Speaker of the House Joe Straus voiced his opposition to the so-called “bathroom bill” at a Texas Association of Business conference on Jan. 18, saying it could send the wrong signal to companies and events looking to locate in Texas.
San Antonio has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to convert the Alamodome and expand its Convention Center for large-scale events, such as the NCAA Final Four in 2018. Straus referred to the recent loss of several NCAA events in North Carolina after similar legislation, known as HB 2, was passed in that state in 2016. He said his concerns reflected the concerns of his community, which depends strongly on its tourism industry and expects to see $234 million pumped into the economy during the Final Four.
“It’s not just about basketball tournaments or conventions,” Straus told the group. “Many people where I come from get concerned about anything that can slow down the overall job-creating machine. They’re also watching what happened in North Carolina, and they are not enthusiastic about getting that type of attention. So I think we should be very careful about doing something that could make Texas attractive for investments, jobs and a highly-skilled workforce needed to compete.”
Straus’ message was the flip side of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s speech on Jan. 17 at the TAB event. Paxton focused on the importance of Senate Bill 6, which is officially known as the Texas Privacy Act but often referred to as the “bathroom bill” because it restricts restroom access in government buildings and schools to the gender of one’s birth certificate. Paxton emphasized exemptions to the bill, which would include the sports facilities rented for the Final Four. Paxton urged business leaders to take into account the concerns of parents of schoolchildren.