Senate's 'Bathroom Bill' Gets A Second Life In House Amendment – For Now

May 24, 2017

With just days left in the Texas 2017 regular legislative session, the fate of a so-called “bathroom bill” is still uncertain.

Just after 1 a.m., state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) attached an amendment to a House bill in an effort to extend the life of the Senate’s controversial proposal.

The amendment mirrors the original language of her bill, Senate Bill 6 – which would require transgender Texans to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates – to House Bill 4180, an unrelated House bill that set administrative rules for county governments authored by Houston Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman.

The issue of transgender bathroom access has been a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this session, while House Speaker Joe Straus has been vocal in his opposition to the legislation – which never received hearing in the lower chamber.

“I’ve looked for days for some vehicle to put this amendment on, understanding that Senate Bill 6 would not be heard in the House, nor would Rep. Simmons’ bill be heard in the House, and there was no other vehicle to put this on and this one I think is germane,” Kolkhorst argued last night on the Senate floor. 

The House sent its own version of the bathroom bill to the Senate, which was attached to a bill on school emergency response plans from Friendswood Republican Sen. Larry Taylor.

But The Texas Tribune reports that Taylor won’t accept that House substitution for the bathroom bill. The amendment would have required school districts to provide single-occupancy bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities for students who don’t want to use the ones associated with their gender at birth. That’s opposed to the original bill from Kolkhorst, which required districts to follow the law; the House amendment offered an opt-out for school districts.

“I heard it reported as a compromise, but it really doesn’t do anything,” Taylor told the Tribune. “You have to have a separate facility but no one is required to go there.”

Kolkhorst’s amendment wasn’t the only one tacked onto HB 4180 this morning. Language from dozens of otherwise dead bills were rolled into the so-called Christmas tree bill in the form of amendments. However, Coleman, the bill’s author, said the Senate’s efforts were all for naught. While the Senate is expected to give final approval to the bill today, he told The Dallas Morning News that the bill is dead on arrival if, or when, it reaches the House.

"It was a test and a trick and they wasted hours, hours playing with something that was already dead," Coleman said early this morning.

Today, the House finishes up final approval on all those bills debated last night. And House lawmakers could follow through on threats to kill off dozens of Senate bills. Those threats were made Tuesday as several House members voiced frustration that the Senate hadn't taken up their bills.

Sunday is the final day for the Senate to adopt conference committee reports or concur on House amendments. The session ends Monday.