UPDATED March 23.
A procedural move by Democrats delayed Monday’s scheduled hearing of multiple high-priority election reform bills in the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee, disappointing dozens of citizen advocates who traveled to the state capitol to testify in favor of the proposed legislation.
On Tuesday, committee chairman State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) rescheduled hearings on the election bills for Friday, March 26.
At Monday morning’s committee meeting, Hughes announced that Democrat State Sens. Royce West (DeSoto), Beverly Powell (Burleson), Sarah Eckhardt (Austin), José Menéndez (San Antonio), and Roland Gutierrez (San Antonio) had “placed what is called a ‘tag’ on the big election bills that were set for today.”
Under Senate Rule 11.19 (the “Tag Rule”), any state senator can “tag” a bill to request and receive at least 48 hours’ advance written notice of a hearing on that bill.
“This is separate from the normal notice process,” Hughes said Monday. “This hearing was properly noticed, just like the rules require. But under the tag rule a senator can make this request.”
“This is not going to stop these bills,” he added, apologizing for the unexpected delay. “We have plenty of time.”
Hughes said he would reschedule a hearing “in a matter of days” on the priority bills, which include his comprehensive proposal Senate Bill 7, and four of the “Integrity Seven” bills by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston).
Election integrity advocates who traveled to Austin Monday specifically to testify in favor of the legislation were fuming.
Conservative activist Mike Openshaw estimated 50 to 100 other people showed up to participate in this morning’s hearing, only to be disappointed.
“And the Democrats who did this? Their offices are closed, by appointment only,” Openshaw told Texas Scorecard, speculating the bills’ opponents are trying to run out the clock.
“Look for more shenanigans rather than rational discussion on vote integrity,” he said.
Election integrity is a top legislative priority of the Texas GOP and the only one also declared an emergency item by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Last week, Abbott publicly endorsed “robust” election reform legislation, including Hughes’ and Bettencourt’s bills.
Dozens of bills to improve election security and voter confidence have been introduced in the Republican-controlled state House and Senate, with many already advancing through the legislature.
Details about bills, committee hearings, and other resources to help citizens participate in the legislative process, are available at Texas Legislature Online. The regular legislative session runs through May 31.
Texans can contact state officials about election integrity and other issues.