I took some time yesterday to go down to the capitol to sit in on the Texas Senate debate of the Voter ID bill (SB 14). Initially it was scheduled to start at 1330 but they were still resolutioning and recognizing Texas Wounded Warriors (this is Wounded Warrior Week evidently, I didn’t even know there was one). It seemed as though every Senator had a constituent from their district that needed to be recognized; all of them very deserving soldiers and former soldiers. The recognition took quite some time as therefore the Senate debate didn’t start until much later than advertised. Besides the wounded; the county holding Garner State Park and the Tigers de Sur, a mariachi band from Laredo’s Martin High School, were also recognized – they had performed earlier in the rotunda – good lookin’ bunch of kids.
Eventually they got to it, well almost. The members spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the rules to be adhered to under the “Committee of the Whole” procedure. The same discussion took place two years ago when the same question was addressed by the Senate – later to die and not become law. I heard some of the exact same questions asked by the exact same Senators – wouldn’t ya know it? – nothin’ ever changes much down there. Having spent the afternoon and not even debating the first line of the bill, they adjourned for the day. This is probably a good thing. Two years ago the Senate went through the night and well into the next day ; hearing testimony, observing exhibits and generally getting nowhere.
Of particular note: there still hasn’t been found to be any evidence of significant voter fraud anywhere in Texas – I imagine Duvall County might have been looked at very closely. An Austin American-Statesman editorial, running 25 Jan 11, stated:” And there is no evidence to support that there has been an outbreak of it (voter fraud) either now or in the immediate past.” The State AG has prosecuted 26 minor cases of which some 18 involved proper handling.
The Statesman editorial went on further to state: “When a similar bill was proposed in the 2009 session, the actual costs of implementing the law never were fully established.” This remains the case today.
Watching the debate from home (http://www.senate.state.tx.us/bin/live.php), Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) was again ask the question on costs; both actual and hidden. His answer was that they “hoped to use the HAVA funds.” HAVA funds are federal funds for “Help Americans Vote Act (signed into law by President Bush in October of 2002).” When pressed on the use Sen. Fraser didn’t know if the funds could really be used for this purpose or not – it would be “better to ask the Secretary of State that question.” The question of training funds was the next challenge – Sen. Fraser had no good answer for this question either.
The question of legal challenges arose it’s ugly head and Sen. Fraser stated that he didn’t see any reason that “the legislation would be challenged.” When pressed on the subject – more than the majority of other states with such laws have been sued in the legal system. Sen. Fraser didn’t seem to see Texas having that problem – a dream world exists in the minds of many.
Pressing the question of training Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and a member of the Finance Committee entered an exhibit into evidence – a blown up photo of a actual Texas Driver’s License and ask if the members could recognize the individual pictured. She gave them time as all looked around. Giving them clue after clue – a very recognizable figure known to them all – the members still not one seemed to recognize the picture. Finally Sen. Zaffirini identified the holder to be her Chief of Staff who had been sitting right beside her the entire afternoon. She then proposed that just maybe the driver’s license might not be the appropriate document to use for identification. Chuckles all around.
My best guess is that is one more try by the Republican majority to highjack the Legislature. They have a majority in both houses and if wanting to do so; this legislation will surely pass. I routinely vote Republican and side with these guys; most of the time. The Governor having made Voter ID a fast track issue has almost assured that it will receive favorable consideration. The Gov has also given sonograms as a condition of abortion an emergency legislation designation. I for one feel that anything that detracts from Fixin’ the Budget is a complete waste of time and an attempt to highjack the current session – maybe its all just headline grabbing and we shouldn’t care! Make up your own mind.