Voter ID bill leaves committee but lacks momentum

Greg M. Schwartz

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After much haggling, the Texas House Elections Committee backtracked today and voted 5-4 to move the original Senate version of a voter ID bill out of committee and to the House. But this version of the bill, SB 362, is the same one that was originally deemed by many to have little chance of passing a House vote.

After the committee vote, Elections Committee Chair Todd Smith told the assembled press he doesn't expect the bill to survive in its current form.

“Todd Smith has revealed his true ID — this is a man who would rather please the extreme right wing of his political party than protect Texans' right to vote,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie in a press release.

“Todd Smith may talk a good game, but when pressured by the right-wing of his party, he allowed a bill to move forward even though it failed the standards he set in committee hearings and public statements,” added Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Ruben Hernandez in a statement today. “Smith has punted his principles and soon Texans will see if Speaker Straus will fumble his opportunity to prove that he is a leader who will not allow the priorities of the Texas House to be dictated by a narrow partisan agenda.”

Hernandez cited Smith's previous comments that it was his “intent to have a part of the legislation that is intended to assure that the net effect of the legislation is to expand access and not restrict it” and that the bill would not be something that's going to take effect immediately.

Hernandez continued with the football metaphor when he said that the bill would be “the first real test of Joe Straus' leadership — Todd Smith may have punted the bill to Speaker Straus, but the Speaker doesn't have to signal for a fair catch and let this unnecessary assault on Texans' right to vote reach the floor of the House.”

The Elephants don't seem eager to talk. No one was answering the phone at Straus' Austin office this afternoon, and Texas Republican Party Executive Director Eric Opiela did not respond to a request for comment.

“It remains to be seen if Speaker Joe Straus will allow this divisive bill to hit the House floor,” said Austin insider Deep Longhorn.

What happens next falls upon Rep, Brian McCall, who chairs the House's Calendar Committee. It's up to McCall to schedule a time for the bill to go to the floor, or not. His office did not return a request for comment.