In TAB speech, Straus suggests Abbott should make clear his position on bathroom bill
The following article was authored by Eleanor Dearman and originally published on The Quorum Report.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R- San Antonio, was wary of the Senate’s “bathroom bill” during a speech at the Texas Association of Business conference on Wednesday, sharing his personal opinion that Senate Bill 6 could result in economic troubles.
“There’s been a lot of work put into our state’s economic success,” Straus said. “Contrary to popular myth, it is not a miracle. We want to continue that success and we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”
The speaker also appeared to be interested in getting a real stance on the issue from Gov. Greg Abbott, saying “the governor’s opinion on this can make a big difference too.”
“If you are concerned, and I know many of you are, now is the time to speak up,” Straus said, addressing conference attendees.
While some top state leaders like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and now Straus have spoken up on the legislation, Abbott has kept his opinions mostly under wraps, previously saying that he’d like to see the details.
Yesterday at the same conference, Paxton tried to convince the attendees the legislation is a good idea.
TAB has notably been opposed to the legislation, with President Chris Wallace arguing that it would “needlessly jeopardize jobs, investment, innovation and tax revenue for our state, and it sullies our reputation as an open, inclusive and welcoming state.”
Straus took aim at the possible economic impacts of the legislation Wednesday, taking a stance that seems in line with that of TAB.
Straus, saying his views reflect those of his community, San Antonio – which is set to host the 2018 Final Four – warned that Senate Bill 6 could make Texas less competitive for events, conventions, jobs and investments.
“It’s not just about basketball tournaments or conventions,” Straus said. “Many people where I come from get concerned about anything that could slowdown our overall job creating machine. They’re also watching what happened in North Carolina and they are not enthusiastic about getting that type of attention. So, I think we should be very careful about doing something that could make Texas less competitive for investments, jobs and he highly skilled workforce needed to compete.”
Following his speech at the conference, Straus said he’s heard concern from the business community and leaders in San Antonio that we could be “walking into a situation that would be similar to what North Carolina has experienced.”
“I’m just hearing that we should be very, very cautious about that, and I agree with that,” Straus said.
Straus also said that he has had “very little” communication with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor about Senate Bill 6.
“We’re eight days into this session, we have a long way to go,” Straus said. “And we’ll be talking about this and many other bills shortly. I’m stating my position, as I think you will see the record reflects that I respect the House members, and I respect their views on this, but I am stating my own position and, that, that I think reflects San Antonio pretty clearly as being the host of the 2018 Final Four and a lot of other big events.”
“Bathroom bills” aside, Straus also spoke to the House’s version of the state budget, which was filed Tuesday afternoon. Straus laid out some of his funding priorities for it: public education, CPS and mental healthcare.
“As you know, this budget is far from finished, but it is a good starting point,” Straus said. “It was written to give the House, beginning with the appropriations committee, the opportunity to make some major decisions about how we allocate state resources.”
The proposed House budget appropriates $108.9 billion in general revenue and increases spending by less than one percent. It is also over the comptroller’s biennial estimate of $104.9 billion.
“Well we can count and we knew that,” Straus said to reporters following the speech. “But we have spent months talking about priorities such as public education and mental healthcare and others, Child Protective Services, so I thought it was more important this time around than to come to some philosophical answer to the budget and just work to a number,” he said.
“The House’s approach is to work toward some priorities. We know it doesn’t balance. We know there are some tough decisions to be made, and the appropriations committee, once we have them, will start crunching on that,” Straus said.
“So this is not the final budget, and I sure hope the Senate’s budget isn’t the final one either.”