Several Democratic senators rose to ask questions of Senate sponsor Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). The questions seem posed to stall the bill's progress, mostly because they (perhaps rightly) suspect the Republicans of engaging in political chicanery. The Republican majority had mostly made up its collective mind on this bill beforehand. As it upsets the Libertarian Party, their putative competitors for right-of-center votes, the Republicans appeared ready to ram the bill through.
As of now, the Senate has not officially adopted the bill, but it did pass second reading on a party-line vote (19-12). This bodes well for final passage.
At about the 2:48:00 mark in the video, Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) rises to ask questions of Senate sponsor Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). Johnson reveals himself to be either grossly uninformed or deliberately obtuse about the current qualifications for candidacy in Texas and the reasoning behind making ballot access easier. Hughes exhibits Teacher-of-the-Year patience in his clarifications.
Immediately thereafter, Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo outdoes Johnson, revealing his not-so-deliberate obtuseness. Hughes valiantly ties himself in knots to find the language to make Seliger understand—and not entirely successfully. Seliger appears to interpret the bill, as amended, as calling for ballot access for any candidate approved by 2% of his or her party's convention. Nnnnnno, Senator, it's 2% of the vote in a statewide election.
Houston Democrat John Whitmire showed his true colors, and that of the Democratic Party writ large: more afraid of competition from the left than of the Republicans. For a tenth-term senator in a safe district where no Green has ever challenged him, that's just weird. At least José Menéndez of San Antonio stated that he welcomes such expansion of electoral democracy.
By Election Code standards, the text of HB 2504 is really not that complex. So one wonders why these elected officials in expensive suits just don't get it. As members of parties that nominate by primary rather than convention, and most likely never having been active in a convention party like the Libertarians or Greens, this is all very obscure to them. All they really know about is the filing fees that they likely paid without much difficulty, and the minimum age requirements to be elected to the Legislature (21 for the House, 25 for the Senate).
Attempted Amendments Quickly Voted Down
All four amendments offered failed, also on party-line votes:
- Amendment 1, José Rodriguez (D-El Paso): Redirect the fees to the Election Improvement Fund from the General Revenue Fund. (I originally had these reversed when I posted this item. Moot, because it didn't pass.)
- Amendment 2, Rodriguez: Eliminate the second filing fee for any candidate running for both county attorney and district attorney.
- Amendment 3, Rodriguez: Eliminate the threshold entirely, for "really fair and open ballot access."
- Amendment 4, Johnson: Changing the 2% threshold from the past five election cycles to the past two.
This being the final week of the legislative session, the bill's third reading should happen in the next few days.