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Concerns over bathroom bill effect on businesses ahead of special session

Tech Bloc CEO: 'It's a job killer'

SAN ANTONIO – As the Tuesday start of the special session draws near, concerns over the effects of the so-called "bathroom bill" are picking up again in the Alamo City.

Supporters of the original bill, Senate Bill 6, were unable to pass it through the legislature during the regular session. Now, passing such a bill is on Gov. Greg Abbot's list of priorities for the special session.

The original bill would have required people to use bathrooms in public schools and public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate and not how they identify their gender. It would have also prohibited political subdivisions, such as municipalities, from creating their own policies on bathroom or locker room access.

Opponents of the bill said it discriminated against transgender people.

While an identical version to SB 6 has not been filed for the special session, Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, has filed two bills that appear to touch on the issue. The bills, House Bill 46 and House Bill 50, would keep political subdivisions and school district boards of trustees, respectively, from creating anti-discrimination ordinances related to bathrooms.

To Tech Bloc CEO David Heard and state Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, there's no upside to a bathroom bill in Texas.

"It is a job killer," Heard told the small group at an "open forum" about the bill Friday morning at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

While Menendez touched on issues such as discrimination and enforcement, much of the talk revolved around the economic impact, especially losing out on tech jobs.

"It's really kind of akin to shooting ourselves in the foot," Menendez said in an interview beforehand.

Heard, who has championed bringing tech jobs to San Antonio, said it is already a hard enough task.

"Regulations like this that discriminate just make it so much tougher, so much harder on us, to bring the right talent to town and build tech jobs and tech companies," he said.

Beyond tech, there was concern the NCAA would pull the 2018 Final Four from San Antonio, like it relocated championships from North Carolina after that state passed its "bathroom bill," House Bill 2.

The NCAA eventually rolled back its boycott when the state repealed HB 2 and replaced it with a new law that still prevented cities from creating their own bathroom policies.

"I think that losing this Final Four would be a devastating blow for our economy and our morale," Menendez said.

Even the convention center the forum was held in could be affected. Richard Oliver, the director of Partner and Community Relations with Visit San Antonio, which promotes San Antonio tourism, said some convention groups are waiting to see what happens with the "bathroom bill" fight.

"We have at least 10 conventions that have looked at this legislation, and as I said, are kind of in a circle pattern right now," Oliver said.

They're waiting along with the rest of the state.

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