Texas governor calls for session that could include bathroom bill
Texas governor Greg Abbott is given directions before an interview with CNBC on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in this July 14, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

The Republican governor of Texas on Tuesday called for a special state legislative session that could allow lawmakers to adopt a bill to restrict access to bathrooms for transgender people, something seen by critics as discriminatory and economically damaging.

Governor Greg Abbott, who sets the agenda for special sessions, told a news conference the session would begin in July and the first item of business would be approving a bill that keeps some state agencies open.

If approved by the Senate, he then would allow for consideration of nearly 20 other items including a bill on restricting access in public school bathrooms.

By allowing a "bathroom bill" in the special session of the most powerful Republican-controlled state, Abbott has placed a focus on Texas on an issue that has been a flashpoint in U.S. culture wars, analysts said.

"At a minimum we need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools," Abbott said.

The bill has shown divisions in the Republican party, which dominates Texas politics, pitting the pro-business establishment wing against the powerful socially conservative wing, which said it was a common-sense measure needed to protect privacy.

A similar law enacted about a year ago in North Carolina prompted the relocation of sporting events and economic boycotts that were estimated to have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The stakes are far higher in Texas, which has an economy larger than Russia's.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by James Dalgleish)