On Monday afternoon, after two more days of debate, the Texas House of Representatives passed a "bathroom bill." Reps tacked an amendment requiring that public schools ban transgender kids from using multi-occupancy restrooms of their choice onto another public school bill, one that requires schools to draw up plans for dealing with natural disasters and other emergencies.
The amended bill, the product of a deal between conservatives who fought for broader bathroom legislation covering all public facilities and moderate Republicans who would've preferred to avoid the issue altogether, requires transgender kids attending public schools to use single-occupancy restrooms. Rep. Chris Paddie, a Republican from Marshall, authored the amendment, and Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supported it.
Currently, Texas law allows districts to set their own policies.
"Paddie’s amendment will allow schools to continue to handle sensitive issues as they have been handling them," said Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, the most influential opponent of the expansive bathroom bill.
"I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6."
During intense debate over the bill Sunday and Monday in the House, Texas Democrats painted the amendment as a throwback to Jim Crow. Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia drew a line between Paddie's amendment and the House bill's original purpose.
"When you talk about bringing the full weight of the state government down upon trans kids, that is a hurricane. That is an earthquake. That is a disaster for these kids," Anchia said.
New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst, Texas' first transgender mayor, said that the Texas Freedom Caucus, a conservative group that helped negotiate the deal on the amendment, played politics with the lives of transgender kids across the state.
"They failed to get the broad exclusion of transgender people from society they desired and settled for placing vulnerable trans children at heightened risk of bullying and psychological trauma," Herbst said. "They have wasted taxpayer money on an extensive snipe hunt with disastrous results for our schoolchildren."
Despite all the debate over the amendment and the deal in the House, Patrick signaled Monday that he isn't satisfied with the amendment and left the door open to forcing the House into a special session to address his concerns.
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“In terms of privacy, I had not seen the language on the 'Paddie Amendment' on Senate Bill 2078 before it was voted on last night,” Patrick said in a statement Monday. “I also have concerns about its ambiguous language, which doesn't appear to do much.”
Although Abbott is technically the only state official who can call a special session, Patrick can force the governor's hand, thanks to his control of the Texas Senate calendar. Without Patrick's go-ahead, the Republican-controlled Senate will not pass a bill known as the "sunset safety net bill."
The measure, passed during each session, keeps a number of state agencies subject to sunset review open for the next two years. Patrick has threatened to refuse to pass the bill unless his bathroom and property tax concerns are addressed with legislation.