Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Friday gave perhaps his harshest condemnation yet of the controversial “bathroom bill” championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Straus said the bill, which has drawn the ire of Texas businesses and been criticized as discriminatory against transgender people, felt “manufactured and unnecessary.”
“If we’ve gotten to the point in our civilization, in our society, that our politicians have to pass bills about bathroom stuff … I mean, we’ve gotten really out of control,” he said.
“For it to get this much attention in a legislative session is astounding to me,” he added.
“I oppose it,” Straus said. “… I don’t feel a great deal of fervor to promote that bill in the House.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and a Texas Tribune pollster, Straus downplayed tensions between the House and the Senate and distanced himself from recent comments made by Gov. Greg Abbott about city and county policies.
Asked about Abbott’s Tuesday remark that he wants the Legislature to pass a “broad-based law” that pre-empts local regulations, Straus said he didn’t know “exactly” what the governor had said but that Straus preferred a “step-by-step” approach to issues of local control.
“I don’t think a blanket policy on exerting power from Austin over locals is a particularly attractive idea, and I don’t think it’ll happen,” Straus said.
Straus has consistently said that the bathroom bill was not a priority for the House, but as far as I know this is the first time he has expressed his own view of it. To be sure, Straus has generally not interfered with the will of the House – unlike Tom Craddick, he has let his committee chairs do their thing, and legislation has passed or failed on the actions of the members. But as I’m sure Straus would tell you, one of the Speaker’s jobs is to take care of the House members. They’re the ones who really elect him, after all. As I said before, while there is likely a majority of Republican House members who favor SB6, there’s not enough of them to pass it. Why make everyone – especially the ones who don’t support it – take a vote on it? I’m sure Straus has had a conversation or two about this with State Affairs Committe Chair Byron Cook.
Another way to look at this is that Straus is a business-establishment Republican to the core, and unlike Dan Patrick he’s actually listening to the concerns of the state’s business leaders, including the various visitors and conventions bureaus. Given that, why wouldn’t he oppose SB6? And given that, why wouldn’t he say so?