Debate over the Texas election integrity bill starts this weekend

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- All eyes in the Texas Capitol this weekend will be on what happens with the election integrity bill.

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Election integrity bill hearing to start Saturday



Starting Saturday, both the House and Senate will take testimony on Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3. Each of the bills are tied to election integrity.

The hearings are expected to last hours and could even go into Sunday morning. During the regular session, lawmakers spent months debating this legislation.

It ended on the final day, when House democrats walked out of the state House. Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to have lawmakers once again tackle this legislation.

But on Friday, Democrats told ABC13 that all options are on the table to block it, including walking away.

"I'm proud of the team effort that occurred," State Sen. Carol Alvarado said. "Us debating the bill for eight hours in the middle of the night and then putting it in the kill zone and them walking out. I'm very proud of what they did."

"I think that because of the tenor of what the Democrats have said, there will be an attempted walk-out in the House, but when you look over history they're never successful," State Sen. Paul Bettencourt said. "Read the bill. Tell me where the problem is in the voter bill, and I'll be happy to comment on it."

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On Friday, senate democratic leaders unveiled the Barbara Jordan Fair Elections Act, which they believe could expand voter participation. The act allows for people to register to vote while getting a license or doing so online.

The act would also give counties more control with elections.

"The fairness act will give that flexibility and local control to the county election officials," Alvarado said. "That's probably one of the most important things that it does."

Republicans, however, believe elections should be controlled at the state level.

"What we wanted to make is there's consistency across the state," State Rep. Jacey Jetton said. "So that in Harris County, you have the same amount of access as in Fort Bend County and any other county."

Senate democrats introduced the bill, but they aren't sure if it'll receive a hearing. If not, they said they will hold their own.

Election integrity vote could take place next week



The committee hearings on House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 start Saturday, but ABC13 was told a vote to move them out of committee could happen on the same day. The Senate is adjourned until Monday and the House is in recess until Tuesday.

That means a full vote cannot take place until lawmakers return. When they do, Jetton said it's possible a House vote could take place by mid-week. But before that happens, he wants to hear from Texans this weekend.

"We know this is a big bill," Jetton said. "It's going to impact a lot of people. It's important to have this dialogue and have these hearings to make sure everybody understands what's in there, how it's going to work, how it's going to impact different people."

Bi-partisan support grows for other bills



This weekend, lawmakers will also take testimony on bills that would provide property tax relief and more money for teachers.

Bettencourt is the author of Senate Bill 8, which allows new homebuyers to get the homestead tax break right away, instead of having to wait a year.

"This is just leveling the playing field, so the first year is the like the second year and third year, and everyone gets treated the same," Bettencourt said.

There's also support to give retired Texas teachers more money. It's called the 13th check. While there's support, democratic leaders with the special session would focus on those bills before the election integrity legislation.

"We'd like to see those things done first before this nonsense of a bill," Alvarado said. "To help with that 13th check for our retirees or property tax relief."

In all, the special session will focus on an agenda laid out by Abbott. There are 11 items and lawmakers expect it could take all 30 days to accomplish the list.

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