Texas Democrat says vote in favor of ‘bathroom bill’ was not bought

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 (NEXSTAR) — Only one Democrat in the Texas Senate voted in favor of the state’s so-called “bathroom bill.”

Since the upper chamber passed Senate Bill 6, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. has come under fire from reports claiming he sold his vote, something the Brownsville Democrat vehemently denies.

“No one can tell you that I’ve plotted or schemed on anything,” Lucio said. The day after SB 6 was passed in the Senate, the author of the controversial bill helped allocate $5 million to fund a project in Lucio’s district.

Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, co-sponsored a rider in the Senate Finance Committee to set aside money in the Senate’s budget.

Vice-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, sponsored the general provision rider, which was approved with a 14-1 vote.

The $5 million is to go toward the “Center for Urban Ecology” at Quinta Mazatlan, a nature and birding center in McAllen. The project presents opportunities for economic growth and environmental preservation, Lucio said, “There’s a lot of wonderful things that could happen if the state lends support to such a project.”

Sen. Kolkhorst’s office said it’s “common practice” for a member of the Senate Finance Committee to help other senators secure funding. Kolkhorst sponsored riders for other lawmakers during the March 16 hearing, not just Lucio.

The lone Democrat to support SB 6, Lucio said he voted on principle, not party. “It’s always a matter of doing what’s right, I approach it in a very Christian way,” said Lucio.

Money had nothing to do with it, Lucio said, “I looked at just what morally people were saying they believed in and then I made a decision.”

SB 6 would require people use the public restroom that matches their biological sex at government buildings, and public schools and universities.

The deputy director of the Democratic Party of Texas, Manny Garcia said, “It’s against a core value of our Democratic Party. We believe that every single person ought to be able to live freely in Texas.”

While the party strongly opposed SB 6, Garcia added every Democrat is free to vote as they please.

“We believe we ought to be spending our time on things that actually matter,” Garcia said. Those issues include the state’s economy, infrastructure, and education funding — not a bathroom bill, said Garcia.

Also known as the Texas Privacy Act, SB 6 would have passed the Republican-controlled Senate without Lucio’s support. The Texas Senate passed SB 6 with a 21-10 vote, only 19 votes are needed for the Senate to advance a bill over to the State House.

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