Plano Republican has alternative to bathroom bill

Bathroom battle

PLANO, Texas – Hours after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick fulfilled a promise and unveiled the so-called bathroom bill, a local state representative put the finishing touches on a similar piece of legislation.

"This is a small government approach. What's the appropriate scope of government? Is the appropriate scope of government to regulate bathrooms? I say no,” said State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano.

Shaheen said he would file his bill on Friday. It prevents cities and schools from passing their own laws, he said, but it will not require people to use the bathroom of their biological sex.

"We need to be focused on local issues like law enforcement, criminal justice, parks and rec, those types of things. Leave the bathroom discussion to the non-profits, the business community. Let them work out those issues."

Hours earlier in Austin, Patrick and State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Katy, unveiled the Senate Bill 6, a 12-page bill, which they termed the Texas Privacy Act.

"We know it's going to be a tough fight," said Lt. Gov. Patrick.

SB 6 also stops cities and school districts from passing any rules on restrooms. But SB 6 takes it a step further and requires people to use the restroom of their biological sex.

The legislation also calls for a $1,000 fine for schools or government agencies that violate it. In addition, the bill enhances penalties for any crimes committed in restrooms.

"Are we going to have bathroom police? No. What this is, it allows an individual who feels uncomfortable to report that,” said State Sen. Kolkhorst.

But opponents call it unnecessary and say it only discriminates against transgender people.

Still, Patrick has a majority of Texans on his side. A poll which WFAA commissioned last October after the issue first arose in Fort Worth ISD shows 54% don't think transgender students should be able to use the restroom with which they identify.

And that makes it tricky for lawmakers.

Citizens support it.

But 1,100 businesses, including many of the state's biggest, do not, according to TexasCompetes.org

Regardless, many expect SB 6 to pass the Senate.

But will it make it to the floor of the House for a vote?

“I don't know,” said Ross Ramsey, co-founder and executive editor of the Texas Tribune. "The first indication that this isn't going to move very fast is the governor saying - well let's talk about that for a little bit. I think by the governor throwing a little cold water on it will slow it down enough for everybody to get it sorted out before they have to cast a vote."

Still, it’s shaping up early on to be the political fight of the session.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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