Bud Kennedy

Political ‘bathroom bill’ just a new time waster for Legislature

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in Fort Worth in November.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in Fort Worth in November. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

This is going to be a messy year, even by Texas Legislature standards.

Start with the “bathroom bill” and other bills aimed at LGBT Texans. Add those aimed at foreign refugees or immigrants, and at college students brought to the country illegally as children, and at women who once counted on medical checkups through Planned Parenthood.

Basically, this will be a frustrating session of the Legislature for anyone who doesn’t see things the same way as the majority Republican Party’s platform, after an ugly general election that scapegoated foreigners and fueled hostile campaign rhetoric.

Or — maybe it won’t be.

“Even if some of these bills make it out of the Senate, they are DOA in the House,” Rice University political science professor Mark P. Jones wrote by email Thursday, after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced a “Privacy Act” aimed at forcing transgender Texans to use public restrooms based solely on birth-certificate gender.

Jones guesses that the “bathroom bill” and another divisive measure ending in-state tuition for about 25,000 college students brought here illegally as children (3,000 in Tarrant County) will fail by dark of night in a House committee before the Legislature quits May 29.

“The ‘bathroom bill’ has strong opposition from the business community,” Jones wrote. (The Texas Association of Business calls the several anti-LGBT bills “discriminatory.”)

“People in the Legislature won’t get public about opposing these bills, because then they get boiled down to a 10-second sound bite,” Jones wrote: “But there’s a realization they’d have a negative impact.”

Not one of the session’s hot-button bills is a surprise. They’re all based on the party platform passed last May in Dallas.

We expect a full-out assault on immigrants and Hispanics, especially in the Senate.

Dallas Democrat Domingo García, a former House lawmaker

Texas Republicans didn’t prefer Donald Trump as their party’s nominee, but definitely like his talk of tougher rules for legal immigration and a ban on “sanctuary cities” that ignore civil federal immigration status.

“I think he’s opened up a really old wound,” said Dallas Democrat Domingo García, a former House lawmaker.

García said he expects “a full-out assault on immigrants and Hispanics, especially in the Senate. … It harkens back to the days of Jim Crow, when we saw a lot of misogyny and racism.”

We urge … addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex.

Texas Republican Party platform, 2016

Amid this bluster and noise on both sides before 2018 elections, the question is whether the Legislature will even reach the velocity to get to Patrick’s 25 “priorities.”

“The more the chambers deal with hot-button issues, the harder it is to get other legislation passed,” wrote University of Houston professor Brandon Rottinghaus.

“For many of these issues … the sponsors can score political points by suiting up even if their team doesn’t win.”

These folks play a mean game.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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