Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio
Late Wednesday night, Senate Bill 6, the Texas version of a "bathroom bill" that would require people to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender that appears on their birth certificates, passed out of the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee by a 7-1 vote. The legislation now goes on to the full Senate for debate.
SB 6, also known as the Texas Privacy Act, was introduced to the state's legislature in January by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). Texas businesses have been outspoken against the bill, citing economic losses incurred in North Carolina following the passage of a similar bill in March 2016.
For two days before the vote, about 200 people testified against the legislation and 30 for it. Hospitality industry attorney Steven M. Rudner, who is chair of the board for Equality Texas, was set to testify, but time and the number of people stepping up to the microphone prevented him from getting his chance. "I reviewed the giant list of witnesses who would testify and knew our points would be made well, repeatedly," he said.
Heads of local convention and visitors bureaus were among those who spoke out against the bill in front of the committee, including Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, Phillip Jones, president and CEO of Visit Dallas, and Tom Noonan, president and CEO of the Austin CVB. Noting that "We do not need to speculate about potential economic losses," Matej told the committee members that 11 organizations have said they are reconsidering or would remove their events from San Antonio if the legislation passes. The events represent a total estimated loss of $30 million in economic revenue.
According to the San Antonio Express-News,
the NAACP and the American Library Association already have said they would move events from the city if the bill passes. Organizations that pulled events from North Carolina last year included the NCAA; that organization's big basketball tournament, known as March Madness, is scheduled to hold its Final Four games in San Antonio in 2018, an event that would probably be moved if the bill passes. Both the NBA and the NFL have said they would not consider the state for events such as the All-Star Game and the Super Bowl if the bill is enacted.
In Tennessee, a similar bill introduced by Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), has been pulled for the time being, according to The Tennessean.
"I wanted to come up with a bill that is common sense and good policy for everybody," the newspaper reported that Pody said in the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee. "I have never seen an administration, courts and everything changing so quickly almost week to week." The politician said the bill would be reintroduced later this session.