Texas Business Lobby Warns of Economic Fallout From Bathroom Bill

By Paul Stinson

A coalition of Texas business groups is warning that a transgender “bathroom bill” introduced by state leadership could provoke economic fallout upwards of $8.5 billion if passed by the Texas legislature.

Introduced Jan. 5 during a press conference led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), the “Texas Privacy Act"— Senate Bill 6—would require transgender individuals to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex.”

The measure would preempt local nondiscrimination ordinances allowing for transgender residents to use a bathroom corresponding with the individual’s gender identity, provoking concern from the state’s business quarters, including the advertising agency behind the state’s “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign.

Dismissed by the state’s largest business lobby as a “discriminatory bill,” the measure if passed could cost the state between $964 million and $8.5 billion in GDP, and upwards of 185,000 jobs in the first year, according to the study authored by the Texas Association of Business.

“Any kind of discriminatory legislation affects the work environment and discourages people from coming,” Duff Stewart, CEO of Austin-based advertising agency GSD&M—the agency responsible for the creation of the state’s “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign.

Such legislation would in effect mess with the state’s economic fortunes, said Stewart, referring to similar measures in other states.

“We’ve also seen what the effects of what those bills have done in other states like North Carolina and Indiana, where hundreds of millions of dollars was pulled out of the state—the NCAA for example in North Carolina—and other events were canceled,” said Stewart by phone.

The agency that includes GSD&M is part of a broader coalition of businesses—known as Keep Texas Open for Business—including Apple, Celanese, Dow Chemical, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and SXSW who oppose the measure.

“This issue is not about discrimination. It’s about public safety, protecting businesses and common sense,” according to a Jan. 5 statement issued by Patrick.

“Our communities, our families and businesses across this state face a far more uncertain future if this kind of unnecessary regulation is enacted here,” Chris Wallace, the association’s president, said in a Jan. 5 statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Stinson in Austin, Texas, at pstinson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

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