Short answer: Bathroom bills are bad.
Legislation viewed by many as discriminatory toward LGBT Texans — including proposals to regulate which bathrooms transgender individuals may use — could cost the state $3.3 billion in annual tourism dollars and more than 35,600 full-time jobs associated with leisure travel and conventions, according to a study by the Waco-based Perryman Group. The study was commissioned by Visit San Antonio and the San Antonio Area Tourism Council.
“In other words, what we have been saying all along is absolutely undeniable,” Casandra Matej, president & CEO of Visit San Antonio, said in a statement. “These numbers tell us there will be a significant — and longstanding — adverse impact on San Antonio and the state. We urge our legislators to consider these effects in making their decisions.”
While it’s “impossible to know with certainty the magnitude of the net effects of the proposed bathroom access policy on travel and tourism in Texas,” the report estimates that the initial impact on business activity could cost the San Antonio-New Braunfels area $411.8 million annually.
“If the Texas Legislature passes a law viewed as discriminatory against LGBT persons, it is likely that some meetings and events would be canceled and that some leisure travelers will also avoid the state,” the study says.
The findings — based on losses experienced in other states and data from a survey by a national travel association — will likely help boost opposition to the legislation from business and tourism groups. Those groups have already pointed to millions of dollars lost in North Carolina following the passage of that state’s original bathroom law, which was recently rewritten amid mounting public and economic backlash.
Tourism officials from the state’s five biggest cities oppose bathroom-related legislation and they have already warned lawmakers that they’ve heard from organizations that are reconsidering planned events in their cities — a move that could cost each of them several millions of dollars.
The local report takes into consideration the counter-flow of conventions and organizations that would prefer to host their event in a city or state that has a “bathroom bill,” Perryman said during a conference call with media Monday morning, which are nominal. “There is a perception that group is much larger than it is. Ninety-plus percent feel the other way [do not support such legislation] … it’s overwhelming.”
There are at least 11 groups that have or are considering backing out of events located in San Antonio already, said Matej, who estimates the impact of those cancellations alone would be around $40 million.
“In other words, what we have been saying all along is absolutely undeniable,” she said Monday during the event announcing the report in the lobby of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. “These numbers tell us there will be a significant and longstanding adverse impact on San Antonio and the state. We urge our legislators to consider these effects in making their decisions.”
“SB 6 is an idiotic piece of legislation,” said Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos, adding that the laws would be unenforceable and create more problems for cities. “Now is not a time to be apathetic.”
San Antonio, South San Antonio and North San Antonio chamber representatives were also present during the press event on Monday.
City Council will be presenting a “united front” against both bills, said Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3). “Now we have the data and numbers that back up what we’ve been saying.”
Even without the economic impact, Viagran said she would oppose the legislation.
“No matter what, this bill – whatever carve outs or amendments they put to it – it’s still not an inclusive bill,” said Viagran, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “It’s still discriminatory.”
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. If you don’t believe that at this point, I don’t know what else there is to say. If there’\s one small bit of good news in all this, it’s that the business lobby isn’t buying it, and remains opposed to this nonsense.
Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace insists this bill is just as concerning as SB 6.
“This is not just about jobs, this is about discrimination,” he told the Current. “We are hearing from our members that business are steadfastly opposed to any discrimination law.”
Wallace said HB 2899 would “tie the hands” of business owners wanting to recruit top talent, because few people want to work for a place where discrimination is welcome.
“A lot of people, especially Millennials, do not want to work for a business or live in a city or a state that is not welcoming to all people,” Wallace said.
On Tuesday, a day before a House committee holds a hearing for the new House bill, a group of bipartisan business members representing Apple, IBM, Facebook, Google, Microsoft — and a handful of other national and local businesses — held a press conference at the capitol to oppose Rep. Simmons’ new iteration of a bathroom bill.
“I’m a conservative and a proud Texan. I am especially proud of our state’s reputation for being a warm and welcoming place to live,” said Sally Larrabee, who works for Process Control Outlet, a decades-old Texas tech company. “We don’t need to give our state a reputation for being a place that has laws that discriminate against people.”
Sarah Meredith, an employee of Austin tech startup Umbel, said businesswomen of her generation aren’t okay with being political pawns. “We need a robust economy. What we do not need is to be used as props to promote discrimination for political gain,” Meredith said.
“The people who are promoting discriminatory bills are backed by radical groups that have literally called for driving LGBT people out of the state of Texas.”
Indeed. And I hope all of the Republicans in that bipartisan group of business people remembers that next year when it’s time to vote, for their legislators, their Lt. Governor, and their Governor.
Gov. Greg Abbott is signaling support for House legislation that some hope will serve as an alternative to the Senate’s “bathroom bill.”
In a statement Tuesday, Abbott called the House alternative developed by state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, a “thoughtful proposal.”
“I applaud the House and Senate for tackling an issue that is of growing concern to parents and communities across Texas who are now looking to the Legislature for solutions,” Abbott said in the statement. “Rep. Simmons is offering a thoughtful proposal to make sure our children maintain privacy in our school bathrooms and locker rooms.”
Don’t reward bad behavior next year, Texas Association of Business and others. You have one chance to get this right. Get it wrong, and everyone will know that your words mean nothing. RG Ratcliffe has more.