AUSTIN (AP) — A North Carolina-style “bathroom bill” in Texas won preliminary approval Tuesday in the state Senate over the objections of big businesses including Amazon and American Airlines, celebrities such as Lady Gaga and warnings from the NFL and NBA.
But the bill, which requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, still faces big obstacles that could ultimately derail the proposal in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the measure won a preliminary Senate vote 21-10. A final Senate vote could come as early as Wednesday. That would send it to the House, where powerful Republican speaker Joe Straus says he has no appetite for a bill he has likened to a job-killer.
Straus has stopped short of declaring the bill dead on arrival but his public and repeated denouncements are significant. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has also yet to definitively take a public stance about the most high-profile bill in Texas this year. Abbott has taken broadsides at the NFL for wading into the debate but has not said whether the law is needed.
The North Carolina law prompted the NCAA to pull seven championship events out of the state, the NBA to move the All-Star game from Charlotte and contributed to former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory being voted out in November.
Microsoft, Intel and United Airlines are among dozens of companies that signed onto a letter that says the measure will hurt its ability to recruit top workers, and the NBA and NFL have lobbed similar warnings at Texas. But Republicans are undeterred.
A House Democrat who filed a satirical bill that would fine men for masturbation complained she was targeted by Republicans for retribution on Tuesday.
Rep. Jessica Farrar had an unrelated bill on lawyer fees that was expected to easily pass, but instead survived a narrow 75-70 vote. Two years ago, the same measure sailed through the chamber with only seven votes against.
Farrar said she was warned before debate that a group of about 50 Republican men were “going to give you a hard time, they’re going to ride you.” She declined to identify who provided the warning.
“This was a retaliatory event,” she said.
The House meets at 10 a.m. and is expected to vote on a bill banning texting while driving statewide. Lawmakers passed a texting ban in 2011, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry. A bill banning so-called “sanctuary cities” gets its first hearing in the House State Affairs Committee and public testimony could last hours. The bill has already passed the Senate, but it’s unclear if a House version would include a Senate provision that could charge and jail local officials if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration detainers. The Senate convenes at 12 p.m.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Don’t think that I don’t pray about this, that we’re making the right decision.” — Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, sponsor of the Senate “bathroom bill.”