March 18, 2009
Senate wraps up voter ID

In the end, after more debate and a bunch of Democratic amendments that were rejected by the same 19-12 vote, SB362 itself was passed on second reading in the Senate on a 19-12 party line vote. There were two amendments that were tacked on.

The amendment, introduced by Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and adopted unanimously, seems to remove the requirement that a voter must show their voter registration cards. Under SB 362 as amended, if photo identification is not presented, a voter will still be able to vote by providing a combination of two other documents, such as a utility bill and a library card. There is confusion around whether voter registration cards would retain any relevance if this passes. This point will likely be clarified prior to the Senate's final vote tomorrow.

A second amendment authorizes the secretary of state to use any funds available, including federal funds, to educate voters on the new requirements. The amendment drew criticism from Democrats for seeming to betray the falsehood of the bill's fiscal note, which says there will be no fiscal impact to the state. The Senate Finance Committee has already put a rider into the appropriations bill dedicating $2 million for this purpose should SB 362 pass.

That first amendment almost makes you wonder what the point of all this was. I suppose we'll learn that today. If not, that $2 million, which must have been found in the couch cushions somewhere, will presumably help to teach us.

Lord only knows when the House will get to this, given that the House has gotten to very little so far. Some Dems such as Rep. Rafael Anchia have been saying that SB362 will not make it through the House. I don't feel quite that confident, but it wouldn't surprise me if some watered-down version of this, perhaps the Chuck Hopson compromise bill, gets sent back to the upper chamber. Given that there's already talk of a special session because of concerns that the budget won't get passed on time and/or will get vetoed by Governor Perry as part of his continued grandstanding tour over stimulus money, I don't think we can count on running out the clock. I expect something to pass, and then it'll be up to the feds to decide whether or not it sticks.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 18, 2009 to That's our Lege
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