- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas is flirting with losing major sporting events like North Carolina did, Dallas civic leaders warned Wednesday as they urged Republican lawmakers to stand down on a proposal that would require transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth.

The issue was already stirring heated debate on the second day of the legislative session. A best-selling author has snubbed a state honor over the bill and a GOP legislator tried to implement the restrictions on bathrooms in the Capitol building. Texas has no transgender lawmakers, and state Rep. Matt Schaefer ultimately dropped the idea.

Schaefer’s attempted rule change was a taste of the likely bruising fight ahead over bathroom regulations. The bill is akin to one passed last year by North Carolina that led to significant fallout, including companies canceling expansion plans in the state, the NCAA moving championship games elsewhere and the NBA moving next month’s All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

Texas is often picked to host major sporting events, including the Super Bowl in Houston next month, the NCAA women’s Final Four in Dallas in March and the NCAA men’s Final Four in San Antonio in 2018. Phillip Jones, president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he doesn’t think leagues will hesitate to steer big sporting events elsewhere if Texas goes the way of North Carolina.

“This is not speculation. This is facts, based on what we’ve seen first-hand,” Jones said of the economic fallout.

Rick Riordan, a former San Antonio teacher who wrote the popular “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” fantasy series, said in a tweet that he declined an honor from the Texas Legislature over “this nonsense.” At least two other Texas writers also rejected the same invitation to have their work ceremonially recognized by lawmakers in March.

“I’m just trying to recognize the great contributions of our Texas authors. I’m sad and disappointed that it’s being used as a tool to make a public statement about this issue,” said Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican who organized the event.



The Republican-controlled Texas Senate voted Wednesday for the second straight session to break with 70-plus years of past tradition and suspend a rule making it easier for Democrats to block hot-button legislation along party lines.

The GOP holds a 20-11 Senate majority. The old “two-thirds” rule left them one vote short of bringing up controversial bills for debate without at least one Democrat.

But Republicans used a simple majority vote to keep the rule suspended. It had dated back more than seven decades, prior to being nullified last session in 2015.

By reducing the number to 19, the GOP maintains controlling majority over nearly every major upcoming vote this session.

The move means Democrats remain largely powerless to block bills allowing school vouchers, restricting abortion and cutting state spending.



A top Republican in the Texas Legislature said Wednesday that he wants the Trump administration to keep its promise to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and doesn’t care if that means “a wall figuratively, or literally.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dennis Bonnen said Texas demands a border that’s “no longer porous and lawless.”

The Angleton Republican addressed reporters with dozens of GOP colleagues to present the Obama administration with a pretend invoice for $2.8-plus billion.

That’s what they say Texas spent securing the border since 2013 because the federal government didn’t, including $1.4-plus billion for extra state troopers in South Texas.

Bonnen said Donald Trump can avoid getting a similar, future invoice from Texas with a border crackdown - whether it requires walling off the whole area or not.



After putting in two days’ work, the Legislature is taking five days off. The Senate next convenes Tuesday at 11 a.m. and the House heads back into session that same day at 2 p.m.



“We’ve got another 138 days to fight about things,” Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, imploring that the House not to squabble or get bogged down on complicated changes and simply pass a set of chamber rules for the session. His request fell mostly on deaf ears, as his colleagues spent hours arguing about 30-plus proposed changes, many on very small points - including an unsuccessful proposal to remove the world “public” from the House Public Education Committee’s name.

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