Texas Tourism, Business Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Reject Bathroom Bill

Texas business leaders and tourism officials gathered today at the State Capitol in Austin to urge lawmakers to reject efforts to pass a "bathroom bill." State lawmakers will decide on the controversial bill during a special legislative session, which begins Tuesday, July 18, and will last up to 30 days; the bill would require people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities that correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth, a measure that many claim targets transgender people.

According to data tracked by Texas Welcomes All, a coalition of businesses, organizations and tourism-industry leaders, some $66 million in convention business has already been cancelled in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Arlington, and an additional $205.2 million, which translates to an estimated 167,000 hotel nights, is at risk if the law passes. An economic-impact study conducted by AngelouEconomics and commissioned by the Texas Association of Business found a statewide risk of losses of up to $5.6 billion through 2026 if a bathroom bill is passed. Following are statements from the leaders opposed to the controversial measure:

"Wholly unnecessary and highly discriminatory legislation is threatening Texas' reputation as open and welcoming for businesses and families," said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas. "The pursuit of a bathroom bill represents a willful disregard for those vulnerable people and for businesses, workers and communities all across our state. The economic costs are already being felt, and they cut to the heart of our tourism industry, our small businesses and everyday Texans working to make ends meet."

"This ongoing, manufactured bathroom-bill debate has already damaged the Texas economy," said Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association. "The negative community impacts will be long-lasting, from hotel occupancy and state taxes to wage-earners and local businesses that benefit from the influx of tourists to our region. Our job is to speak up before damage happens, and to do everything in our power to protect the livelihoods and jobs of the Texans who make our great tourism economy what it is."

"The Texas Association of Business supports and advances sound policies that strengthen the economic climate of our state," said Jeff Moseley, the association's CEO. "When businesses succeed, Texas communities and families succeed. The bathroom bill would result in terrible economic consequences - on talent, on tourism, on investment, on growth and on small businesses. That's why TAB and the business community remain steadfastly opposed to this unnecessary legislation."

"As a global company with over 10,000 employees here in Texas, IBM stands firmly against any discriminatory legislation that would hurt our ability to attract and retain talent in the state," said Phil Gilbert, global head of design for IBM. "Diversity and inclusion are longstanding values of IBM, and those values go hand-in-hand with innovation. We want to continue to see a world-class pipeline of innovators and thinkers who are excited to put down roots in Texas, and discriminatory measures like bathroom bills put that at risk. IBM is going straight to the legislature to make our case that these types of laws are bad for business and bad for Texas."