Tennessee transgender bathroom bill delayed amid financial questions
The sponsor of a Tennessee transgender bathroom bill told a Senate committee Tuesday that he has to consider a state attorney general’s opinion before going forward.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, told the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee that he wanted another day to consider an opinion that State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued Monday that said that federal education funding could be placed at risk if the measure becomes law. A fiscal analysis said the bill could cost the state more than $1.2 billion in federal money for K-12 and higher education.
"I’m still trying to digest and understand the impact of the attorney general’s opinion," Bell said.
Bell said he wanted to bring the bill back up Wednesday but Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, and the vice chairman of the finance committee, warned that the projected cost of the bill will likely cause it to be placed among unfunded bills to be considered after the budget has passed. Those bills often don’t become law unless sponsors find a way to eliminate the cost or find a source of funding.
The bill would require students in public grade schools and universities to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender at birth.
It is part of a wave of legislation around the country that opponents say is discriminatory toward gay, bisexual and transgender people. Supporters say Tennessee’s bathroom bill protects the rights of everyone.
The proposal has already generated backlash from some in the business community.
In several states, major businesses and sports organizations — including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Walt Disney Co., the NFL and the NCAA — have joined lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists in raising concerns that similar measures could legalize discrimination. CMT, the Nashville-based cable station that features country music videos and other TV entertainment, and parent company Viacom have come out against the bill.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has raised concerns that the measure could cost the state money if it becomes law.