The Texas House of Representatives gave final approval to its version of a divisive, comprehensive election reform bill about giving preliminary approval in the middle of the night. Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), as rewritten by Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) and amended 18 times, finally passed the House on a nearly party-line, 78-64 vote. No Democrats voted for it. Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) was the lone Republican to vote against it.

During consideration last night (Thursday into Friday), an initial amendment to strike the enacting clause, which would effectively gut the bill, failed on 65-80 vote. A point of order was lodged against the bill, leading to a two-hour delay, as Cain and Democrats worked out a series of amendments. After the point of order was withdrawn, Cain accepted most of the amendments, and more than 100 proposed amendments were not offered.

“This bill took a lot of work. We’ve heard ideas from many members and constituents,” Cain said. “This bill protects every single Texas voter.”

In general, the amendments reduced criminal penalties for inadvertent or unintentional violations, clarified provisions related to poll watchers’ access to and removal from a polling place or vote tallying location, provided for the ability of a voter to correct a defective mail ballot and clarified provisions related to assisting a voter.

Those amendments did not appease civil rights, disability and voting advocates – nor any of the Democrats – who continued to denounce the bill.

Senate Bill 7 “erects deliberate barriers to silence our most vulnerable citizens: voters with disabilities, the elderly and communities of color,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, in a statement. “We had hoped for a more democratic process and an outcome that would benefit all voters.”

The bill goes back to the Senate, which has the option of accepting the House’s amendments or going to a conference committee to work out the differences between the chambers’ versions of the bill. The latter could lead to restoration of provisions that were in the Senate-passed version but left out of Cain’s committee substitute, which replaced the Senate-passed language with the language of the committee-passed House Bill 6.

AGRIC: District Judge Jan Soifer (D) dismissed Comm. Sid Miller’s (R) lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), the state Senate and others over the chamber’s Covid-19 rules. Soifer ruled that she lacked jurisdiction over the Senate. The lawsuit argued that the Senate policy requiring a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination violated the First Amendment. Miller filed suit as a private citizen and not in his official capacity as an elected official. He is expected to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, one of Miller’s political consultants was arrested on felony theft charges arising from a Texas Rangers investigation. Todd Smith is alleged to have solicited money in exchange for hemp licenses issued by Miller’s agency. Miller is not implicated in the case.

Fort Worth: Council member and third-place mayoral candidate Brian Byrd endorsed Mattie Parker in the runoff.

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