DALLAS — While Texas Democrats remain out-of-state in Washington, D.C., the mood for compromise is diminishing by the day in Austin.
Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a co-author of Senate Bill 1, says the election bill is already an improved document. And even though it advanced in the Senate during the special session along a party line vote, the Houston senator says Democrats have had plenty of input both during the regular session and now in the special session.
“As long as we have the right things for Republicans, and we have listened to Democrats, which we have clearly made several changes in the bill, this bill should advance,” he said on Inside Texas Politics. “And instead of commenting on from Washington, they should be here voting on it in Texas.”
And one of the “right things” for Republicans in the bill is citizenship verification, which Bettencourt says absolutely had to be included. But other changes were made after the Democrats' first walkout in the final hours of the regular session, including the addition of another hour to Sunday voting.
Ultimately, though, Bettencourt doesn’t think the Democrats’ latest gambit will work, because he says Texans have never supported a walkout.
“It's going to fail. It’s a question of time. So, they might as well come back next week as opposed to next month. Because if it's next month, all that's going to happen is Gov. Abbott is just going to call another special session. Look, Texans want their legislators to work. And we've seen it in ’72. We've seen it in 2003. And 2021 is going to be no different.”
And the entire time Democrats have been out of the state, the Texas Senate has continued passing bills, including the election bill and two property tax reform items, two bills authored by Bettencourt.
One of the bills would allow first-time homeowners to claim a Homestead Exemption in the first year. The other enables seniors to lower their property tax “freeze rate,” which essentially means the school district property tax rate freezes in place when a homeowner reaches the age of 65.
But Bettencourt says because it would be a constitutional amendment that must be approved by voters, if the bill doesn’t make it to the governor by July 22, then the issue won’t make the ballot this fall.
“And that's another reason why the Democrats need to come back. That's 2.25 million homeowners just in those two bills," he said. "And they passed unanimously out of the Senate with Democrat and Republican support. So, the Democrats need to come back and vote so we can put them on the ballot and get that tax relief to folks as soon as possible. Otherwise it's going to wait till next year.”
Watch this week's entire episode of Inside Texas Politics below: