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Business Leaders Want Bathroom Privacy Bills Flushed

AUSTIN (CBS11) - Standing on the steps of the Texas Capitol, business leaders said they want to flush bathroom privacy bills proposed by Republican leaders.

Phil Gilbert, IBM Global Head of Design said, "Reject these discriminatory acts. Such measures are wrong. They're bad for business, they have no place in the 21st century and they have no place in Texas."

Hours before, the CEOs of 14 North Texas-based companies sent Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (who support bathroom privacy bills) and House Speaker Joe Straus (who opposes the legislation) a letter warning about the potential damaging effects on the Texas economy. "As CEO's of Dallas-based businesses, we're writing to express our concern that the so-called "bathroom bill" that the Texas legislature is considering would seriously hurt the state's ability to attract new businesses, investment, and jobs."

In an interview Monday, the day before the state legislature begins its special session, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told CBS11, "This is not about discriminating against anyone."

The Lt. Governor said many people misunderstand the proposed bills and that they're not about transgender people.

"The left has done a very good job of impacting business leaders. These are all very astute and smart folks and I'm going to respond to their letter," said Patrick.

Under three bills proposed in the House (HB 46 & 50) and Senate (SB 23), the state would negate local ordinances that offer protections that aren't already covered by federal and state laws as they relate to bathroom use in government and school buildings.

This could impact transgender adults and children in multi-occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms.

The Lt. Governor says the local ordinances don't protect women and children enough from men who would follow them in there. "When a city says any man can enter a lady's room because they identify with a different gender, you just opened the lady's door to every sexual predator everywhere. I'm not talking about transgender people. I never said and wouldn't suggest there's any data showing transgender people have committed any offenses."

Dallas Councilwoman and Visit Dallas Board Member Jennifer Staubach Gates rejected the bills. "I'm shocked any elected representative would put so many large and small businesses in harm's way. Personally, as a Catholic, and a conservative, I'm tired of a crusade against a group of people who are already in danger."

House Speaker Joe Straus has strongly opposed these bills and has sided with business leaders.

Jeff Moseley, CEO of the Texas Association of Business told the news conference, "Conservatives can disagree with conservatives. The position you're hearing today is a very conservative position. We have to be careful to protect the Texas miracle."

Business leaders warn the state has already lost $66 million in conventions and events because of the proposed bills.

Phillip Jones, CEO of Visit Dallas said, "That's over 38,000 hotel room nights. An additional $205 million in events have told us they will cancel if a bathroom bill passes, totaling another 167,000 hotel room nights."

Jones says the numbers could soar to more than 400,000 lost hotel room nights and $1 billion in lost tourism dollars in Texas.

The Lt. Governor rejected the warnings and said Houston didn't suffer consequences after voters there rejected a local ordinance two years ago. "First of all, show me data, give me data, show me one company that didn't move to Houston after we stopped this policy. Show me one. We had the Super Bowl, we had the NCAA tournament, businesses moving to Houston."

The bathroom privacy issue is one of 20 items Governor Abbott has called on the legislature to pass during the 30-day session.

Patrick says he and the Senate are ready to do so.

On Monday, Governor Abbott announced he raised $10 million in 12 days last month, bringing his campaign's cash on hand to nearly $41 million.

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