The legislation, with Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) as the chief author, was voted out of the upper chamber early last Thursday morning along party lines and was sent to the state House.
SB 7 has been the focal point of criticism from Democrats, who have denounced the legislation as “voter suppression” comparable to the Jim Crow-era laws that enforced racial segregation and literacy requirements and other criteria to vote.
“The bottom line is we must stop this race-baiting on every issue,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick during a spirited press conference Tuesday morning.
Patrick repeatedly emphasized that the legislation passed by the Senate has nothing to do with voter suppression, contrary to the claims of American Airlines which released a statement in opposition to the bill on Thursday.
Rather, Patrick argued, Senate Republicans are pushing for SB 7 to become law because “voters want confidence in their election system.”
The lieutenant governor paid special attention to Texas-based American Airlines throughout the press conference, noting as he previously did that a representative of the company called his office before releasing the statement of opposition.
Patrick said that the company reached out to tell him that their position on the bill “was not personal.”
But Patrick said that he did take American Airlines’ position personally, saying that the company effectively called him and the Republicans who voted for the legislation racists.
He also reiterated that the representative from the company told Patrick that neither he nor CEO Doug Parker had read the bill before issuing their statement against it.
“You have a right to your opinion, but read the damn bill,” said Patrick.
Asked if any officials in the company had read the bill before issuing the statement, and if so, what specific aspects of the bill they oppose, American Airlines spokesperson Stacy Day told The Texan, “Our team reviewed the bill.”
The company has not provided any more specific criticisms apart from the broad statement criticizing the bill as having “provisions that limit voting access.”
Patrick said that companies that “keep meddling in issues” unrelated to legislation that directly affects their businesses are “turning off 50 percent or more of [their] potential customers.”
American Airlines did not respond to a question about the potential of the company driving away customers by taking a highly partisan position.
Continuing to chide the company, Patrick continued to rhetorically ask “Mr. American Airlines” if certain policies of SB 7 are acceptable, including requiring physical backups for every vote, extending privacy protections for curbside voting, and live-streaming vote counting in the state’s largest counties.
But though Patrick was sharply critical of the companies taking such political stances, he said he did not advocate cutting grants or removing their tax breaks.
“This isn’t quid-pro-quo,” said Patrick. “We don’t punish businesses for disagreeing with us.”
The lieutenant governor noted that “nothing has changed” with respect to early voting in the bill, pointing out that under the legislation, Texas would still have longer early voting periods than states like New York.
Patrick also referred to the similar criticism surrounding legislation in 2011 to require photo identification to vote, and pointed out that both voter registration and voter turnout have expanded significantly in the last decade despite claims that the requirement was “voter suppression.”
He also criticized the Houston area Democratic officials who held a press conference regarding the election legislation on Monday, saying that they failed to demonstrate how the legislation would suppress voters.
Several aspects of SB 7 are seen as a response to election policies implemented by Harris County in November’s election, such as a codified prohibition on 24-hour voting, drive-through voting, and mass solicitation of mail ballots.
“I have news for Harris County,” said Patrick. “You’re not the capital of Texas.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.