87th LegislatureState SenateTexas Senate Democrats Delay Hearing on Election Bills Under Tag Rule

A Senate committee hearing on election integrity bills was delayed after several Democrats demanded a special notice under the chamber’s procedural rules.
March 22, 2021
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The Senate State Affairs Committee was slated on Monday to take up legislation from Republicans aimed to beef up election security in Texas, but one minute into the hearing, constituents who came to testify for or against the legislation knew their trip to the Capitol was in vain.

Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), the committee chair, announced at the beginning of the meeting that several Democratic senators had “placed what is called a ‘tag’ on the big election bills that were set for today.”

“We’re not going to be able to hear these election bills today. I apologize to those who traveled to be here. We are going to give notice pursuant to the tag rule and [. . .] we will be having another hearing to consider these bills in a matter of days,” said Hughes.

“The ‘tag rule’ is in the Senate rules and it guarantees any senator the right to demand 48 hours’ written notice of a hearing,” said Hughes. “This is separate from the normal notice process. This hearing was properly noticed, just like the rules require.”

According to Hughes’ office, “well over 200” people had registered to provide testimony on the legislation that was being heard on Monday but will have to come back another day if they want their views to be heard because of the Democrats’ delay.

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Those bills included a slate of legislation from Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), as well as Senate Bill (SB) 7.

SB 7, along with House Bill 6 in the lower chamber, are the two main election bills being pushed by Republicans this session.

But those bills have been attacked by Democrats as legislation to suppress voters, and MOVE Texas, a voting rights advocacy group, recently announced an advertising campaign against the bills stating the same.

According to Hughes, Sens. Royce West (D-Dallas), José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), Beverly Powell (D-Burleson), Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin), and Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) were the five Democratic senators who demanded the additional 48-hour notice.

The Texas Democratic Party tweeted appreciation for the senators’ tag, saying, “By requesting more time for us to all review [SB 7] — we’ll be able to have a more democratic and transparent debate.”

Democrats have often used the tag rule at later points during the legislative session, since its use in tandem with looming deadlines can be a helpful tool for the minority party.

But with plenty of time left in the session, the tag rule only serves to delay the legislation and, as Hughes noted, “is not going to stop these bills.”

“We have plenty of time. We’re early in the session. One of the reasons for having this hearing so early is so we can get these done,” said Hughes.

He reiterated that the bills would be quickly rescheduled for another hearing, adding, “Whatever your position, whether you love or hate these bills, we hope you’ll come back and participate.

The House Elections Committee is currently scheduled to hear their version of the election integrity bills on Thursday.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

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.