AUSTIN – As the 85th Texas Legislature gaveled into session, mayors from Dallas and Fort Worth were on the floor of the House and Senate speaking to lawmakers about issues important to North Texas.
Preserving local control is the most important concern facing Fort Worth, said Mayor Betsy Price.
“Our job is to educate them about what we do and how we do it,” she said.
Senate Bill 6, better known as the bathroom bill, is at the heart of local control, Mayor Price added.
“We’re back to local control because Fort Worth already pretty much has really broad diversity ordinances that cover all sorts of things and we would like to see those stay in place,” explained Price.
SB6 would require people to use the public bathroom of the sex they were born with and among other things, prevent cities and school districts from enacting any ordinance otherwise.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said SB6 would be a mistake for the state.
“I believe it would be and I don’t believe the governor and the speaker of the House would let it [pass]. I think they want to continue to make Texas a state that’s open to all,” Rawlings said.
On Wednesday, leaders from Dallas and Fort Worth’s convention and visitors’ bureaus join other tourism officials in a news conference on the Capitol steps to discuss potential impacts of what they call “discriminatory legislation on Texas tourism; loss of meeting and convention revenue at the city level, loss of major sporting events.”
SB6 also has opposition from 1,100 of the state’s largest businesses, which are part of a group called Texas Competes.
But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who's pushing for the legislation, says it is necessary to protect women and girls. Patrick disputes any notion that it will affect the Texas economy. Despite North Carolina passing a similar bill into law, that state remains strong economically, Patrick said.
But North Carolina has lost concerts, business expansion and sporting events over the issue, which critics say does nothing more than target transgender individuals.
The mayor sat with State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Rawlings is also here lobbying for more control over the city’s police and fire pension. The state established it and Rawlings said he wants the city to have veto power on the board.
It's doubtful, he added, that the state will kick in any money to make up for massive losses.
“No,” Rawlings said. "We’re trying to do this so the state doesn’t. Even though the state authorized the plan and the city doesn’t really have that responsibility.”
The 85th Texas Legislature lasts for 140 days – until the end of May.