Greater Houston Partnership cut from state of the city and state of the county events over Texas voting reform fight

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The heated political fight over the Texas voting bills, which would make polling more secure or suppressive, depending on the perspective from each side of the debate, took a turn Wednesday when Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo pulled their respective "state of the city" and "state of the county" events from being produced by the Greater Houston Partnership.

In recent days, GHP, the area's large-scale event producer that has typically worked with Turner and Hidalgo, expressed a nonpartisan approach to the debate over Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6, both of which are going through the Texas Legislature. The latter bill is set to go to a House floor vote on Thursday.

As Turner put it, GHP representatives did not want to endanger the loss of events or jobs after weighing one way or another.

Turner, buoyed by various business and community leaders inside George R. Brown Convention Center, said voter suppression, as he and Hidalgo have called the bills, is not a partisan issue.

"When there are bills that engage in voter suppression, voter intimidation, restricting access to the polling place, that's not partisan. That's just downright wrong," the mayor said. "We have to acknowledge it for what it is."

Turner then announced the Houston First Corporation will handle his state of the city event for 2021.

Meanwhile, Hidalgo, who echoed Turner by forgoing her state of the county event with GHP, said democracy and the act of voting are things that shouldn't be disagreed on in this country.

She still appealed to GHP and state lawmakers to fight what they view as suppression, even urging regular Texans who want to fight to let their spending speak for them.

FULL ANNOUNCEMENT: Turner, Hidalgo cut Greater Houston Partnership from events
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The bitter fight over Texas voting bills has pushed the two leaders to make changes to their state of the city and state of the county events.



For its part, GHP expressed disappointment over its separation from the events. In a statement, the organization explained how it came to a decision not to lean either way of the voting reform fight:

"The Greater Houston Partnership is proud of the important work we do with the City of Houston and Harris County, and with Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo specifically, as we work together to create jobs and opportunity for all Houstonians.

We regret they have cancelled these long-standing events, which our members greatly enjoy.

As Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo expressed, they are disappointed that the Partnership has not joined them in taking a formal position against the voting bills being considered in Austin.

We trust that Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo respect that the Partnership has its own process by which our 140-member board takes policy positions on behalf of our 1,000 member companies, a process that requires a clear board consensus which does not exist on the legislation. As in this case, this process does not always lead to alignment with our elected officials."


The two leading political figureheads of the Houston area have clashed with state Republican lawmakers who are pushing the bills.
SEE ALSO: How Texas elections would change and become more restrictive under bill Republicans are pushing

While GOP members led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have insisted the bills add more security to how votes are taken, various local and civil rights leaders throughout the state believe the bills are restrictive, especially to those who would otherwise have little access to the polls.

Patrick has even slammed Turner and Hidalgo by name over the bills' backlash, mainly coming from Texas-based corporations like Dell Technologies and American Airlines.

SEE MORE: Texas voting bills: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick fiery in defense of Senate Bill 7
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It's a hot topic across the country - the voting bills in Texas and also in Georgia. Most Republicans say the bills are about voter integrity, but Democrats call it voter suppression. ABC13's Tom Abrahams breaks it all down in the report above.



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