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Editorial: With 'bathroom bill' passed, time for Senate to get serious

March 15, 2017 at 12:13 a.m.

Do you feel safer today?

We doubt it.

But to hear Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and the rest of their ilk tell it, the so-called bathroom bill that was rammed through the Texas Senate on Tuesday is one of the most important things they will accomplish this legislative session to keep Texans safe.

The Senate passed it over broad opposition even from some members of the majority Republican party. During debate Tuesday, one Democratic senator asked why the issue is suddenly so important. Of course the bill's author could not come up with an answer.

That's because it is not important, except as a distraction from the many real issues facing our state.

The bill, which was written by Kolkhorst and declared a priority by Patrick, would require people to use the restroom that corresponds to their biological sex rather than the gender they identify with.

As we have said before, if Texans are threatened by a wave of men entering women's bathrooms, there are laws on the books to prosecute them. But there is no evidence such a problem exists, much less at a scale that warrants action at the state level.

It is little wonder that House Speaker Joe Straus, in a newspaper interview Monday, expressed concern about the laggardly pace of the Senate in its work on the state budget. Though tradition calls for the upper chamber this year to make the first move on the state spending plan, Straus suggested the House might not wait. We believe that would be the right move. And we will be surprised if this bill, after all the sound and fury in the Senate, makes more than a peep in the House.

Not only is the bathroom bill a distraction, however, it also is discriminatory — and costly. The Texas Association of Business has said the legislation, if passed, could cost Texas billions of dollars and more than 100,000 jobs.

North Carolina went down this road, passing a bill last year that contained many of the same provisions. In response, that state lost the planned relocations of several companies and saw sports leagues decide to move big games and tournaments elsewhere.

Instead of finding new ways to harm our state's reputation, lawmakers should be focusing on the real issues they have to deal with this session. At the top of that list is education and school finance reform, property tax reform, renewing our state's infrastructure and repairing a broken Child Protective System — a system that is truly a threat to Texas children.

Lawmakers need to focus on real problems — not made-up non-issues like who uses which bathroom.

Now that Patrick and the Senate have finished their political pandering, we hope they stop wasting time and get down to business.



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