Voter ID Debate Starting Early
Senate Dems allow debate, but still oppose bill
By Lee Nichols, 3:22PM, Wed. Jan. 26, 2011
The final debate and vote over the Voter ID bill wasn't supposed to start until 9:30pm, but state Senators negotiated behind closed doors and apparently agreed to suspend Senate rules to start rolling now. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said Democrats will allow it, but also restated their firm opposition to Senate Bill 14.
Yesterday, the Senate met as a "committee of the whole" to haggle over the bill, which would force voters to present photo ID before being allowed to vote (which Republicans say is necessary to prevent fraud, but Dems say would hurt minorities, women, the elderly – demographics more likely to vote Democratic – and the disabled).
Senate rules normally require that a bill be kept off the floor for 24 hours after leaving committee, so that other Senators and the public can examine it. The committee of the whole, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, voted 20-12 along party lines to send it to the floor at 9:24pm last night, meaning debate wouldn't be able to being until 9:24pm tonight.
Senators (and news reporters) were less than enthusiastic about pulling an all-nighter (as the Senate did two years ago on this issue), and Van de Putte said she also worried it would make it harder for the public to follow the debate.
Van de Putte read a statement on the floor stating that Dems would go along with the rule suspension, but made it clear that for "those of us who represent minorities our opposition remains firm." That drew a rebuke from Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan, who said, "We all represent minorities."
Go to twitter.com/LegeLand to follow along.