With fewer than twenty days left in the legislative session, many conservative reforms have been placed on life support thanks to intentional delay and obstruction on the part of House Speaker Joe Straus and his hatchet-man Byron Cook (R–Corsicana).
Chief among them is Senate Bill 6 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) which limits the use of bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms at government buildings (including public schools and universities) to biological sex. SB 6 would also prohibit local governments from dictating the bathroom policies of private businesses.
Also known as the Texas Privacy Act, SB 6 passed the Texas Senate months ago with the unanimous support of Senate Republicans and even Democrat State Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville. Since then, it’s been languishing on House Speaker Joe Straus’ desk without being referred to committee.
However, House lawmakers did have a chance to pass their own version of the measure—House Bill 2899 by State Rep. Ron Simmons (R–Carrollton). While weaker than SB 6, Simmons’ measure still represented a positive step towards protecting privacy in public facilities and schools and received the endorsement of Gov. Greg Abbott last month.
In a statement, Abbott praised Simmons’ bill as a “thoughtful proposal to make sure our children maintain privacy in our school bathrooms and locker rooms.” He also pledged to “work with the House and Senate to ensure we find a solution and ultimately get a bill to [his] desk.”
But despite pressure from conservatives and faith groups, the Texas House has refused to move forward on the legislation—leading Abbott to call on faith leaders to pressure their lawmakers.
“I said, ‘If you really want to have something passed, you need to make sure that you make contact with the members of the House because this is where it’s being held up,'” said Abbott in a radio interview. “It’s being held up in the House of Representatives.”
Abbott is entirely correct.
House Speaker Joe Straus, who has gone on the record in opposition to the Texas Privacy Act, referred Simmons’ bill to the House Committee on State Affairs where his hatchet-man, Cook, signaled his opposition as well. Cook then killed the legislation by refusing to vote the bill out of his committee before the deadline passed.
Now, only one legislative vehicle exists for the legislation to pass: SB 6.
If Abbott was genuine in his pledge he will insist that Straus and Cook move SB 6 to the House floor where it can receive a record vote. The same goes for Simmons and his Denton County colleague, GOP Caucus chairman Rep. Tan Parker (R—Flower Mound), who both refused to sign on to support SB 6 earlier in session.
Citizens should hold Abbott and House lawmakers accountable to the promises they made to pass similar legislation and other conservative reforms. And if they fail, they should replace them with individuals who will follow through on their commitment to the constituents who elected them.