Breaking down what the so-called ‘Bathroom Bill’ means for Texans

Protesters shout "shame! Shame!" Outside of press conference on Texas Privacy Act, "bathroom bill" proposed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (KXAN Photo)
Protesters shout "shame! Shame!" Outside of press conference on Texas Privacy Act, "bathroom bill" proposed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The real name of the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” is the Texas Privacy Act. It was filed by State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, as Senate Bill 6. It is a priority and major talking point for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick but he cannot file legislation as president of the Senate. He rarely gets to vote on bills.

The Texas Privacy Act is one of the most anticipated and controversial ideas ahead of the 2017 legislative session. Many sides on this issue claim mis-information is being spread. Here’s a breakdown of what the bill would do. It was filed on Thursday, Jan. 5 but could change throughout the legislative process.

Keep in mind this impacts not only bathrooms, but locker rooms, changing rooms and shower rooms as well.

If passed, the bill would take effect Sept. 1, 2017.

Superseding city ordinances

It bans cities and governmental bodies from implementing bathroom ordinances on private businesses. The city of Austin currently has an ordinance requiring all single-stalled bathrooms to be gender-neutral. Under the Texas Privacy Act, businesses could chose to have gender-neutral bathrooms, but the city could not force them to.

A political subdivision/governmental body cannot consider someone’s bathroom policy while awarding grant money.

Government and School Bathrooms

A school district must adopt a bathroom policy based on students “biological sex.”

Protesters shout "shame! Shame!" Outside of press conference on Texas Privacy Act, "bathroom bill" proposed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (KXAN Photo)
Protesters shout “shame! Shame!” Outside of press conference on Texas Privacy Act, “bathroom bill” proposed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (KXAN Photo)

School districts are permitted to provide a single-occupancy or controlled use of a faculty bathroom if there is a special circumstance requested. Austin Independent School District has a single-occupancy bathroom in every school and Kendall Pace, AISD Board President, tells KXAN this is how their policy already works.

This policy does include charter schools.

State agencies and government buildings must require people born men to use the men’s room; people born women are required to use the women’s room.

A private entity that leases or contracts a government building can decide their own bathroom policy. Examples of this would be convention centers or sporting arenas.

Exceptions are for people cleaning the bathroom, doing inspections and maintenance, for medical and emergency assistance, or assisting someone going to the bathroom – if they are an authorized volunteer, school employee, parent, guardian or caregiver.

Enforcement

If someone files a complaint against a government body to the Attorney General’s Office, the government would have three days to fix the situation. For the first offense the Texas Attorney General would fine them $1,000 to $1,500 per day. The second offense can be a fine between $10,000 and $10,500 per day.

A complaint must be in writing and signed by the person making the complaint. If the AG substantiates the violation, the governmental body — for example, a school district or city — has 15 days to solve it before paying the fine.

The suit can be filed in district court, in Travis County, or the county where the violation occurred. All the fines go to the victims of crime fund.

Upping criminal penalties

If many different crimes are committed in a bathroom, shower room, locker room, or changing room, the penalties are upped a degree.

Common Misconceptions

Does this apply to transgender men and not transgender women? No. The bill does not specify which gender.

Is this just for schools? No. It applies to all government buildings.

Does this apply to single-occupancy or multiple-occupancy bathrooms? Both. It bans a city from telling business how to use any of their bathrooms. Governments must require their bathrooms be based on birth sex. However, government agencies are able to have a single-occupancy bathroom to accommodate special requests.

 

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