AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Shortly after the release of new language in Texas’ election overhaul legislation Saturday, lawmakers are expected to take up the changes in the Senate.
This is after the two lawmakers spearheading the overhaul of Texas election law announced Friday they reached a compromise on the chambers’ versions of the legislation.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, and State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, made the announcement that they, as the chairs of the conference committee negotiating the changes, had come to a decision on the final version of Senate Bill 7.
“We feel good about it,” said Hughes said in an interview Friday. “It’s still got to come before both Houses to be signed off on,” he explained.
Hughes said the main components of the initially-proposed changes will remain largely the same.
Key aspects of the legislation include a provision to require a paper backup of electronic votes cast, standardizing voting hours and stopping counties from sending out mail-in ballots unsolicited.
Negotiators also agreed to implement rules requiring cameras stream live in central counting rooms and during signature verification.
President Joe Biden released a statement on the bill Saturday, before the committee report was released.
“It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year — and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans,” said Biden in part. “In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”
Hughes countered Biden’s statement Saturday, saying the bill gives accessibility and security to the state’s elections. “We would all be better off if the President cared as much about our Southern Border as he does Texas elections,” said a Tweet from him.
“We differ on some things, some big things we differ on, and we try to figure out where we can compromise and where we can’t and ultimately, it’s going to be a majority vote on this bil l— it’s presented to the House and the Senate for one last vote, it’ll be a majority vote — and so we’ll see what happens, but ultimately, the people of Texas are going to have their way,” Hughes said of the negotiations, which involved five lawmakers from each chamber. Seven were Republicans and three were Democrats.
Democrats involved in the negotiations were skeptical of the announcement and said they wanted to see more details.
“It’s important to realize this bill, by itself is unnecessary,” State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said. He was not part of the conference committee.
“It is a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “There is no voter fraud in the state of Texas — you are much more likely to get struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud in this state, and so this bill is simply an attempt to appeal to far right Republican primary voters and to indulge former President Donald Trump and his big lie.”
The Senate voted 18-13 to suspend chamber rules designed to allow for a 24-hour review period for conference committee reports, in order to take up SB 7 hours after the report’s release.
Sen. Hughes said he’s having a briefing for lawmakers at 8 p.m. in a room behind the chamber to answer questions about the bill.
His intention is to not debate the bill on the floor until at least 10 p.m.
Democrats questioned the process being rushed and making decisions on prominent election legislation late on a Saturday night when constituents might not be watching.