DALLAS -- The social issue of the next legislative session is likely to be bathrooms, after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told the Dallas Regional Chamber that it would be a priority in 2017.
"It sounds like it will be the lieutenant governor's social issue of the session. I don't know that the speaker of the house or the governor have any appetite for it," said Steve Rudner, chairman of Equality Texas.
Lt. Gov. Patrick relabeled the so-called bathroom bill as the "Women's Privacy Act” and acknowledged some in the business community worry about its effect on the economy.
“We’re aligned on 90-to-95 percent of things,” Patrick began, while suggesting this isn’t one of them.
He went on to lay out his argument for it: "Transgender people have obviously been going into the ladies’ room for a long time, and there hasn't been an issue that I know of," he said. "But, if laws are passed by cities and counties and school districts allow men to go into a bathroom because of the way they feel, we will not be able to stop sexual predators from taking advantage of that law, like sexual predators take advantage of the internet.”
Nineteen states have considered legislation like this in 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. North Carolina enacted it and ended up losing several big events as a result.
Equality Texas promised a fight is coming.
"This is going to be a huge fight, and the way that you know that is that the entire business community has aligned themselves against the lieutenant governor through an effort called Texas Competes," Rudner said.
Texas Competes is a group of 1,200 business which are opposed to legislation like this. The groups worry it could hurt the economy, if passed. The Dallas Regional Chamber, where Patrick delivered remarks on Thursday, is also an early member of Texas Competes.
The lieutenant governor didn't detail what the law might look like, but he reframed it, softened the messaging, and suggested it as a priority when legislators reconvene in 81 days.
Patrick also promised to continue his fight for school choice, reducing property taxes, and lowering public college tuition, among other things.
“This session will be tough,” he said. “Money will be tight.”