The Austin Chronicle

Back Draft

By Richard Whittaker, May 9, 2009, 12:37pm, Newsdesk

Texas AFL-CIO called it when they said it was "probably inevitable that the debate over the so-called 'voter ID' bill would end up where it started – in partisan territory." So now, as a seeming sop to conservatives in his party, House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, is chucking out a consensus bill in favor of Sen. Troy Fraser's SB362, (a bill many Republicans can't live with but that he seems to be planning to bring to committee this coming week.)

A couple of weeks ago, Smith and Elections committee member Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, had high hopes for a different draft. As Anchia explained at the time, Democrat concerns that this was a voter disenfranchisement bill could be off-set by the state taking responsibility for registration and election official training. Republicans would also have to suck up a fiscal note to pay for the actual IDs and registration process.

As Smith explained to Lee Nichols this week, conservative Reps. Linda Harper Brown and Betty Brown seemed to be sabotaging his bill. If he made any concessions to get them on board, he'd be no closer to moving the bill out of committee (both Browns have spent the last few days blowing off pretty much every reporter on the House floor.)

See the furious Texas Democratic Party press release after the break.

Today, House Elections Committee Chairman Todd Smith confirmed that he is planning to bring the Senate version of the Republican Voter ID bill to a vote before his committee Monday [Austin American-Statesman, 5/8/09]. In recent days, Smith's fa├žade as a "good faith negotiator" has quickly crumbled in a heap of cynical dishonesty as he has wilted under pressure from his fellow partisans to pass an extremely restrictive Voter ID measure.

"Todd Smith has revealed his true ID – this is a man who would rather please the extreme right wing of his political party than protect Texans' right to vote," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie.

"Bipartisan cooperation will be essential to resolve many important matters in the tense closing days of the legislative session, and Speaker Joe Straus will have to decide if he's willing to risk these major issues to satisfy those who place a higher priority on a volatile, unnecessary Voter ID agenda," Richie continued.

"It's time for Joe Straus to show his cards, so Texans can ID him as either a real leader or no better than Tom Craddick and Tom Delay when it comes to abusing the power of government for purely partisan political gain," Richie added.

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