The 85th Texas Legislature, Regular Session is down to its final two weeks. We have already passed two of the session’s most significant end-of-session deadlines: the last day a House committee may report a House bill (May 8) and the last day the House may consider a non-local House bill on the floor (May 12). Saturday, May 20 is the deadline for House committees to report Senate bills.
Several significant and potentially significant bills with impacts on how the state conducts elections are still in the legislative process, and many others are not. More than 140 House bills never left the House Elections Committee, and dozens more Senate bills remain in their respective Senate committees. Below we list the status of several bills we have been following this session (It is not intended to be exhaustive.):
Voter ID: Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) would conform the state’s Voter ID law to recent judicial decisions requiring voters with a reasonable impediment to acquiring a photo identification be permitted to vote if they execute a declaration of reasonable impediment. The bill passed the Senate and has been approved by the House Elections Committee.
Single-punch Voting: House Bill 25 by Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) would eliminate the option to vote for all candidates of a political party using a single punch, mark or other action. The bill passed the House and has been approved by the Senate Business & Commerce Committee.
Note: Jeff Blaylock, publisher of Texas Election Source, is on record as being in favor of House Bill 25.
Effect of Felony Conviction: Senate Bill 500 By Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) would make elected and certain other public officials ineligible for public service-retirement annuities if they are finally convicted of certain felonies including bribery, embezzlement, perjury, tampering with governmental record and abuse of official capacity. A final conviction would result in the public official vacating the office. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting final action on third reading by the House.
Priority for Mobility Disabilities: House Bill 658 by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would permit election officers to let people with mobility-impairing disabilities (and their assistants) vote ahead of others in line at a polling station. The bill passed the House and has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Runoff by Mail: House Bill 2410 by Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) would permit a primary runoff to be conducted by mail if fewer than 100 votes were cast in the county’s primary election and no county-specific offices were on the ballot. As far as we can tell, this bill could create the first election in Texas held entirely by mail. The bill passed the House and has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Binding Electors: Four House and two Senate bills would have required Texas presidential electors to vote for the presidential candidate who received the most votes in the state. Of those, Senate Bill 394 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lake Travis) is the farthest along. It is pending in the Senate State Affairs Committee and would need to be voted out of the committee, pass the Senate and be reported out of a House committee by Saturday. No others are presently in play.
Expanded Voter IDs: Several bills would expand the list of photo identifications that could be used at polling stations. The bills themselves are not in play, but they could theoretically be amended onto Senate Bill 5, the main Voter ID bill, on the House floor.
Closed Primaries: Five House bills would have required voters to be or become affiliated with a political party to participate in their primary nominating processes. None of them received a hearing, and none are presently in play.
Early Voting Reductions: Several bills, including House Bill 288 by Rep. Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands), would have reduced the number of days for, or made other reductions in the availability of, voting early in person. Keough pulled his bill down in committee in March, and the others remain in their respective committees.
Redistricting: Nothing filed, nothing heard.
* Nothing is ever truly dead until May 30.
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