GOP Support for “Bathroom Bill” Increases Ahead of Special Session

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The state’s version of a so-called “bathroom bill” is set to come back up for debate when the special session starts next month, an issue that less than half of Texans consider to be important, according to a  new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Out Monday, the poll shows 44% of Texas voters consider legislation to regulate who can use what bathroom is important and only 26% believe the issue is very important.

“This is an issue that there’s not a consensus on among all Texas, Texans are divided on this,” said Jim Henson, the leader of the Texas Politics Project and UT-Austin and co-director of the poll.

The latest numbers show some voters are warming up to the idea that would limit bathroom access for transgender Texans by banning people from using the restroom that does not match their “biological sex.”

Pollsters asked a similar question in February and over the course of four months, support increased by 13% among Republican voters and jumped up 31% among Tea Party supporters.

Henson said, “You rarely see that kind of a jump in one session so clearly the efforts primarily by Lt. Gov. Patrick and his political allies to make this issue more important, to get it on the agenda with conservatives, had some effect.”

While the GOP saw a boost in support, the opinions of Texas Democrats remained relatively unchanged. “On the other hand, it’s hard to tell whether the politics inside the legislature have shifted that much,” Henson said.

Heading into the special session, Henson thinks the big question is whether business leaders will devote more resources to block a bathroom bill. Business organizations spoke out against several versions of the bathroom bill during the regular session, concerned the proposals would hurt the state’s economy.

Henson said, “I think that’s a tall order to expect from the business community, frankly because the Lt. Governor has put so much into this that it’s likely that the business groups are going to be afraid to cross the Lt. Gov.”

The leader of the State Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pushed for a special session to pass Texas’ version of a bathroom bill in the name of privacy.

Overall, 44% percent of Texans that were polled consider a so-called bathroom bill to be important, 47% say it’s not. “If you’re a lawmaker this isn’t telling you that the issue matters to Texas,” Henson said. He added the numbers do show bathrooms have become a significant issue for Tea Party supporters and conservative Republicans in Texas.  

“They are a real target audience for any Republican candidate or officeholder who is trying to make an impact in the primary and that’s certainly what you see with Lt. Gov. Patrick,” said Henson.  

The 30-day special session starts July 18th

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