Top Republican in Texas legislature says ‘bathroom bill’ is dead

The most powerful Republican in the Texas state legislature said Wednesday that his so-called bathroom bill would not be a legislative priority this year, effectively killing a measure that sparked heated and bitter arguments two years ago.
 
Speaking at a news conference at the governor’s mansion in Austin, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) claimed victory in the fight to require transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender at birth.
 
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“When you win the battle, you don’t have to fight the battle again,” Patrick said. “I think it’s been settled, and I think we’ve won.”
 
The debate over transgender people’s access to bathrooms kicked off when the Obama administration issued guidelines for public school districts that allowed transgender students to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity.
 
 
Patrick, a hard-line conservative whose position gives him control of the Texas state Senate, made the bathroom bill a top priority in 2017. That put him at odds with state House Speaker Joe Straus (R), a more conventional chamber-of-commerce Republican who said the bill would hurt Texas’s economy.
 
Dozens of major companies rallied against the legislation, a measure modeled in part on a North Carolina law that was subsequently revised. Companies including American Airlines and IBM threatened to take some of their business to other states if Patrick’s bill became law.
 
The debate also exacerbated a deep rift between Patrick and Straus, with Gov. Greg Abbott (R) frequently playing a mediator’s role. Abbott backed Patrick’s legislation while trying to maintain good ties with Straus.
 
“I was the traditional man in the middle in this situation,” Abbott told The Hill in a 2017 interview.
 
The bathroom bill ultimately died when the state House adjourned a special session without taking action.
 
Straus, the longest-serving state House speaker in Texas history, opted against running for reelection in 2018.
 
At Wednesday's press conference, Abbott and Patrick sat alongside the new state House speaker, Dennis Bonnen (R), to stress a unified Republican Party heading into this year’s legislative session.
 
“We’re here to send a very strong, profound and unequivocal message that the governor, the lieutenant governor and speaker are working in collaboration together on a very bold agenda that will be transformative for the state of Texas,” Abbott told reporters.
 
Bonnen told the Dallas Morning News that a bathroom bill would not be among his priorities this year.
 
“The top bills are school finance reform, school finance reform and school finance reform,” Bonnen told the newspaper. He said property tax reform would also play a role; Abbott has proposed capping property tax increases at 2.5 percent.