After hours of public testimony, some members of the Texas House left a local lawmaker’s version of a Texas “bathroom bill” pending in committee early Thursday morning.
HB 2899, authored by Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), drained a Senate version of its proposal to regulate bathroom use in government buildings, public schools and universities based on the biological gender a person was born with.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, the House State Affairs Committee heard hours of testimony from people and organizations for and against Simmons’ bill.
Simmons' bill was filed on March 6.
"As a father and grandfather I filed The Texas Protection Act (TPA) and believe it provides much needed privacy protections for Texans and has been vetted with leading constitutional experts," Simmons said of his bill. "The TPA affirms that Texas continues to be open for business while at the same time protecting Texans all across our great state."
Simmons’ House bill is not exactly the same as SB 6 in that it focuses specifically on portions of ordinances or policies in government and public facilities.
Simmons clarified Thursday morning that the bill would allow private business owners to make their own rules and does not eliminate any nondiscrimination verbiage for pregnant women, veterans or the elderly. It also does not eliminate nondiscrimination wording for transgender individuals in areas of the law that are not related to multiple occupancy bathrooms, showers or changing facilities.
“It addresses a majority of Texans’ concerns as it relates to our most intimate places,” Simmons told the committee. “It protects our citizens in an area that they believe they need to be protected in.”
The bill also does not prohibit any statewide nondiscriminatory policies. It reads: “Except in accordance with federal and state law, a political subdivision, including a public school district, may not enforce an order, ordinance or other measure to protect a class of persons from discrimination to the extent that the order, ordinance or other measure regulates access to multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities.”
On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott sounded his approval for HB 2899 in a statement to the “Texas Tribune.
"I applaud the House and Senate for tackling an issue that is of growing concern to parents and communities across Texas who are now looking to the Legislature for solutions," Abbott said in the statement. "Rep. Simmons is offering a thoughtful proposal to make sure our children maintain privacy in our school bathrooms and locker rooms."
Simmons’ bill was narrowed in scope while in committee.
Abbott did not take a position on Senate Bill 6, the higher chamber's version of a "bathroom bill," which passed the legislation in March and then sent it to the House.
Ashley Harris, of Visit San Antonio, spoke in opposition to the bill. A study her group recently commissioned indicated that any type of “bathroom bill” would cost the San Antonio/New Braunfels area $4.11 million in revenue and close to 4,650 jobs in the hospitality, tourism, meetings and conventions industry.
Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving), also is not necessarily in favor of Simmons’ bill as it is written, but for reasons quite different than Harris’.
“I support passing a bill that protects our school children from ill-conceived policies that allow boys in girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms, while leaving the private sector and business owners free to adopt their own policies,” Rinaldi said. “I am not convinced HB 2899 in its current form does either. I am hopeful the bill can be strengthened on the floor.”