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Bills Moving Through The Texas Legislature Would Overhaul Elections, Allow Permitless Carry

Fog enshrouds Texas Capitol dome on Jan. 8, 2019, opening day of the 86th Texas Legislature. KEN HERMAN/American-Statesman
Ken Herman/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co
Fog enshrouds Texas Capitol dome on Jan. 8, 2019, opening day of the 86th Texas Legislature. KEN HERMAN/American-Statesman

TPR's Jerry Clayton recently spoke with political analyst Scott Braddock of The Quorum Report about two controversial pieces of legislation moving through the current legislative session.

Jerry Clayton: The Texas House early Friday morning passed SB7, the controversial voting bill after Democrats introduced over 130 amendments. The pared down bill passed by a vote of 78 to 64. Here to talk about this and more is Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report. Scott, thanks for being here.

Scott Braddock: Very good to talk to you.

Clayton: Thursday night, the legislative session went from Thursday to Friday morning. And you were there to tell me what happened

Braddock: On the floor of the Texas House of Representatives, something happened approaching responsible governance for a few hours. And what I mean by that is you did have the opportunity by some Texas Democrats to improve a bill that they were then going to vote against when it was on initial and then final passage. And what do I mean by that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together at about 2:30 in the morning into 3:00am to add a slew of amendments, basically rewriting large portions of this bill that has to do with how we vote in Texas. It's the omnibus elections bill, Senate Bill 7. And Democrats were able to do things like take some of the teeth out of it as far as criminalizing some things that often happen with voting. For example there was a well publicized case out of Fort Worth, where a woman was prosecuted for having voted in an election she was not eligible to vote in but she didn't know that she wasn't eligible to vote. And one of the amendments that was added to this bill was that you would say that you have to know that you're not eligible to vote in in an election to be prosecuted for that. In other words, it would have to be knowingly done. So there would be some element of intent. There were a few amendments added like that. And Republicans in a lot of ways stood down on some of the harshest pieces of this legislation, which has been decried by critics as taking Texas back to the Jim Crow era in the legislative process. It happens very often that folks who are against the overall idea of something will work with the other side of the aisle to try to make the bill better or not as bad.

Clayton: Let's talk about House Bill 1927. Now, that is the permitless carry or constitutional carry, as some people have called it. In the beginning, it seems like someone had said, hey, we don't have enough votes for this to pass. What happened?

Braddock: Interesting, it was Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick who had said that there were not enough Republican votes in the Texas Senate to pass permitliss carry of handguns. But that changed over the course of about the last week. The lieutenant governor started pushing it, putting more pressure on Republican senators to support the legislation. And in that bill as well, Jerry, there were a lot of things that were changed about it to make it more acceptable to some of those folks, including Republicans who had been against it. For example, there was increasing of penalties for anyone found to have a handgun in public, who is not supposed to have it — felons for example — and so on. That piece of legislation, senators were able to work together and cobble enough support to pass it through the Texas Senate. One thing that remains unclear, though, is whether this piece of legislation — which is very controversial especially because of law enforcement opposition to it — it's not clear whether it's going to make its way to the governor's desk because the Senate made some pretty substantial changes to the bill, which had already been passed by the Texas House of Representatives. And in the House, the author of the bill — a guy named Matt Shafer, a representative from Tyler, Texas — he said that he's going through the changes that were made in the Senate. He doesn't necessarily agree that they were all germane to the bill. So it may be that the House and Senate still can't agree exactly on what the details ought to be when it comes to permitless carry of handguns in Texas. I think the bottom line on that is it's still very questionable as to whether it's going to become the law.

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Copyright 2021 Texas Public Radio

Jerry Clayton