Dec 9th 2016 | Posted in State by Priscilla Loebenberg

Texas Association of Business (TAB) members warned lawmakers of severe losses to the state’s economy if legislation discriminatory to LGBT individuals is moved forward. Business leaders presented a report that estimated the impact from such legislation. The state could lose between $964 million and $8.5 billion and up to 185,000 jobs, according to the association which functions as the state’s chamber of commerce.

“Discriminatory legislation is bad for business. Our economic study points to the dire and far-reaching impact of discriminatory legislation on Texas businesses, our communities, families, jobs and the larger state economy,” said TAB President Chris Wallace.

The studies included in the report were completed by researchers at St. Edward’s University and seek to gauge the economic repercussions of state legislators advancing anti-LGBT legislation. One of the subjects of the report is a “bathroom bill,” the Women’s Privacy and Business Protection Act, championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and designated as one of his top ten legislative priorities in the upcoming legislative session. The Texas bathroom bill could prohibit transgender individuals from using the restroom matching their gender identity.

ada-graphic-braille-signs-74072-lg“A majority of Texans in both political parties and in every ethnic and demographic group believe that women and girls should have privacy and safety in their restrooms, showers and locker rooms. Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to assure that they do,” said Patrick when introducing the legislation as one of his priorities and designating it as Senate Bill 6.

Patrick released a statement following TAB’s announcement saying the association engaged in misinformation and fear-mongering. He noted the group had not yet seen the bill they were criticizing.

Other legislation opposed by TAB is an amendment to the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA). The amendment would expand protections of business owners refusing service to same-sex couples based on religious convictions.

The studies look at the economic fallout in states that passed similar legislation and extrapolated the information to Texas. Losses could come primarily from a decline in tourism and events. One notable example of economic losses comes from North Carolina. After North Carolina’s bathroom bill was signed into law, the NBA and NCAA canceled events in the state.

Some legislators joined with TAB leaders in expressing concern over bills that could be discriminatory.

“Texas needs to continue to strive for excellence in education, infrastructure and health,” said State Representative Sarah Davis. “Those priorities – not divisive issues that won’t move our state forward – deserve our time and attention. We need to protect our tourism industry, attract investment and provide a healthy environment for small businesses to thrive. I stand with the business community in their commitment to safeguarding the economic health of the Lone Star State.”

Some critics claim that the report over-estimates the economic impact of the proposed legislation. They also point to the city of Houston’s recent rejection of an anti-discrimination ordinance as an example of how Texans feel about the issue.

“TAB claims that legislation that allows businesses to protect those who are vulnerable is ‘discriminatory,’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” said State Representative Matt Shaheen, in a recent opinion column for the Texas Tribune. “The organization now supports a new radical agenda that places the safety and privacy of women and young girls at risk by forcing them to share locker rooms and restrooms with men through government regulation,” said Shaheen.

House Speaker Joe Straus previously indicated the Texas bathroom bill was not a legislative priority for him but it could be for members of the House.

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