One state representative is saying that he won’t sign on as a co-author of a bill protecting the privacy of women and girls in bathrooms and changing facilities, out of fear of retaliation by House leadership against first responders.

State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) provided the explanation to one of his constituents who questioned why he wasn’t supporting the Texas Privacy Act, a bill that would continue the policy of designating public bathrooms and changing facilities on the basis of natural gender and prohibit local governments from interfering with private businesses on the issue.

Roberts said, “I co-authored Rep. Simmons bathroom bill during the general session and WILL vote FOR it when it gets to the House floor. I have not signed onto the bill during the special session because I have an important bill to assist First Responders… and I do not want to risk the bill being de-railed.”

Not only is this disingenuous, as Roberts knows that Speaker Joe Straus is doing everything possible to prohibit a floor vote on the Privacy Act, but his statement also shows that representatives fear retribution against their constituents if they defy leadership and sign on to the bill.

“Not co-authoring ANY bill is truthfully the safest way to go because your[sic] not picking ‘favorites’/showing your cards until the bill gets to the floor for a vote so you don’t upset bill authors for the bill or Rep.s[sic] opposed to the bill,” read a subsequent post.

Through his statement, he is saying he believes Straus will punish first responders and kill Robert’s bill designed to assist them if he signs on to the Privacy Act. When Harris County precinct chair Rolando Garcia objected to Roberts’ capitulation, Roberts claimed he was misquoted and said that the comment indicated that Garcia didn’t understand “the workings of the legislative process and how to get bills passed.”

It seems as though Roberts’ legislative approach is to forego standing on principle and sit quietly to avoid punishment, until the last possible minute. Texans deserve better than leaders who use first responders as hostages and representatives who cower in fear from such tactics.

In response to our request, Roberts’ office provided us this statement:

“Rep. Roberts co-authored the privacy act during the regular session. He still intends to vote for the bill should it come to the House floor. Rep. Roberts has been open and honest with his constituents about his position on the privacy act and he is not under any threat from House leadership to not sign onto the bill. However, since there are many ways that a bill can die in the legislative process and Rep. Roberts currently has legislation that is waiting to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor, he is trying to be as prudent as possible in ensuring that an important piece of legislation for his constituents continues through the legislative process. House Joint Resolution 30 and House Bill 179 will ensure that first responders who are paralyzed or suffer other significant injuries while protecting Texans aren’t taxed out of their homes and it is important that this bill make sure makes it to Governor Abbott’s desk.”

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Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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