2017-02-16 / Opinion

Patrick’s potty patrol problems

Dave McNeely

The stakes on Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Potty Patrol bill have gone up. The prospects it could have a serious impact on Texas’s economic bottom line are becoming more real.

Patrick, a Republican, and the Texas Senate’s presiding officer, has made it a top priority to bar transgender people from using public restrooms that do not reflect their gender at birth.

The National Football League, plus California, recently warned of potential boycotts, according to two Texas newspapers.

“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Houston Chronicle. “We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events, and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”

A California bill that became effective Jan. 1 bans state-sponsored school teams from traveling to states with discriminatory transgender bathroom regulations -- like SB 6 would bring.

California officials confirmed they also mean business, the Austin American Statesman reported. States the California attorney general has already put off limits over bathroom bills include Kansas, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The NFL potential ban was echoed over the weekend on network TV news broadcasts.

Patrick says what he calls the “Women’s Privacy Act” is aimed at keeping men out of women’s restrooms, where they might assault not just women, but even little girls.

There’s nothing wrong with barring such behavior. In fact, there are already laws against it.

But Patrick’s obvious purpose is to keep a person born a male, but who identifies as a female, out of women’s restrooms.

It doesn’t matter that they may have been using women’s bathrooms for years, or even decades, without incident.

North Carolina passed such a law last March, and the result was a boycott by states and organizations that considered it unjustified discrimination against transgender people.

The boycotts came from organizations like the National Basketball Association that moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans; conventions; musicians who canceled concerts; potential college football and other playoff games; plus all kinds of businesses that dropped plans to move to or expand operations in the state.

The backlash against the bill also helped North Carolina Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, narrowly wrest the governorship from incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Claims the “Bathroom Bill,” as it’s called in the Texas capitol, will have similarly hurt Texas business, are “bogus,” Patrick has insisted.

Last year, before the Texas Association of Business opposed the bill and estimated it could cost Texas $8.5 billion in lost revenue from tourism, conventions, sports, and entertainment, Patrick dismissed the idea that boycotts could occur as “ridiculous” and “more than offensive.”

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is visibly cool to Patrick’s bill (SB 6), and in a talk to the TAB, suggested its members, “if you are concerned,” should let Gov. Greg Abbott know their attitude.

Abbott has danced around the Bathroom Bill issue. A few weeks before the legislative session began in January, reporters asked him about it.

“As a general rule I don’t think men should be in women’s bathrooms,” Abbott said. “We need to dig into the facts and find out who has been harmed or endangered or been compromised and how often that’s happened.”

Should a transgender person who identifies as a female be considered a woman?

“This isn’t an issue that should be determined without a full evaluation, all the information,” Abbott replied. “We are in the information-gathering stage right now.”

He hasn’t volunteered much information since. In his State of the State address Jan. 31, several legislators speculated what he might say about it. The answer was nothing – not a word.

The presumption in the capitol is that Abbott is trying to stay out of the battle, unless and until he sees which way it’s liable to go. If it passes the Senate, but dies in the House, he can just remain non-committal.

On the other hand, if Abbott joins with TAB in opposing the bill on economic grounds, that would give the House an excuse for letting the bill die -- thus allowing skittish House members to avoid a vote that could get them “cut up” at re-election no matter how they voted. There’s no sense in voting for a bill the governor might veto.

But on Saturday, Feb. 11, after the Austin and Houston stories on California and the NFL had run, Abbott tweeted, “NFL decision makers also benched Tom Brady last season. It ended with NFL handing the Super Bowl trophy to Brady.”

There may be a hint of Abbott’s attitude in that confusing statement, beyond questioning the NFL’s judgment. But if you can read those murky tea leaves and figure out what it is, you’re smarter than we are.

Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com or (512) 458-2963.

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Why is the legislature

Why is the legislature wasting 1 second even thinking about this? What harm has ever been done? This is nothing but grandstanding for political purposes and is not worthy of even being considered. Are there any women's groups who have come out as strong proponents for this bill. Dan, focus on school financing and other critical state items.