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Governor suggests ‘bathroom bill’ likely dead — for now

Profile image for Paul J. Weber and Will Weissert
Paul J. Weber and Will Weissert, Associated Press

AUSTIN -- Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday he revived a "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people even though he was told it would never get a vote in the GOP-controlled state House, while signaling that the twice-failed effort is dead for the foreseeable future.

A proposal requiring transgender Texans to use public restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates fizzled Tuesday night, when lawmakers abruptly ended a month-long special legislative session Abbott convened. It was the second time the bill has sank in Texas since May, leaving North Carolina as the only state to approve one.

Abbott blamed moderate Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, who has for months sided with powerful businesses interests in saying the bill could harm the state's economy. But the governor also admitted that Straus told him even before the special session that he would not bring the bill to the floor.

"The speaker made very clear that he opposed this bill and he would never allow a vote to be taken on it," Abbott said in an interview with Houston radio station KTRH. "He told me during the regular session that if this came up during the special session, he would not allow a vote on it. And there's no evidence whatsoever that he's going to change his mind on it."

Straus didn't respond to the criticism in a statement Wednesday. Instead, he thanked Abbott for working with the House on other aspects of his legislative agenda, adding the chamber "considered every idea carefully" and listened to constituents.

For Abbott, it was an unceremonious and deflating finish to a special legislative session that only he had the power to order. Other measures he championed collapsed, including taxpayer-funded vouchers that let students attend private schools.