Legislative Committee: Drop Bathroom Bill NOW to Improve Business Climate

The Texas House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness, in an interim report, says one way that the state can continue its economic success is for Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick to declare that  the so-called 'bathroom bill,' and other proposed restrictions on LGBT Texans, will not be reintroduced in future sessions, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"Because even discussing it was causing problems with cancellations of tourism and conventions," State Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), who is a member of the committe, told News Radio 1200 WOAI.

"Although this legislation was routed by its proponents as necessary for protecting the 'private and safety of women and children,' law enforcement testified that there are already laws on the books to protect women and children from any crime that could possibly occur in any restroom," the Committee wrote.  "Moreover, the legislation only applied to government buildings.  If passed, would that have meant that women and chldren were not safe using non-government restrooms and why would that be acceptable?"

The legislation, which was a key priority of movement conservatives, especially in the State Senate, would have limited the use of restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilites in government buildings to the gender on the person's birth certificate.  The law failed in both the Regular and Special Sessions, largely because Speaker Joe Straus, who is not seeking another term, managed to bottle it up in Committee in the House.

In fact, the chairman of the committee where Straus sent the 'Bathroom Bill' to die, Byron Cook, was the chair of the Committee that released this report.'

There has been speculation that even discussion of the Bathroom Bill caused some companies, especially tech firms which rely on Millennial workers for whom issues like this are very important, not to consider Texas for expansion, afraid that they would not be able to attract workers, which is always a key concern in the tech industry.

Oliveira says its time to stop talking about bathrooms, and get focused on what really needs to be done to keep the economy strong, like improving public education.

"Technology is going to exceed all of the technology that we have seen in the last fifty years, like robotics," he said.  "We are not preparing our children."

The report cites, for example, that only 20.9% of Texans eighth graders have earned a degree or certificate from a university within six years of graduation from high school, and that never is substantially lower, 14.7%, among the state's fast growing Hispanic population.

"From 2005 to 2015, the number of technical jobs increased by 45&, while technical degrees awarded only increased by 15%," the Committee said.

The Committee also called for improvements in infrastructure, saying commuters spend 52 hours a year, or more than a full working week, stuck in traffic, which is making the state less attractive to employers.

It also suggested a new program of water resource conservation, improving digital connectivity, especially in rural parts of the state, and improving the state's electricity grid and hardening it against disasters like Hurricane Harvey.

The Committee also expressed concern about rising housing prices in San Antonio and Austin, a lack of mental illness programs, reporting that Texas has some of the highest rates of depression in the workplace, which is a major cause of higher health care costs and lost productivity.

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