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Texas Governor Calls For Special Legislation To Vote On 'Bathroom Bill'


The Texas legislature will have another go this summer at passing a so-called bathroom bill. That's the measure that would require transgender people to use certain public facilities specifically bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex rather than their gender identity while in public schools universities and government buildings. It's already failed once during the legislatures regular session. But Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called a special legislative session, and the bill is once again on the agenda. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has been covering the story and joins us now. Hi, Wade.


SINGH: What is the status on this bill in Texas?

GOODWYN: Well, it's going to be brought up again in the legislative session, the special session that begins in mid-July. And we don't know exactly how it's going to play out. The House and Senate are responding to two completely different constituencies inside the Texas Republican Party. The Texas Senate is dominated by its leader Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and he's responding to social conservatives, the evangelical wing of the state GOP.

So in the regular session, they crafted a pretty far-reaching bill which would force transgender students and adults to use bathrooms in public schools and government buildings that correspond to their gender at birth. The Texas House, however, is dominated by House Speaker Joe Straus, and he's primarily a fiscal conservative responsive to the state's business interests.

The Texas Association of Business and the robust Convention Visitors Bureau industry hate the bathroom bill. So the House passed its own bathroom bill which simply provided that public schools should provide a good, quality private bathroom for any student who wanted it. But that wasn't strong enough for the Senate. And so the bill died because the House wasn't interested in passing anything that smacked of being overly punitive.

SINGH: We know other initiatives have not worked out so well, including the one in North Carolina. So why is Texas doing this?

GOODWYN: That's what Texas business wants to know. Now North Carolina has already been down this road. The NBA moved its All-Star game out of the state. The NCAA refused to schedule March Madness games in North Carolina. Corporations canceled planned expansions. The governor lost his re-election bid and then this spring after all of that, North Carolina repealed its bathroom bill. Just like North Carolina, the NBA All-Star game is scheduled next year in San Antonio. So San Antonio is anxious.

And of course there's no way of knowing how much business they lose from groups who wouldn't even consider coming to Texas if a bathroom bill is passed. But for the lieutenant governor, for the Senate whatever cost to the state that results from passing a bathroom bill would be worth it.

SINGH: But still, though, given the mounting outcry that we're seeing in Texas, are we starting to see a mounting defense by Texas politicians in defense of this legislation or do you sense still that this is sort of muted?

GOODWYN: Well, it's going to be a full-throated power struggle. There's 19 item agenda on the special session and as explosive as the bathroom bill is nationally, the legislature failed to authorize funding for several state agencies existence before time ran out.

So that's a fairly large problem right there. But after that, there is contentious anti-abortion legislation and then we're going to watch this power struggle between Lieutenant Governor Patrick and House Speaker Straus. I would not at all be surprised to see some sort of bathroom bill passed. What that looks like it's still anybody's guess.

SINGH: So everybody's been paying attention and paying attention to what happened in North Carolina. They're going to be paying attention to what's happening in Texas. What about other states?

GOODWYN: Well, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at the last count there are 11 states that still have pending bathroom bill legislation, among them Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.

SINGH: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas. Thanks very much, Wade.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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