The House Committee on State Affairs met on April 19 to take up a full agenda. The report below covers HB 2899 – relating to the regulation of discrimination by political subdivisions. Over 100 witnesses signed up to testify and this report covers only a portion of the public testimony on this bill.
HB 2899 (Simmons) Relating to the regulation of discrimination by political subdivisions.

  • Draft #23527 before members
  • Bill addresses need on statewide basis
  • Only applies to portion of ordinance that contains access to multiple occupancy restrooms/showers or changing facilities
  • Doesn’t eliminate nondiscrimination ordinances for pregnant women or veterans
  • Does not eliminate ordinance relating to transgender non-discrimination
  • Does not prohibit a state-wide non-discrimination policy
  • Similar to N. Carolina statute
  • Working on another committee sub
  • Clarifies federal law and state law
  • Allows AG to recover cost associated with enforcing HB 2899

Ashley Harris, Visit San Antonio – against the bill

  • Released study from Perryman Group, expected $411 million in loss in hospitality, meetings and conventions
  • Already experiencing loss and update groups on a near weekly basis

Rey Saldana, City Council of San Antonio – against the bill

  • Do not believe it is needed
  • Concerned with negative perceptions it will create
  • SA will be hardest hit
  • Asked “why enshrine a discriminatory law into Texas law?”
  • Scratching heads trying to determine what problem the bill is trying to solve
  • Farrar – can’t understand why we need the state uniformity

Tom Giovanetti, Institute for Policy Innovation – for bill

  • Thinks HB 2899 is far superior legislation
  • Troubled by approach other body took
  • Perception matters, but facts also matter
  • Under 2899 transgender people are able to select what bathroom to use just like to today
  • Bill provides limited government solution 

Ron Kelley, Prestonwood Baptist Church – for bill

  • Also a Plano City Council member
  • Gives letter to committee from his Pastor

David Stout, Commissioner from El Paso County – against the bill

  • Taking steps to make community accessible to all
  • By saying yes to bill, would be saying yes to discrimination

Phillip Jones, Visit Dallas – against the bill

  • Bill could risk trade show planners not bring shows to Texas
  • Believes there is a more effective way to protect public safety
  • Amendment suggestions: allow municipalities non-discrimination ordinance to keep them, let them pass NDOs by referendum, limit application to government owned and k-12 facilities, exempt stadiums
  • Hearing N. Carolina legislation is better than HB 2899
  • Believes there is $150 million in loss revenue at stake today
  • Giddings – not sure what we are trying to solve?
    • Not sure why
  • Spoken to major counterparts, all in opposition
  • Cook – agrees has not heard of problem in state, is it your testimony that if those areas were addressed that your groups would not negatively impact your group
    • Correct, if it included those 4 items

Lee Kleinman, City of Dallas – against the bill 

  • Discrimination has no home in their city
  • Had recently passed NDO ordinances
  • AT&T has been continuously named for best place to work for LGBT employees
  • City hosted several sport events bringing in billions of dollars, that money is at risk with this bill
  • Making certain carve out and exceptions may still have intention of discrimination
  • Cook – Businesses should be here testifying and they are not here, and that is unfortunate, they have chosen not to participate…they could have a profound effect

Jimmy Flannigan, City of Austin – against the bill

  • Proposal is personal for him
  • Don’t want to see discrimination enshrined in any Texas law

Chris Wallace, TAB – against the bill

  • Bill would negatively impact Texas economy
  • Today updated economic study, ripple effect will be felt in rural areas 
  • $5.6 billion is update economic impact from study
  • Similar bills have bene rejected in 7 other states
  • Discriminatory legislation is risky business that Texans cannot afford
  • Cook – asked if there were specific changes? Asked witness to go back and tell businesses of his disappointment of them not being there and they should be part of the discussions
    • Had some, laid out earlier this week – similar to Jones
  • Giddings – asked what problems would the bill address?
    • Discrimination is bad for business, believes bill is solution looking for a problem
    • Why do anything to tie hands of employers?
  • Cook – all the other stakeholders are here and have registered for or against, but “deaf silence” from major employers and would have a real effect, it would have been so beneficial

David Welch, Texas Pastor Council – for the bill

  • Need a state uniform standard because of increasing abuse of these ordinances
  • Different definitions of gender identity all over
  • Patchwork of inconsistencies across the state
  • Do we need to jeopardized safety of women and children so we can have an event here, not willing to make that trade off
  • Cook – asked him if he is aware of a problem?
    • Yes there are incidences but it is only part of the problem
    • Not saying transgender community are part of problem
    • Provided his examples
  • Cook – wonder if there is really a bifurcated issue
    • Problem is in local ordinances
  • Cook – issues have historically taken care of themselves
    • Because no standard and no limitation, no legal ability to stop someone from going to restroom/shower/locker room
  • E. Rodriguez – differs with witness in regards to what is currently legal under Texas laws
  • Giddings – if you have specific events in specific health clubs, please provide them

Chuck Smith, Equality Texas – against the bill

  • Intent of bill is to discriminate against transgender people

Elizabeth Schwartz, self – against the bill

  • Bill encourages discrimination

Emmett, self  – against the bill

  • NDOs in place, have not heard of any issues
  • Farrar – asked if witness would feel comfortable sharing trans process
    • Was adopted, was not comfortable identifying as female, proud parent and raises daughter with catholic values

Monica Roberts, Black Trans Women Inc, self – against the bill

  • From black trans community in Texas – have had several killing because of discrimination
  • Bill is nothing more than discrimination
  • Best thing to do with bill is to kill it entirely

Nicole Parry, Trans Movement and self – against the bill

  • Up to municipalities to create NDO ordinances to protect people

Katherine Oakley, Human Rights Campaign – against the bill

  • 1.5 million members and supporters
  • Legislation is not dealing with real issue, never been about bathroom but about discrimination
  • Differences between NC bill and Texas is that no rights were being taken away from anyone
  • Rep. Guillen – asked about differences btw, other states and HB 2899
    • Strongest similarities is that it is not about bathrooms
    • This bill would allow policies that discriminate

Testimony continued as over 100 witnesses are signed up to still testify.