In a legislative priorities update disseminated by e-mail and posted to their website earlier this week, the Republican Party of Texas pushed a narrative that Republican lawmakers and leaders were doing little on the issues of border security and protecting elections. However, a review of legislation filed so far during the legislative session as well as public comments by legislative leaders, indicates the opposite is true.
The Texas GOP legislative priority update, authored by State Republican Executive Committee Legislative Priorities Committee Chair Jill Glover, stated, “One priority that we are concerned about is Secure the Border and Protect Texans. We only have three approved bills for this priority and expect only a few more to be filed. Despite this being an emergency item for the Governor, there does not appear to be much of an appetite among the Legislature to address this issue.”
Glover’s comment falsely equates the number of bills filed to the level of seriousness lawmakers are taking to the issue. The update also wholly ignored the instrumental role the appropriations process plays in funding the activities of the Texas Military Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other agencies to protect the border.
Under the initial appropriations bills filed in the Texas House and Senate, $4,639,300,000 is proposed to be spent on border security. This figure is not mentioned anywhere in the Texas GOP’s legislative update.
Border Security has been a top priority for Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dade Phelan.
In an interview with The Texas Voice in January, Speaker Phelan highlighted the work of the House on border security during the last legislative session and promised to continue those efforts in the current session. “We’re obviously going to secure our border. We have 1,200 miles, and the federal government is completely failing us. We have trafficking and opioids pouring over our border. We’re going to continue to invest in border security,” said Phelan. As noted in the Texas GOP’s update, Phelan has also promised to announce an “innovative” plan on border security in the coming days.
The Texas GOP also claimed, “We are also not seeing a great deal of activity to Protect Our Elections.”
In a review of bills filed as of March 2, it appears that more than two dozen bills have been filed by Republican legislators that would protect the integrity of elections in some form. This legislation includes HB 549 by Representative Valoree Swanson and SB 220 by Senator Paul Bettencourt. This legislation would create several new measures to protect elections, including establishing election marshals with law enforcement authority and creating expedited access to judicial relief before a specially appointed judge. The Chair of the House Elections Committee, Representative Reggie Smith, formerly served as Chairman of the Grayson County Republican Party.
Legislators have also filed legislation to address the myriad of problems that have arisen with the administration of elections in Harris County. One example is House Bill 2020 by State Representative Tom Oliverson, which would give the Secretary of State the authority to suspend a county elections administrator in a county with a recurring pattern of problems with election administration and appoint a replacement elections administrator until the pattern of problems is rectified.
While the Texas GOP update did mention Senate Bill 2, which would increase the criminal penalty for the offense of illegal voting, it did not mention any of the other of the many bills that have been filed regarding election integrity.
The deadline to file most bills in the Texas House is March 10. It is expected that additional legislation regarding protecting elections is forthcoming.
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