Transgender Bathroom Bill Draws Criticism

by Sarah Campbell  on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 10:10 am  


A one-sentence bill filed Tuesday that "concerns gender identity and bathroom privileges" has already been rebuked by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The governor has called the bill, sponsored by Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville, unnecessary. The LRCVB said substantial research has proven the negative impact similar legislation has had on the other states' tourism and hospitality industry.

"I have consistently said that there is no need for a North Carolina type bathroom bill in Arkansas," Hutchinson said in a statement. "It is unclear as to the specifics of the proposed legislation but if it similar to North Carolina's, I view the bill as unnecessary and potentially harmful."

Bob Major, executive director of the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors' Bureau, told Arkansas Business it shares those concerns.

In a statement, LRCVB President and CEO Gretchen Hall said that, should the bill become law, "central Arkansas' economic landscape will severely suffer; the adverse effects on convention and sports-related business will be substantial. Based on the backlash in North Carolina after passage of similar legislation, business we've secured in the past will not return."

North Carolina's governor signed a bill into law in March that bans people from using public bathrooms that don't correspond to their biological sex as listed on their birth certificates. CNN reported last week that legislators there are working to repeal it.

LRCVB said North Carolina lost at least $400 million in business as a result of the transgender bathroom law, with the NCAA removing tournaments from the state and companies saying they would not expand or move there.

LRCVB said tourism is Arkansas' second largest industry, with an economic impact of $7.2 billion a year. NCAA tournaments and the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament mean more than $8.5 million to central Arkansas, the bureau said.

The bureau's statement also cites a Meeting Professionals Institute study's finding that 25 percent of meeting professional would cancel or locate meetings to other states if these types of laws are implemented. 

The LRCVB also said business leaders in Texas, where a similar bill has been proposed, warn that passage of a bill there will cost the state up to $8.5 billion and up to 185,000 jobs.

Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that while it hasn't taken an official position yet because the bill is an incomplete "shell bill," it stands with the governor. 

"We're for an open workplace that is fair for all and believe that this type of activity from a legislative perspective would have a significant economic impact, negatively, on the state of Arkansas and Little Rock in particular," he said.

Randy Zook, president and CEO for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber wouldn't comment yet because the bill is incomplete.



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