Texas business leaders this week staked their opposition to proposed Republican bills in the upcoming Texas legislative session, fearing that their passage would potentially cost businesses in the state billions.
The two bills are widely perceived to be anti-LGBT, and, if passed would prevent transgendered individuals from selecting the restroom that aligns with their selected gender identity and would provide legal protections to individuals who objected to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
The Texas Association of Business (TAB) identified in a recently released report that the passage and implementation of these two bills could cost the state between $964 million and $8.5 billion and nearly 200,000 jobs.
“The message from the Texas business community is loud and clear,” Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business, said at a news conference announcing the release of the report. “Protecting Texas from billions of dollars in losses is simple: Don’t pass unnecessary laws that discriminate against Texans and our visitors.”
Projected hits and losses
The economic impact study was conducted by researchers from St. Edward’s University and projected the loss of business based primarily on a loss of tourism to the state, and the ability to host prestigious events, such as the upcoming Super Bowl in February 2017 in Houston.
The projections were based, in part, to the fallout that other states, such as North Carolina and Indiana, with similar laws have seen.
North Carolina, in particular, has borne the brunt of the economic impact resulting from similar laws. . Major sporting events, such as multiple NCAA championship events and the NBA All-Star Game, have cancelled and moved to other states.
A growing number of companies, such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank declined to move forward with previously announced plans to expand in the state, costing the economy 650 jobs.
The rift between the TAB and state Republican leaders in the legislature is rare; while their interests seldom diverge, on this topic the gulf appears to be fixed between the two organizations. However, there is not uniformity within the Republican Party on the topic.
The state’s top Republican leaders, starting with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, have indicated their dedication to filing the bills, in the form of Senate Bill 6, and fighting for their passage in the upcoming legislative session.
“TAB has a track record of partnering with liberal anti-traditional family groups, opposing religious freedom and supporting ordinances that prosecute citizens for believing in traditional marriage,” wrote Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), in a recent blog post on the topic at the Texas Tribune decrying the results of the study.
“TAB recently claimed that the Texas economy would lose billions of dollars unless Texas buckled to political correctness and sacrificed the safety and privacy of women. However, a considerable portion of the lost dollars TAB references are in the idea that Houston would lose the opportunity to host the Super Bowl — a specious claim considering the game is only two months away.
Speaker of the House Joe Straus has gone on record as saying that Patrick’s agenda isn’t “the most urgent concern of mine.”
TAB’s report garnered support from both sides of the aisle, but most notably from Republicans who align with Straus.
“Texas needs to continue to strive for excellence in education, infrastructure, and health,” said State Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston), a supporter of TAB’s position.
“Those priorities – not divisive issues that won’t move our state forward – deserve our time and attention. We need to protect our tourism industry, attract investment, and provide a healthy environment for small businesses to thrive. I stand with the business community in their commitment to safeguarding the economic health of the Lone Star State.”
However, the populace may be more inclined to agree with Patrick’s camp. In a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, surveyed voters, and voters which identified as Republican in particular, identified that they aligned more closely with the socially conservative voices, with 51 percent of respondents and 76 percent among self-identified Republicans stating that they felt that individuals should be required to use the restrooms that aligned with their gender at birth.
“Keep Texas Open for Business”
The association moved beyond the mere release of their report in an attempt to forestall the passage of the bills, creating their “Keep Texas Open for Business” initiative. While the effort has not yet seen a large number of businesses join the campaign, those that have include such industry leaders as Apple, IBM, and Intel.
The aim of the initiative is focused solely on defeating bills that would, in the purview of TAB, be discriminatory against the LGBTQ population in Texas.
“Discriminatory legislation is bad for business. Our economic study points to the dire and far-reaching impact of discriminatory legislation on Texas businesses, our communities, families, jobs and the larger state economy,” said Chris Wallace, President of the Texas Association of Business (TAB). “We must Keep Texas Open for Business. We cannot slam the door on the Texas Miracle of openness, competitiveness, economic opportunity and innovation.”
Read the study for yourself
Texans know that anything may happen in a legislative session and that original forms of bills filed rarely look the same upon their passage, if they reach the governor’s desk.
The polarizing positions taken by each side seem to allow little room for compromise; the TAB predicts a catastrophic loss of business and tourism to the state should the bills pass, in any form, whereas the socially conservative Republicans hold dear to the tenet that allowing transgendered individuals to use the restroom of their choice would lead to an unsafe environment for citizens of the state and that the prediction that business and tourism will collapse is a canard.
Ultimately, with the whirlwind of the Texas legislative session upon us, a wait-and-see approach is the only one that both sides can take with clarity.
The complete economic impact study is available online at http://KeepTXOpen.org/Study.