Texas Senators Slam Lefty Business Leader Behind Deceptive Anti-Bathroom Bill Effort

Bettencourt - SB6 Hearing
Texas Senate Video Screenshot

A video of a Senate hearing shows two state senators challenging the Texas Association of Business (TAB) president about his dire warnings of economic destruction if the “bathroom bill” is passed. One of the senators accused the TAB official of spreading “absolutely fake news.”

Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) told TAB President Chris Wallace: “You have misled the public to a great degree on this study.”

The Houston senator and Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) also chided Wallace for TAB’s taking a position before the bill was filed.

The TAB released a statement on December 6 wherein Wallace made dire predictions with specific financial projections that passing any “Religious Freedom” and “Bathroom Bills” would, among other warnings, “result in significant economic losses in Texas’ GDP, with estimates ranging from $964 million to $8.5 billion.”

Senator Hancock asked Wallace, “Did your board see this legislation before, or after, TAB took a position?” Wallace said the association adopted its legislative agenda in September. Upon further pressing, Wallace replied, “The position that our board took is to oppose any legislation that is seen as discriminatory and would impact negatively our workforce recruitment and/or cause economic harm to our state.” Wallace clarified in the affirmative when Hancock asked, “So you took a position before reading anything?”

Wallace said the association’s agenda is to serve as “principles guided by our membership.” He called the agenda “marking orders” for the organization’s stances on legislation during the upcoming session. Hancock asked, “So the legislation itself really doesn’t matter?”

Breitbart Texas reported in early January that Senate Bill 6, authored by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), was triggering national political speculation even before the 85th Texas Legislature began the session. Kolkhorst pre-filed the bill on January 6 and later said that the “Texas Privacy Act” had been written, “not to begin a controversy, but to end one.” It was designed to provide “clear state guidance to public schools and buildings and [it] requires them to provide an expected level of privacy,” she said. Breitbart Texas reported that the Obama administration issued a  “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” last May saying that transgender students should use facilities they “gender identify” with at the moment.

When asked, the TAB president was unable to give Hancock the GDP (gross domestic product) for Texas even though the senator said all he wanted was a “ballpark” or something within 80 percent of the actual number. Wallace eventually provided the figure of $1.414 trillion given to him by a colleague. Wallace cited the rate of growth in the State as 15 percent. While Hancock waited for Wallace to calculate the percentage the loss would be to the state’s GDP under his worst case scenario of $8.5 billion he said: “Bear in mind this was a number that has already been proven as false.”

As reported by Breitbart Texas, Politifact deduced:

the TAB said a study projects up to $8.5 billion in lost GDP and up to 185,000 lost jobs in Texas if lawmakers approve a discriminatory measure like proposals in other states.

Such a law might cause economic shivers. But we find this study’s headlined figures, reached about 13 months ago, to be based on predicted or actual effects of discriminatory mandates in Arizona, Louisiana and Indiana that didn’t make it into law or were rescinded or softened. Moreover, not all the study’s numbers, calculations and assumptions proved solid and a key figure, reflecting on Indiana losing $1.5 billion in conventions, doesn’t appear to have a documented basis.

Senator Hancock told the business leader that if he was going to claim“significant impact” to the state, it was important to have specific numbers and put it in perspective and compare it to the state’s GDP. This is “a fair way of evaluating that. Don’t you agree?” Wallace’s reply – “Yes, sir I do, but we also agree, is it worth the risk? Any number of economic impact whether it’s a low range, or what the study found, or a high range of 8.5 billion, we simply do not think it’s worth the risk.”

Senator Hancock said he did not believe the risk to a 8-year-old child in a lady’s locker room is worth the risk of one-half of one percent. He asked the TAB president what he believed “her risks are worth” to which Wallace replied:

I totally agree with you. We don’t think that’s the issue. What we think is, the reason why we are at the table, Chairman, is about business. And we’re about making sure, that frankly, we keep Texas open for business.

Hancock also chided Wallace about his using Politifact during the hearing when Politifact had rated the TAB’s claim as “Mostly False.” Hancock said, “It’s hard to get registered ‘Mostly False’ on those, and now you’re referencing in your argument something that Politifact has already found was mostly false. I would find another point of reference if I were you.”

Senator Hancock said the impact on the Target Corporation could be measured, but Wallace evaded Hancock’s questioning on the effect that an open bathroom policy has had on the corporation. Wallace said, “If consumers do not like the position of Target, then they can shop elsewhere.” Hancock correctly noted that the company’s stock value was down about 30 percent since issuing their policy. As reported by Breitbart Texas, the Target Corporation announced its inclusivity” plan on April 19 allowing individuals to use the bathroom according to their present “gender identity.”

Senator Hancock ended his drubbing of Wallace by noting that the 68 businesses Wallace touted before the Senate committee as signing the “Keep Texas Open for Business” pledge, was “a significant minority of your members.” Wallace told the senator that his association includes 4,300 businesses and 200 local chambers of commerce.

Senator Bettencourt forced Wallace to admit that the study was done before the filing of Senate Bill 6 and although done with MBA students at St. Edwards University, it was his work product. The Houston senator said the author of the bill has a letter from the Dean at St. Edward’s University and the University was “obviously disavowing the study from any connection with TAB.” Bettencourt got Wallace to admit that the board of the TAB did not approve the study; they commissioned the study. “That was part of our strategy,” Wallace said.

Senator Bettencourt hit the TAB official hard for basing his dire warnings on a study that was written a year before the legislation was written, and which did not reference the bill presently before the Texas Legislature.

Looking at one of the many TAB press releases, Bettencourt heatedly told Wallace:

Am I misrepresenting that your direct quote is that Texas’ bathroom law – that you now admit that you had not read – it was not part of the study – that it was not part of the study – true or false?”

[Wallace tells him he is not following the question to which Bettencourt tells him, “So just follow this real clearly.”]

You stood up on December the 6th and said that the Texas Association of Business says a bathroom law that was not part of the study, that your board had not seen, and therefore had not approved opposition, was going to cost Texas 8.5 billion dollars and 185,000 jobs. And that’s a responsible position for the president of the Texas Association of Business?!

Wallace replied saying, “We disagree Sir.” Bettencourt retorted – “Disagree?! What basis, in fact, do you have that this is different?”

Bettencourt was incredulous as he noted that Wallace was making his representations in his capacity as head of the “umbrella group” for all businesses in Texas.

Moreover, two of the three states surveyed in the study had bathroom legislation that was never passed into law (Arizona SB 1062 and Louisiana HB 707). Wallace admitted that he was aware that the bills were never passed. Bettencourt indignantly told Wallace – “You have misled the public to a great degree on this study.”

Bettencourt next lambasted Wallace because the study, which the senator had read, referenced a blogger that referenced a conversation where someone had claimed that 85 percent of the entire convention business in New Orleans would be lost if similar legislation was passed. Bettencourt said pointedly:

But your students, printed it as fact, even though, even though, let me read this, in the study itself – ‘So far, statements issued by companies and conference organizers opposing the measure have not been followed up with action.’

When asked whether he understood what the statement meant, Wallace tried to say it was a “student study.” Bettencourt called him on trying to “have it both ways” saying he had touted the study as one of “the highest levels.”

Wallace dug his heels in the ground and continued to support the study saying the students found economic impact in those states. Bettencourt exclaimed – “That’s a preposterous claim on its face.” The Houston senator noted that the bill was never passed in Arizona, and added, “This is fake news in Louisiana, sir.”

When Wallace would not admit to the questionable results of the TAB study and the citation of the blogger, Bettencourt doubled-down saying:

This is absolutely fake news, for the president of the Texas Association of Business to be quoting a study, that has an absolute zero credibility rating because, in the study itself, it discounts what was in the blog and picked-up by the Times-Tribune. In plain English. In writing. That you paid for.

As reported by Breitbart Texas, the TAB president has a Democratic voting record and a history of donations to LGBT political groups that push a left-of-center agenda. Wallace has made contributions to the Texas Democratic Party; Al Gore; Obama for America; and the Human Rights Campaign PAC (HRC). A visit to the HRC PAC website shows that its mission is to elect lawmakers and raise money for those who place “LGBTQ-related issues where they belong – in the mainstream of American politics.” Wallace also contributed to the Democrat opponents running against Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Bill White in 2009 and 2010, and Wendy Davis in 2014) and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (Leticia Van de Putte in 2014).

The Texas Senate passed SB 6 on March 15 with a bipartisan vote of 21-10. The bill has 17 co-authors. The next step is for the measure to be taken up in the Texas House.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who serves as the president of the Texas Senate, declared the Texas Privacy Act as one of his six top legislative priorities.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.


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