GPTX co-chair kat swift testified at the Texas Legislature today on Elections bills and then met with the TAG coalition for some updates on other bills needing our action.
Here's a run down of yesterday at the legislature:
Elections heard several bills and it seems most of them were met with a "get these out of the way so we can move on to real business" attitude from the committee - in fact about half way through, half of the committee left (and it was over by 8pm).
We do want to get behind HB 258 and contact your legislator to support this necessity - requires voter registrars to check off reasons why a person's voter registration was rejected - right now they just reject with no reason. It is a good bill and vital to prevent disfranchisement and keep registrars honest.
HB622 reinstates the ability of an election judge to call the voter registrar to verify a voter not on the rolls - this is now forbidden after last session, and has increased problems at the polls and disenfranchisement. GPTX is in favor of this bill.
HB 487 was from last session and reintroduced, however there is a better version HB 314, which prevents legislators from becoming paid lobbyists for two sessions (four years) - a much needed reform!
HB 484 would require candidates and office holders to be registered to vote - seems like a no brainer
HB 1288 a bill like this has been introduced almost every session, and this one won't go anywhere - the TxDemParty doesn't want to end it because "it is too hard for people in urban areas to vote with such large ballots" and "down ballot candidates will have to campaign" - note there are only 10 states left with straight ticket - WV just ended it. Call and support this bill as it will help ballot access for nonprimary parties and stop the coat-tail riding candidates. GPTX believes straight ticket voting is antithetical to participatory democracy & marginalizes candidates from all but the two big business parties. We would not be sad to see it go.
The hottest bill was HB 1096, which appears to be directed at those with enough resources to have multiple residences in and outside of Texas (like RVers who come to Texas, establish residency at a RV park so they can avoid state income tax where they "live," and then vote in two states). it has some problems that were brought up by many speakers, but those might get worked out and this bill may get some traction.
And then the big one for us came near the end and half the committee, including the chair were absent for the hearing - this is a good sign as they don't seem interested in pursuing it - hopefully, but if it gets any traction we will be putting out an Action Alert call for certain - the author thinks this bill will "level the playing field"!?!
My testimony to the committee on HB 464 went something like this:
My name is kat swift representing the Green Party of Texas speaking in opposition of HB 464.
We concur with the testimony of the Libertarian Party and the League of Independent Voters.
The Texas Election Code has three sets of rules governing the three types of political parties and their candidates.
One set of rules applies to “primary” parties that have reached a certain threshold of voter support and are REQUIRED to hold primary elections. These parties are currently the Democratic and Republican parties.
The fees for candidates to file for those parties are then used to offset the cost of the primary elections to the taxpayers, however as was stated before, they do not come close to covering the costs and part of that reason is that in 1972 the Supreme Court of the United States in Bullock v. Carter decided that the Texas primary filing fees were unnecessary, unreasonable, and violating equal protection.
The second and third sets of rules apply to “non-primary” parties, which are those that have not received enough votes for Governor to require that they hold primary elections. Currently these are the Green and Libertarian parties.
As the Libertarian Party stated we are required to nominate though conventions and the cost of these conventions is borne 100% by the party itself and not the State or taxpayers. As such, non-primary party candidates are not required to pay a fee to be placed on the convention ballot.
HB 464 inexplicably seeks to change that by requiring that non-primary parties pay or petition for a place on the General Election ballot, which primary party candidates do not have to do, without demonstration of any fiscal impact on the State of Texas.
And then there is the case of Independent candidates who have yet another set of rules to gain ballot access.
If Representative Springer wants to level the playing field (his stated reason for this bill), there are any number of ways to do this, however this bill is not one of them and will not level the field.
In fact in the case of a party without ballot access, this bill will add yet another hurdle. As it stands any new party has to first petition for ballot access which requires approximately 45,000 valid signatures of voters who did not vote in the primaries or conventions in a 75 day window, while running the nominating conventions in that same time frame. Then they will have to either petition again, or pay money to the state to have their candidates included on the General Election ballot.
As such, HB 464 is undemocratic, unduly burdensome on minor parties, serves no legitimate state interest, and denies non-primary candidates of their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
For these reasons, I urge this committee to vote down and reject Texas HB 464 in its entirety.
(after I spoke the Representative got up to close and stated that it is nothing like 45,000 signatures, showing his ignorance of the laws he seeks to modify)
Not on the docket, but brought to our attention:
HB 3434, explicitly seeks to expand the rights of personhood to another set of for-profit entities, as it stands Texas still defines a person as many things in this section. GPTX firmly believes that corporations are not people and money is not speech, and we support a Constitutional amendment clarifying this principle. HB 3434 reads:
SECTION 1. Section 1.201(b)(27), Business & Commerce Code, is amended to read as follows:
(27) "Person" means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, limited liability company, association, joint venture, government, governmental subdivision, agency, or instrumentality, public corporation, [or] any other legal or commercial entity, or a particular series of a for-profit entity.
==========After the hearing I met with Texans for Accountable Government (TAG) to catch up on what the coalition has been working on:===========
And good news! HB 540, the overreaching “nanny” bill that would have required local governments to clear ordinances with the state attorney general before enacting them, has been tabled. Thank you for your efforts calling in to express opposition to this assault on local control! Let’s keep up the pressure so this doesn’t pick back up again.
HB 2918 – Opposed would make it a class B misdemeanor for anyone to film or photo a cop within 25’, and a class A misdemeanor if you are Licenced to Carry and within 100’. This bill has joined many groups not usually on common ground and the Legislator has dug his heels in despite a broad coalition opposed to this bill – basically eliminates Cop Watch activities and makes it a crime
HB 2263 & SB 942 – Digital Privacy- Support
The House Bill is much better than the Senate Bill. This has to do with government’s ability to have access to cell phone locator data. This bill addresses two of the worst ways of tracking cell phones used by the government today and requires probable cause and warrants to use Stingray machines at protests, and for a cop to sit in front of a computer and analyze your phone movements over time.
Asset Forfeiture Reform
HB 3171 & SB 1863 –- Support
These companion bills would require a criminal conviction before assets could be seized, require itemization of charges and seizures with dollar amounts, and require forfeited funds to go to the state General Revenue. These are amazing reforms that are necessary.
HB 1322 – Regulate under Dept of Agriculture & HB 557 – Allow for Hemp Research
Both bills introduced by Rep Farias (Bexar) and are good moves in the right direction. There will be a hearing tomorrow – Wednesday on these – call in!
HB2165 – removes prohibition of marihuana (sic) in the election code
HB 3785 – comprehensive medical marijuana bill
There are others, but they are either useless, damaging, or too little. HB 2165 would make HB3785, 1322, and 557 moot.
This is what I did yesterday. Now to continue going through bills – anyone interested in helping (there are almost 4000 of them!), please let me know ASAP!