The ongoing controversy over the so-called "bathroom bill" in Texas is now causing concerns among cities about the potential loss of business. Senate Bill 6--which would require people to use the public restroom that corresponds with their biological gender--has already passed the Texas Senate and is now before the state House. But talk of its potential passage is already raising alarms among cities about losing major events or conventions in the future.
"Any type of legislation that is deemed as discriminatory is going to affect our business," says A.J. Mistretta with the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. He tells KTRH that the mere perception of the bathroom bill is already causing a reaction among those considering events in the city. "Right now we know that 14 different groups have expressed concern to us about the legislation," says Mistretta. "We know it's about 100,000 (hotel) room nights lost from those 14 different groups, and that also represents about $100 million in potential economic impact."
Some groups have been more public than others about their concerns. The NBA has hinted it may withhold future All-Star games from Texas if the bill passes. Texas leaders have countered that SB 6 has exceptions for events put on by private entities such as sports leagues. But Mistretta says those exceptions only cause more confusion. "We've heard from a number of customers...who would then have to convey that message back to their individual attendees, and that's problematic for them," he says. "So they're going to choose the path of least resistance and go with another city."
Passage of SB 6 is still far from an easy assumption. Despite clearing the Senate and having strong support from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill faces a much tougher path in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) has openly criticized it and called it unnecessary. Gov. Greg Abbott has also not committed to signing it, although he has criticized those who have threatened to pull business from the state because of SB 6.