AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Nearly one month after Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 1, the election integrity bill into law, lawmakers took a step toward increasing penalties for those convicted of illegal voting.
The Senate State Affairs Committee approved SB 9, which would stiffen the punishment from a class “A” misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.READ MORE: Walgreens Begins Testing Drone Delivery In 2 North Texas Cities
The bill will now go to the full Senate.
Governor Abbott added this item to the agenda of the third special session saying SB 1 weakened the penalty.
There was a lot of fanfare when the Governor signed that bill.
The author of SB 1, Republican Bryan Hughes of Tyler, also authored SB 9 and SB 10, which was introduced Monday.
It would boost the penalty for those convicted of attempting to vote illegally from a class “B” misdemeanor to a state jail felony.
SB 10 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting Monday evening and will also go to the full Senate.READ MORE: White House Details Plans To Vaccinate 28 Million Children Ages 5-11
Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick support the changes, but last week, Speaker Dade Phelan suggested in a tweet that he preferred to keep the penalties as they are.
He said, “Now is not the time to re-litigate.”
A similar bill in the Texas House has been proposed, but it has not been referred to a committee just yet.
During the Senate State Affairs Committee Monday morning, Oct. 4 three people spoke about SB 9, including two who support the legislation.
Alan Vera of the Harris County Republican Party said he believes SB 9 is a good deterrent. “Those considering or planning serious violations of the code may be less likely to actually commit the offenses if they knew there’s a serious penalty attached to the violations they’re considering.”
Marsha Strickler Watson of the group We The People in Williamson County said, “I’m for SB 9. My motto and everyone’s motto here should be don’t go backwards on Texas’ good code or Texas election code that is good. Don’t go backwards.”MORE NEWS: Multi-Car Crash In Trophy Club Causes Shutdown Of Highway 114
But James Slattery of the Texas Civil Rights Project criticized the Republican majority for what he called rushing partisan legislation, including SB 1. “Some of the same supporters of SB 1 claim now to be surprised to learn that it contained provisions reducing some criminal penalties related to voting and have proposed this bill to reverse those changes. It’d be one thing if this were an isolated incident but it’s now become routine for the legislature to attempt to pass large, complex bills in a rushed manner and later claiming to be surprised to learn of its contents.”