By Jack Fink

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AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas House Speaker Joe Straus says he doesn’t know if the Senate’s controversial bathroom bill will pass in the House. “That’s a good question.”

Straus says even though he opposes the measure, he won’t force his view on other House members. “I don’t support it, but I remind people all the time. I’m one person out of 150. I don’t sense there’s a ground swell of support for it here. Does it mean if it gets to the floor it might pass? Could be close.”

These were the Speaker’s first extensive public remarks since the Senate passed SB6, The Texas Privacy Act, last week. When asked if we would keep the bill from making it out of a House committee, the Speaker replied, “No I won’t.”

He says he wouldn’t keep it from reaching a full House vote either. “I think I’ve made it pretty clear where I am on this issue, but I don’t think you’re going to find members out there who will tell you I lean on them to vote for something or against something based on the district I come from.”

Speaker Straus says he doesn’t believe the bathroom bill would be considered by the House until after the chamber approves a state budget.

If approved, all public schools, colleges and universities, and government-owned buildings would require people to use the bathroom matching their biological sex.

Straus says the business community in Dallas, San Antonio and across the state doesn’t like the bill. He worries it will hurt the state’s booming economy, because companies wouldn’t relocate here and businesses would hold big events in other states.

“I fundamentally think that if we’re at a point in our civilization where you have to pass laws from Austin to tell people how to use a bathroom, we’re in a pretty rough spot.”

[graphiq id=”7KnRfwXrFid” title=”Status of State Sex-Segregated Facilities Legislation” width=”600″ height=”579″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/7KnRfwXrFid” link=”https://www.graphiq.com/vlp/7KnRfwXrFid” link_text=”InsideGov | Graphiq” ]

Governor Greg Abbott hasn’t said publicly whether he would sign the measure if it were to pass the House. When asked if he’s spoken with the Governor about the bill, the Speaker said, “I don’t recall a specific conversation, but it’s come up at some of our breakfast meetings.”

Straus says he doesn’t know where the Governor stands on the issue. “I honestly don’t know whether he supports it or doesn’t support it. Clearly the Lt. Governor does.”

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick recently said he thought Speaker Straus was out of touch with voters on this issue. In response, Straus said, “My voters are not his voters. My voters are the constituents in House District 121. His voters are people around the state of Texas that he’s developed in his base. I have other voters too he doesn’t have: Those are the other 149 members of the Texas House, and I think they have placed their faith in me several times to guide us through difficult, sticky issues like this.”

Straus was first elected Speaker by the House in 2009.

Another controversial bill that has passed the Senate and is now at the House would ban sanctuary cities and other government entities along with law enforcement agencies and universities in Texas.

Straus says he’s optimistic about the measure’s chances. “I do think a sanctuary cities bill is going to pass. But there are thoughtful people working on it in the House and they’ll continue to work with people of differing views.”

Governor Abbott considers the bill to ban sanctuary cities one of his emergency items, and has frequently criticized the Travis County Sheriff for not honoring ICE requests to detain those arrested and in jail who are in the U.S. illegally. Straus says his first priority is to pass a budget that funds the state’s public schools and infrastructure, and fixes CPS, another issue Governor Abbott called an emergency item.

The Speaker criticized the budget bill working its way through the Texas Senate. “They included a smoke and mirrors-type maneuver, double-counting $2.5 billion. I can promise you the House will not go for that. So we’re going to have serious differences. We always do, and that’s why it’s smart to start the budget deliberations and negotiations as early as possible.”

The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday the Senate’s chief budget writer, Jane Nelson R-Flower Mound said the accounting move “solved a lot of our problems.”

The Senate doesn’t support using money from the “rainy day fund”, which left untouched, would approach nearly $12 billion by the end of 2019.

Speaker Straus has favored taking $2.5 billion from the rainy day fund after a slow-down in the oil and gas industry had an impact on the state economy.

Governor Abbott has said he doesn’t want to remove money from the fund.

Straus says, “It’s going to shake out the way difficult budgets in down years always do: One step at a time and the rainy day fund is one tool.”

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