Report details potential losses for Austin if ‘bathroom bill’ passes

A sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom
A sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An often-cited report about potential economic impacts of a so-called ‘bathroom bill’ in Texas also suggests some of Austin’s biggest and most iconic events could take a hit if the Texas Privacy Act passes.

The bill would require policies based on “biological sex” for using multiple-occupancy bathrooms in public schools and government buildings.

“We’re opposed on a moral standpoint, we also feel it will have a big impact from a business standpoint for the entire state of Texas and certainly what we do in March,” said Hugh Forrest, chief programming officer and partner at South by Southwest.

A report commissioned by the Texas Association of Business looked at what happened after other states passed similar bills. It estimated potential losses of $38 million associated with South by Southwest over four years. That’s based on reports about effects of North Carolina’s so-called ‘bathroom bill.’ It extrapolated that there could be a $108 million loss over four years associated with Formula 1 Racing, among other losses.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’ll be hosting the 2018 Final Four, which will bring a reported $234 million in economic activity,” said Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. “In fact, San Antonio has spent hundreds of millions of dollars renovating the Alamodome and our convention center in order to attract events like this.”

Straus voiced his concerns with the bill this week at a Texas Association of Business conference.

However, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has questioned the economic effect of the Texas bill. He told the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith that he did not believe that there was a legitimate economic impact. Patrick also pointed to North Carolina as a state he says has a strong economy and passed a similar bill.

“Let’s say there is some economic impact,” Lt. Gov. Patrick said in an interview with the Texas Tribune. “Are we for sale? Are our values for sale?”

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