Less than a week into the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate are advancing privacy legislation similar to the proposal that House Speaker Joe Straus and his allies killed at the end of the regular session.
On Friday, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard hours of testimony and advanced legislation that would largely restrict bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms in public and government buildings to biological sex, while preserving the right of private businesses to set their own policies. The bill now also includes language preventing men from competing against women within their own sports categories.
Though the bill was known as Senate Bill 6 during the regular session, the proposal is now known as Senate Bill 3 during the special session and is being carried once again by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham).
“I’m pleased to see the Texas Senate realizes the need is so great for the Privacy Act that they’ve already held a hearing and voted the bill out of committee. Texas school children need these protections in place quickly given that we’ve already seen rogue school districts attempt to implement gender-neutral bathroom and locker room policies, some without parental notification,” said Dana Hodges, State Director for Concerned Women for America of Texas.
“I’m also pleased that there’s a consideration for female athletes in the language of SB 3 that will help to ensure female athletes will not be forced to compete against biological males in women’s competitive sports,” Hodges continued.
SB 3 will likely receive a vote on the floor of the Texas Senate next week, where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support. During the regular session, privacy legislation was supported by every Republican member of the Texas Senate and Democrat State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville.
However, the prospect of passage continues to look grim in the Texas House, where Straus opposes the legislation. Last session, Straus refused to refer it to a committee for a hearing, and his hatchet man State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) never even allowed a vote on the House version of the legislation in his committee during the regular session.
Abbott chastised both of them early in the process but they refused to yield, setting up an end of session showdown between Straus and Patrick that all but guaranteed lawmakers would be coming back to Austin for a special session.
The difference this time is that more than 80 Republican House members—more than a majority of the total House—have publicly supported the passage of privacy legislation. If Straus refuses to allow the bill to proceed, he will be actively thwarting the wishes of his own chamber, a body that could move to replace him with that margin.