Judge reaffirms, expands reach of injunction against bathroom directive

Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Fort Worth-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor has reaffirmed his Aug. 21 injunction placing a temporary hold on federal guidelines for accommodating transgender students in the use of public school bathrooms and locker rooms.

In his order last week, O’Connor also denied a request by the Obama administration to limit the injunction to Texas and 12 other states that signed on as plaintiffs. The administration asked that the injunction not apply to states that did not sue for relief. In his order, O’Connor wrote, “A nationwide injunction is necessary because the alleged violation extends nationwide. Defendants are a group of agencies and administrators capable of enforcing their Guidelines nationwide, affecting numerous state and school district facilities across the country.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in an Oct. 19 news release, said, “I am proud to lead a coalition of 13 states against the Obama Administration’s latest illegal federal overreach. The court’s reaffirmation of a nationwide injunction should send a clear message to the president that Texas won’t sit idly by as he continues to ignore the Constitution. The president cannot rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people and then threaten to take away funding from schools to force them to fall in line.”

Background: On May 13, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance “to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.” The two federal agencies said that under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student's sex, including a student's transgender status. 

On Oct. 20, the Obama administration appealed O’Connor’s Oct. 18 order to the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

State economy adds jobs

Texas' job force grew by an estimated 38,300 non-farm jobs in September, the Texas Workforce Commission announced Oct. 21.

Also, according to the commission, Texas has added jobs in 17 of the last 18 months and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the Lone Star State increased to 4.8 percent in September, up slightly from 4.7 percent in August. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate was tabulated at 5.0 percent over the same period.

Texas employers continue demonstrating their competitiveness by adding 38,300 jobs in September, for a total of 206,800 jobs added over the year, said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. 

The Amarillo and Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Areas recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.5 percent, followed by the Lubbock MSA with a rate of 3.6 percent and the College Station-Bryan MSA with a rate of 3.7 for September.

HUD awards flood funds

Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush on Oct. 20 announced the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the state of Texas $45.2 million to assist in long-term recovery efforts following severe flooding events earlier this year. 

HUD, Bush said, will prioritize the most impacted of the 112 affected Texas counties included in the Presidential Declarations for 2016. The residents living in the combined affected counties encompass 76 percent of the state’s population, which totals more than 20 million Texans.

"The damage from the 2016 floods in Texas had a compounding effect from those that occurred in 2015," Bush said. “Many residents were unable to rebuild from the 2015 floods before the rains began again. We must work efficiently and diligently to turn these funds into effective results," he added.

Trade grant is awarded

The Texas Department of Agriculture on Oct. 17 accepted a grant for $800,000 from the State Trade Expansion Program of the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of International Trade. 

Texas Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Jason Fearneyhough said plans are to use the funding to expand export-related activities of small businesses in Texas and to increase export dollars earned by those companies. 

The grant money, Fearneyhough said, will provide training through the University of Texas-San Antonio’s International Trade Center. Stipends will be made available for Texas businesses that request small infusions of funding to support export expansion, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.