Dewhurst Frustrated Over House Delay on Bills
By Shelley Kofler, KERA News
Austin, TX – As partisan gridlock over voter identification held legislation hostage in the Texas House, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst expressed frustration that lawmakers in that chamber have waited until the last full week of the legislative session to take up voter ID and other major bills.
"We worked real hard in the Senate and we tried to get our big important bills over (to the House) early," Dewhurst told KERA as he exited the Senate where he presides. He expressed concern important measures will die if they aren't adopted in the House before looming deadlines on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"That the House for whatever reason chose to wait until the last week is just a judgment call the leadership at the House made. I'm not being critical it's just that we've got a lot of legislation we've got to pass," Dewhurst said.
The lieutenant governor listed a series of measures passed in the Senate that he wished the House had taken up earlier including tuition deregulation; Medicaid reform; the top ten percent automatic college admission issue and voter ID.
In March, Senate Republicans who hold a majority in their chamber angered Democrats by changing procedural rules so they could adopt a voter ID bill. It would require voters to show a photo ID or two other forms of identification.
Republicans claim stricter controls for identification are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Democrats say additional requirements will suppress voter participation, so they are preventing the issue from a House vote by talking almost ten minutes on non-controversial bills that usually pass in about 30 seconds.
Dewhurst sidestepped a question on whether Senate Republicans bear some responsibility for the gridlock because they pushed through rule changes to advance voter ID.
He responded by saying he believes an overwhelming majority of Texans support voters having some kind of picture ID when they go to the polls.
"That's why the Senate took it up early and passed it out," Dewhurst said.
(A SEGMENT OF KERA'S INTERVIEW WITH LT. GOV. DEWHURST IS POSTED AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE.)