Texas Senate will reject House's "bathroom bill" compromise

The legislative wrangling over where transgender Texans can use the bathroom isn’t over yet.  

State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, on the floor of the Senate on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Laura Skelding for The Texas Tribune

The legislative wrangling over where transgender Texans can use the bathroom isn’t over yet.

State Sen. Larry Taylor said he will reject the House's proposed compromise on the "bathroom bill," an amendment to Senate Bill 2078 that required school districts to provide single-occupancy bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities for students who don’t want to use the ones associated with their “biological sex.”

Meanwhile, in a last-ditch move, the Senate early Wednesday morning added part of its far broader version of the bathroom bill as an amendment to another bill, a move it will have to reaffirm later today. 

The House-offered compromise, which Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall said would keep transgender students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity unless they use a multi-occupancy bathroom when no one else in there. But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who has spent months championing far-reaching restrictions on bathroom use — had said the amendment’s “ambiguous language” didn’t “appear to do much.”

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Echoing Patrick’s concerns, Taylor indicated he had turned in the necessary paperwork to request a conference committee to work on the “wording.” Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus would have to appoint representatives from both chambers to try to reach a compromise on the controversial issue that has put the two presiding officers at odds throughout the legislative session.

“I heard it reported as a compromise, but it really doesn’t do anything,” Taylor said. “You have to have a separate facility but no one is required to go there.”

Some school groups have said the amendment is open to interpretation on whether it actually keeps school districts from accommodating transgender students beyond single-occupancy bathrooms.

Shortly after Taylor confirmed his intentions, Paddie — who reiterated that his amendment is substantial — said he’d wait to hear the Senate’s specific concerns before speculating on a compromise or whether the House will agree to go to conference on the bill.

“I don’t speak for the entire House, but I’d like to hear the reasons why before I say it’s something I think is necessary,” Paddie said. “I believe it accommodates all children and I believe that the House has taken a very thoughtful, reasonable approach to trying to address concerns that have been raised leading up to this session... I believe we did it in the right way.”

With the clock ticking toward the last day of the legislative session, the Senate’s rejection could complicate efforts to avoid going into overtime. Patrick threatened to push for a special session if the Legislature didn’t approve one of two measures that were much broader than the House’s proposal.

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Both of those measures died in the House, where Straus has called the issue “manufactured and unnecessary” and has raised concerns about the economic fallout that could follow passage of bathroom-related legislation.

SB 2078, which actually addresses school districts’ emergency response plans, was amended in the House with the bathroom language after Gov. Greg Abbott also threatened to call a special session on the issue where a more restrictive measure could prevail.

Sunday is the last day for the Senate to concur on House amendments or adopt conference committee reports. Monday is the last day in the legislative session.

“I think it’s just minor work,” Taylor said about finishing up work on the bill before the end of session. “It just needs to do something.”