Lawmakers stall in session while time runs out in Austin

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Some call it “hell week.” It’s the final full week for lawmakers to pass bills before the legislative session ends on May 27.

The State Senate passed out more than two-dozen House bills before taking an afternoon break- a symbolic gesture, showing mild annoyance that the Texas House spent much of the day on only two pieces of Senate legislation.

One of those bills, Senate Bill 1978, is dubbed as the “Save Chick-Fil-A” bill, as it was filed in the same month as a San Antonio City Council vote opting against putting a Chick-Fil-A at its airport. House Republicans say it stops government from taking “adverse action” against businesses for making contributions to religious organizations.

“I don’t care if you’re Chick-Fil-A, I don’t care if you’re Ben and Jerry’s, we need to make sure the government does not penalize you for who you’re associated with or who you donate to,” State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who spearheaded the legislation in the House, said.

Democrats thwarted the House version of the bill last week, and tried to stop the Senate version from passing in the House, arguing the legislation provides a platform for faith-based LGBT discrimination.

“I hope those people know Texas values diversity and Texas values those kids who might just be a little bit different and they need to be supportive,” State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said.

The bill passed by a 17 vote margin.

After two Senate bills to change voting laws stalled over the weekend, Senate Republicans tacked on pieces of those killed bills to one that ultimately passed the upper chamber.

House Bill 2911, a voter registration bill, was amended by the Senate along party lines to include provisions of failed bills that incorporate a system to check the state’s voter rolls, and prevent certain categories from being pre-checked on voter registration cards.

Several pieces of election-related legislation comes after a settled lawsuit filed by voting rights groups against the state after the Texas Secretary of State sounded the alarm about the state’s voter rolls. Further investigation found the list state leaders were using was inaccurate.

“This is about keeping it squared up as we go along, so folks don’t get surprised and we don’t have a bigger problem to clean up,” State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said. He authored the other election bills that got killed over the weekend, and sponsored House Bill 2911 in the Senate.

“If there’s one thing we learned from the voter purge pursued by the Secretary of State, David Whitley, it’s that database matching is suspect at best,” State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said.

Of the more than 350 bills lawmakers have sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature this session, Abbott has signed at least 55 of them into law so far.

The last day of session is May 27.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction in the timeline of the filing of the legislation.

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