Senate Bill 10, if passed by the Texas House, changes election legislation passed earlier this year that made some election law violations misdemeanors. Those same violations will be felonies, if the law passes the Texas House.
Senate Bill 47 addresses election audits, both an audit for the 2020 election and providing guidelines for future audits. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has not placed that legislation on the call for the state's third special legislative session, so if the bill goes through the House, it cannot yet become law.
The new bill comes on the heels of former President Donald Trump calling on Gov. Abbott to conduct an audit of the 2020 election in Texas. An audit has already begun in Texas's two largest Democrat-led and two largest Republican-led counties: Dallas, Tarrant, Harris and Collin counties.
Senators debated with the bill's author, Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Tuesday afternoon on the merits of the bill. In the end, the bill passed the Senate 17-14, with State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) breaking with Senate Republicans.
Sens. Royce West (D-Dallas) and Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) questioned Bettencourt's intent for the bill in the hours before voting on it for its second and third readings.
"Let me ask this: tell the taxpayers who's going to be responsible for paying for these audits?" West said.
Bettencourt responded with the language of the bill, answering that taxpayers would be responsible for paying for any election audits. Anyone who runs in a political campaign or runs a political action committee with major support for a measure can call for an audit conducted by the county clerk. If, after the clerk's audit has finished, the requestor is not satisfied with the work that's presented, then that person can go to the Secretary of State for an audit. If a county gets audited, that county would be paying the cost.
"Are you comfortable giving this burden, this financial burden to the taxpayers?" Alvarado followed. "You're nicknamed 'The Tax Man.'"
"What I believe we need to do is ask questions and get answers," Bettencourt said. "That's really what the bill does. If you ask questions and get answers, then you are improving the the everyone's belief in the election integrity of the election system."
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