AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness’ meeting on Wednesday focused on how to retain top talent in the state. Much of the discussions were over improving public education and infrastructure, but there were conversations over the so-called “bathroom bill.”
The legislation, which failed to pass in both the regular and special sessions, would’ve required Texans to use public facilities, such as restrooms, locker rooms and showers, based on their sex at birth, regardless of the gender they identified with.
Tom Luce, who has held several top positions in Texas and at the federal level in areas of business and education, said to meet the needs of the state’s workforce, there needs to be a mix of strong tier 1 universities, regional universities and community colleges. He says 85 percent of the jobs being created now will require 14 years of completed education.
“Community colleges are where the realistic vocational training is going to take place,” Luce said.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was one of several speakers invited to speak with lawmakers during the committee hearing. Cuban told lawmakers certain political issues in Texas such as the ‘bathroom bill’ will prevent businesses from moving to the state.
“People just don’t take it seriously, you know?” he said. “It’s just like, ‘why would I want to deal with that?’ If you get to a good company that’s large enough, there’s going to be somebody who is transgender as an example of who is really good – really, really, really good and the company depends on that person.”
He also said Texas’ higher education system while is doing well, it’s not producing enough results in business and economic growth for the state.
“I don’t say that disparaging any of the amazing colleges and universities we have here, whether it’s Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas-Austin, you can go down the long list of great schools,” he said. “But I’ve made investments in 150 non-Shark Tank technology related companies and very few of them, a tiny percentage, are graduates from Texas universities.”
Prior to the meeting, critics of the new committee held a press conference questioning the motivations of having the hearing. Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said not allowing members who aren’t on the committee participate in the hearing is inconsistent with the Texas House’s practices.
“This decision completely undermines the credibility and any interim report it may produce,” he said.
Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said the purpose behind the committee hearing was an attempt to push against the “bathroom bill.”
“Somehow the economic state of Texas is dependent on jeopardizing the privacy and safety of women and children and for some people, they prefer you don’t have issues that protect religious liberty and other safety measures related to our security in our state,” Saenz said.
The committee will meet again on Dec. 5.