Friday, May 20, 2011

Time Running Out, House & Senate at Odds on Texas Primary Decision

May 30 is the final day of the 2011 Texas state legislative session, and while there are any number of important issues before legislators as the session draws to a close, FHQ is keeping close watch over SB 100. The bill seeks to bring the Texas elections schedule in line with the mandates put forth by the federal MOVE act. We have discussed the details elsewhere, so I'll spare you this time around. The crux of it is that there are now two options facing the full legislature.

The Senate passed a bill that keeps the presidential primary on the first Tuesday in March but shifts the filing deadline up a couple of weeks. The latter would require a constitutional amendment which is a different and more time-consuming option. The House is currently considering a version of the bill that would leave the filing deadline -- and constitutional amendment -- issue alone, focusing instead on moving the presidential and state/local primaries back from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in April. The House Defense and Veterans' Affairs Committee has voted in support of the April primary plan, and the bill is now at a stage where it should be placed on the calendar for consideration by the full House some time next week.

Should the full House sign off on the committee-endorsed plan, it would put the House and Senate at odds with each other and force a conference committee to hammer out these thorny issues. Both the House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Van Taylor (R), and the Senate sponsor, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D), are of the opinion that this riddle can be solved by the time the legislature adjourns the week after next. Yet, that doesn't mean it will be easy as FHQ surmises Ms. Van de Putte's comment on the April primary idea suggests:
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, R-Plano, said both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate "are vehemently opposed to a primary in April." Among the concerns is that any runoffs would not receive much attention as they would be held in late June.
Bipartisan opposition to the House plan exists in the Senate, then. But they may be stuck. The constitutional amendment path is going to be difficult to complete in time and it isn't clear that is something that would pass the legislature either. What's odd is the partisan juxtaposition on this issue in Texas relative to what's happening with primary movement nationally. Democrats nationally, where they have been able, have moved back into April or later in an effort to maximize their delegation size for 2012. Republicans, by and large, have chosen to go as early as possible except in states where winner-take-all allocation rules are valued over early influence over the Republican nomination. Texas Democrats -- at least those in the legislature -- are not thus far in support of this move and Texas Republicans, wary of penalties from the national party, have come out in favor of an April primary. According to Sen. Van de Putte, though, that group of Republicans does not include state Senate Republicans.

There are no easy options in Texas on an issue that will have to be fixed to ward off penalties from both the RNC (delegate selection rule mandates) and the federal government (MOVE act mandates), and it remains to be seen whether all of this can be fixed before May 30. FHQ will be watching.

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