State Rep. Gina Hinojosa says she will examine legislative impact on UT

Sarah Philips

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, announced Monday she will explore whether the University of Texas could opt out of the campus carry law and the potential bathroom bill Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is touting as a priority this legislative session.

When campus carry was passed, private universities were given the option to opt out of the law. At a House Democrats press conference, Hinojosa said she wants UT to have the same option.

“It’s my understanding that all but one private university in the state [opted out],” Hinojosa, who was elected last week, said after the press conference. “I think that our families that choose our great public universities, especially UT-Austin, should be afforded that same right, so that if UT wants to opt out, then they’re allowed to. If A&M wants to have their guns, they can have their guns.”

Patrick outlined his top 10 priorities for this session in a press release Monday, one of them being the Women’s Privacy Act, sometimes referred to as a “bathroom bill,” which would restrict bathroom access based on the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate rather than the gender they identify as.

“A majority of Texans in both political parties and in every ethnic and demographic group believe that women and girls should have privacy and safety in their restrooms, showers and locker rooms,” Patrick said in a news release. “Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to assure that they do.”

When asked if the same logic of “opting out” could be applied to UT for the bathroom bill as well, Hinojosa said it could be a strategy, but she hopes the state will not pass the bill in the first place.

“If there is some kind of passage of the transgender bathroom bill and that’s what we got, then it perhaps will be a strategy to see if there’s a way to opt out of something like that,” Hinojosa said. “But my preference would be that the state not meddle in those things to begin with.”

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, said bills such as the bathroom bill and bills restricting abortion demonstrate how Texas politics can become more about political rhetoric than policy. Gonzalez also emphasized birth control and family planning as important concerns in addition to abortion. 

“When it comes to abortion restrictions, it should be about policy, not politics,” Gonzalez said. “We allow teenage mothers to make medical decisions about their babies, but we don’t allow them to make medical decisions about their bodies.”

State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, is reintroducing a bill from last session, an initiative that would allow Texas voters to register to vote online. She said the issues outlined by the House Democrats were the real issues Texans wanted to focus on, criticizing the bathroom bill. 

“I can’t help but think that after this presidential election that we’ve been through, knowing what some of the priorities for some of our statewide elected officials are, that what we are outlining to you are mainstream issues,” Israel said. “I think most Texans want us to focus on these issues and not who gets to go into whose bathroom.”

The first day of the legislative session is Jan. 10. Hinojosa has not formally filed any bills yet but said she plans to do so in the coming weeks.