment, and maintain our economic competitiveness would all be negatively affected.”

The debate is an interesting one, especially when business interests are typically the main drivers of policy decision-making.

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