The Texas Legislature’s Session About Nothing is off to a noisy start, spending 30 days and $1 million passing laws nobody wants.
Mostly, our lawmakers are collecting another paycheck to bring back the same bills they didn’t want last session.
Even some business Republicans who’ll vote and pass these laws don’t really want them. But they’re pressed by evangelical Christian conservatives.
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Executives from New York-based IBM came to lobby against LGBT-bashing “bathroom bills” and left confused.
“Members said, ‘I’m going to vote on [the other] side, but I hope it doesn’t come to a vote,’ ” said Diane Gherson, the senior vice president of human resources for the company, which has 10,000 Texas employees.
Lawmakers in both chambers told IBM they hoped the bills died — but they’d vote for them.
“It was sort of muddy where people stood,” Gherson said.
“We want them to know this is a lightning rod issue for our employees and recruits.”
The best and brightest tech industry employees and recruits are not muddy about LGBT rights: “Millennial employees feel very strongly,” she said. “They want to live in a community that shares their values.”
But business Republicans can’t support business for one reason: the Freedom Caucus.
This place is full of a bunch of people who vote one way and lead another.
Freedom Caucus state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford
Six of the 12 House Freedom Caucus Republicans are from Tarrant or adjoining counties: vice chair Bill Zedler, R-Arlington; secretary Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington; Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth; Mike Lang, R-Granbury; Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving; and the ebullient Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.
Texas’ disorderly conduct law already keeps bathroom order.
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The bill “doesn’t seem like it’s founded in any data or security issues,” Gherson said after her Austin visit: “It seems to be coming from a set of personal beliefs that some legislators hold very strongly.”
At least three different “bathroom bills” have been filed in this Texas House special session.
Stickland, a Freedom Caucus enforcer, said the session’s most important bill is a property tax cap, but he wants the bathroom bill passed too.
“Pass ’em all,” he said during a House recess Tuesday.
“We’re the ones who wanted to get to a special session and pass bills.”
I asked him about Republicans stalling the bill.
“This place is full of a bunch of people who vote one way and lead another,” he said.
“There are a lot of guys here who already have an opponent [in the March party primary]. They’re paying a lot more attention, I promise you.”
Better they kill time than kill off Texas business.