Election integrity bill takes center stage as Texas lawmakers start special session

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas lawmakers didn't meet long on the first day of the special session, but there was plenty of noise. Most of the attention Thursday circled around the election integrity bill - H.B. 3 in the House, and S.B. 1 in the Senate.

After the House met in the chamber for 30 minutes, Democratic caucus members stood united against the elections bill.

"This is all based on a lie," said State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston. "This is all based on somehow Donald Trump losing an election. They're responding by going out and filing these bills."

SEE ALSO: Power grid not among issues prioritized by Gov. Abbott for Texas special session agenda

"It is voter suppression," said State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City. "You can't tell me there is a reason why we're eliminating 24-hour voting. Why we're eliminating mobile voting. Why we're putting criminal penalties for helping people to vote."

A group of protestors gathered on the statehouse steps as well, voicing their concerns over the bill. But Republicans argue the bill is necessary to make sure all votes are protected.

"I believe that there's common sense - things like citizens' checks or verifying absentee signatures," explained State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Harris County. "I think the vast majority of all Texans agree on that. Let's look at the public policy for once, before we just explode it politically."

The debate over the bill will start Saturday when a House and Senate committee will meet. Both sides will also take testimony over the bail reform bill on Saturday. It was the top item on Governor Greg Abbott's special session list. Crime Stoppers in Houston has urged lawmakers to pass a bail bill to help combat growing violent crime. But not everyone is sure targeting bail is the way to do it.

"You want to get folks that are violent criminals off the street, where somebody that has committed the same crime can get out just because they have more money, I think that's two separate issues," Walle explained.

"It just can't be a turnstile," said State Rep. James White, R-Hardin. "You can do that at the Astros game, but you can't have violent criminals turnstiling through our jail."

The legislature will get 30 days to tackle the 11 items on the agenda laid out by the governor. They believe they'll need every day in order to accomplish it.

SEE ALSO: Bail reform listed as special legislative session priority by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

The question is, will it even happen? In May, Democratic lawmakers walked out of the statehouse, breaking quorum, and stalling the election integrity bill.

It forced, the governor to call a special session. Democratic caucus members returned to work Thursday.

ABC13 asked if they're considering walking out once again. We were told all options are on the table.

"Some of us are willing to sit down and negotiate, but we're not going to negotiate the right to vote away either," Walle explained. "For some of us, this is a foundational issue for us."

Lawmakers are expected to resume the special session Friday morning at 10 a.m. A senate committee will take testimony on drug-induced abortion medicine at noon.

"You want to get folks that are violent criminals off the street where somebody that has committed the same crime can get out just because they have more money, I think that's two separate issues."

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