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In the wake of the “bathroom bill” fight that generated strong business backlash, House Speaker Joe Straus is putting together a committee to make sure Texas does not make the same kind of mistakes as it chases new companies.
On Thursday, the San Antonio Republican unveiled the House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness, saying it will look at the factors that draw businesses to Texas, including education and infrastructure. He said he wanted the panel to “work quickly and aggressively,” giving it a Dec. 12 deadline to report its findings.
“It’s time that we re-assert that Texas is fully committed to private-sector growth,” Straus said in a speech to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, where he announced the committee. “There should be no ambiguity that the Texas House will focus on the big and consequential instead of the petty and the polarizing.”
The committee’s formation follows a regular legislative session – and a subsequent special session – where Straus emerged as the highest-ranking official against bathroom legislation, a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that would have regulated which restrooms transgender Texans can use. The new panel also comes as states, including Texas, vie to be the home of online retailer Amazon’s next headquarters, a pursuit that shows Texas needs to be “on top of our game,” Straus said.
“After all, the formula isn’t as simple as it used to be – being pro-business isn’t just about tax breaks and cash incentives,” Straus told the Chamber. “It’s also about education, tolerance, empathy, quality of life.”
The House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness will be chaired by State Rep. Byron Cook, the Corsicana Republican who chairs the State Affairs Committee where bathroom bills were bottled up during both recent sessions. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) will serve as vice chair of the economic competitiveness panel, and other members will include State Reps. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth); Angie Chen Button (R-Richardson); Sarah Davis (R-West University Place); Joe Moody (D-El Paso); and René Oliveira (D-Brownsville).