By Jack Fink

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth-based American Airlines is facing political turbulence after opposing a Texas Senate elections bill.

Supporters of SB 7, say the legislation would protect the integrity of elections while many opponents say the measure is a form of voter suppression, especially against people of color.

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The bill doesn’t allow public employees to distribute unrequested mail ballot applications and calls for consistent voting hours and in-person voting rules statewide.

Drive-thru voting, which took place in Harris County during the 2020 election, wouldn’t be allowed.

Earlier this week, former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro tweeted that after Delta Airlines condemned Georgia’s new election bill, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines must call out Texas Senate Bill 7, saying it would suppress the votes of marginalized Texans.

In a statement Thursday, April 1, American Airlines said, “…Earlier this morning, the Texas State Senate passed legislation with provisions that limit voting access. To make American’s stance clear: We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it…”

It also said, “…Any legislation dealing with how elections are conducted must ensure ballot integrity and security while making it easier to vote, not harder…”

In response, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick fired back saying, “… I am stunned that American Airlines would put out a statement saying ‘we are strongly opposed to this bill’ [Senate Bill 7] just minutes after their government relations representative called my office and admitted that neither he nor the American Airlines CEO had actually read the legislation…”

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He also said, “…Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy…”

An American spokeswoman said Friday, April 2, the airline did review the bill, and sent its public statement to employees in an internal newsletter.

Southwest Airlines didn’t criticize the Texas legislation but said in a statement that it supports voting rights.

SMU economics professor Mike Davis, who specializes in how business and government intersect, said this about American Airlines’ statement.

“I think their motivation here is mostly to PR, good will. We’re a corporation that cares. I don’t understand why they think we should care what they think.”

When asked if there is a downside for companies when they take a stand on public policy issues, Davis said, “I don’t believe American Airlines is really considering the downside. They’ve got 100,000 or more employees. They’ve got many times that of shareholders and people who fly on the airline. People of good faith disagree about this issue.”

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He said customers and shareholders are focused on how American Airlines operates, and not necessarily what it thinks of election laws.