With the measure scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday, Texas Republicans are expected to offer a new version of the controversial “bathroom bill” with two significant changes.
The modified bill removes a section that would have increased penalties for certain crimes committed in a bathroom or changing facility, according to a copy of a committee substitute obtained by The Texas Tribune. It also adds a new “legislative findings” section that would write into statute the reasoning that the bill's lead author, Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, has provided in pushing for the bill.
Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities that match their “biological sex.” The measure would also pre-empt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender residents to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Those regulations are largely unchanged in the substitute language expected to be presented tomorrow, but the modified bill does not include a lesser-known section that would have increased penalties for certain crimes in bathrooms by one degree. That would have meant that the punishment for an individual who commits an assault, for example, would have been higher if the assault occurred in a bathroom versus a parking lot or on a sidewalk.
The new “legislative findings” section appears to be intended to lay out the purpose of the bill. That section states that the “federal government’s mandate to provide students access to bathrooms, showers and dressing rooms based on an individual student’s internal sense of gender is alarming and could potentially lead to boys and girls showering together and using the same restroom.”
That appears to be an apparent reference to since rescinded guidelines issued by the Obama administration that directed public schools to accommodate transgender students. The Trump administration pulled back those guidelines on Feb. 22.
The “legislative findings” section goes on to explain that “it is the public policy of this state that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using intimate facilities” controlled by governmental entities and that “protecting the safety, welfare, and well-being” of children and Texas residents “in intimate facilities” controlled by the government is “of the utmost priority and moral obligation of this state.”
That echoes previous arguments made by Kolkhorst and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a champion of the bill, who insist the legislation is meant to increase privacy and the safety of women in “intimate settings.” Opponents of the bill, including LGBT advocates and parts of the Texas business community, have decried the bill as discriminatory, particularly as applied to transgender students in public schools.
The Senate State Affairs Committee is set to take up the legislation on Tuesday morning where Kolkhorst is expected to lay out the committee substitute. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the substitute.
More than half of the Senate has signed on in support of the measure, which is likely to face opposition in the Texas House.
As of Jan. 30, 14 other senators had endorsed Kolkhorst's bill and signed on as co-authors. On Tuesday, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. — a Democrat from Brownsville — also announced his support of the bill, and two more Republicans — state Sens. Konni Burton of Fort Worth and Charles Schwertner of Georgetown — were added to the list of co-authors, bringing to 18 the number of Senators on record supporting SB 6. Under Senate rules, 19 senators are needed to bring up a bill in the chamber.