Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Floor Amendments Strip Out April Presidential Primary Provision from Texas House Bill

The Texas House on Tuesday considered the House Committee Substitute to SB 100. The bill, as it emerged from the Defense and Veterans' Affairs Committee, would have shifted the Texas presidential primary -- as well as the primaries for statewide and local offices -- from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in April. One of the five amendments adopted on the House floor yesterday struck that part of the legislation and substituted the original Senate version of that section that addressed just the timing of the runoff election.

That means that the Texas legislature has chosen to go the constitutional amendment route. The debate was over whether to move the primary date back or to change the filing deadline date to comply with the mandates of the federal MOVE act. With the former now eliminated as an option, the decision has been made to change the filing deadline. But that requires a slight change to the resign-to-run provision in the Texas constitution that requires politicians seeking higher office to resign their current position if more than a year remains in the term of that position. The filing deadline has subsequently been set for January 2 in the year of an election, allowing ambitious politicians the ability to throw their hats in the ring of a contest for higher office with less than a year on their current term. In other words, they don't have to resign. To shift that deadline into December would force potential candidates' hands. The only way to remedy that discrepancy in light of the requirements of the MOVE act is to amend the constitution to change the resign-to-run provision in some way.

Such an amendment has been running along a parallel track to SB 100 all along. SJR 37 would amend the Texas constitution and lengthen that window (the time left in the term of one office) from one year to one year and thirty days. That resolution passed the state Senate in mid-April and passed the House and was enrolled yesterday. The change would allow candidates holding lower office to file for a higher office in December of the year preceding a general election without having to resign their current office.

Constitutional amendments aside, the bottom line here is that Texas will maintain its first Tuesday in March presidential primary. Assuming Colorado and Missouri finalize their moves to March 6, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Colorado and Virginia would form a contiguous grouping of contests at the beginning of the window in which primaries and caucuses can officially be held.

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