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Will Hartnett

Trying again to fix birth certificates

This is encouraging.

A Republican committee chairman smacked down an anti-LGBT witness Wednesday during a hearing on a proposal to allow same-sex parents to have both their names on the birth certificates of adopted children.

Julie Drenner, of Texas Values, claimed the bill would lead to threesomes adopting, affect all birth certificates and require the state to revise more than 20 forms.

But Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), chairman of the House Committee on State Affairs, told Drenner he was “struggling” with those arguments, and suggested that same-sex couples have been more willing to adopt special-needs children than “the traditional community.”

“That’s a terrible indictment on one group, to be honest with you,” Cook told Drenner. “In regards to your issue that you have to change the forms, so what? I really don’t understand that argument at all. Right now in Texas, we are struggling. We do not have enough parents who are willing to adopt. Thank goodness for people that will adopt children and give them loving homes.”

In 1997, the Legislature amended the Texas Health & Safety Code to require supplemental birth certificates issued to adoptive parents to contain the name of one female, the mother, and one male, the father. Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), the author of House Bill 537, said as a result, roughly 9,000 Texas children who are being raised by adoptive same-sex parents don’t have accurate birth certificates. That leads to problems enrolling children in school, adding them to insurance policies, admitting them for medical care and obtaining passports.

“Regardless of what you think about the parents, this state should be about promoting policies that protect children and foster adoption, and that’s what this bill does,” Anchia said.


Cook, who has an adopted child, left the bill pending but indicated he plans to call it back up.

“We owe it to young people like [14-year-old Zoe Touchet] to give them some peace of mind on this issue and some clarity,” Cook said.

The Trib also covered this.

Cook, who has an adopted child, said he supports the bill not as an endorsement of gay rights, but out of concern for the well-being of adopted children. But gay rights advocates and Democrats alike are celebrating his backing of the measure.

“This bill is not about gay rights issues. This is about children,” Cook told The Texas Tribune. “It really is a different issue from the way some of the folks have tried to frame it.”


Daniel Williams, a legislative director for Equality Texas, described Cook as a statesman “who is absolutely committed to passing laws that help the state of Texas.” The birth certificate measure is a key component of the group’s legislative agenda to benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

This is not the first time Cook has drawn attention for his position on contentious issues before the committee. In 2011, when it was considering a bill banning so-called sanctuary cities — cities that forbid local peace officers from enforcing federal immigration laws — Cook voiced his concerns about the bill and said he wanted to understand how it might affect young people for whom he said he has a “soft spot.”

Cook’s support for the birth certificate measure could put him at odds with members of his party who may be unwilling to support legislation that benefits same-sex couples.

At a time when Republicans are increasingly concerned about picking up primary challengers if they don’t stick to the Tea Party’s far-right ideological line, Cook, who was first elected in 2002, said conservatives should be focused on passing good policy rather than trying to get re-elected.

“We need to try to do what’s right for our state and for our constituents,” Cook said. “It’s an injustice to look at it from the perspective of what keeps me in office, what keeps me from having an opponent.”

See here for some background. Rep. Anchia filed a similar bill in 2013 that never made it out of committee. Rep. Cook is not known to be an ally of the LGBT community – he scored an F on the 2013 Equality Texas report card – but he did establish a close rapport with Rep. Mary Gonzalez last session, so who knows, maybe that had an effect on him. Kudos to him for smacking down the professional liar from Texas Values and for focusing on what really matters in this issue – the adopted children. Especially in a session that’s been lousy for equality issues otherwise, this is a nice piece of hopeful news. I hope Rep. Cook keeps his promise to bring the bill up for a vote later.

Fixing birth certificates

Trying again, with some hope for progress.

The Texas Legislature added a provision to the Health & Safety Code in 1997 requiring supplemental birth certificates issued to adoptive parents to contain the name of one female, the mother, and one male, the father.

According to the legislation’s author, former state Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), it was part of a renewed commitment to “conservative values.” But Hartnett acknowledged last year that the law should be revisited if it’s negatively impacting children.

On Wednesday, state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) [introduced] a bill for the fourth consecutive session that would remove gender requirements for adoptive parents on supplemental birth certificates. And for the first time, a companion to Anchia’s bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate later [Wednesday] by Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston).

Many judges in Texas routinely grant joint adoptions to same-sex couples, so the legislation wouldn’t create new parental rights. But not having accurate birth certificates causes problems when it comes to enrolling children in school, adding them to insurance policies, admitting them for medical care and obtaining passports.

Anchia, whose bill has never made it out of committee, said if it fails to do so in 2015, he plans to force a floor vote by offering it as an amendment, and he’s confident it will pass.

“I think if you asked every member of the Legislature, they would say they care about orphaned children, and if we can get them to understand that this bill is about children and not about who their parents are, then that should carry the day,” Anchia told the Observer this week. “There’s no doubt that this policy has cruel effects.”

According to Equality Texas, the birth certificate restriction is among the inequities facing the LGBT community that wouldn’t be solved by legalization of same-sex marriage—since it involves the relationship between a parent and a child, not between parents.

About 9,200 same-sex couples in Texas are raising children, according to Census estimates, but it’s unclear how many are adoptive parents.

Rep. Anchia’s bill is HB537, and his press release announcing it is here. Sen. Garcia’s companion bill is here – Sen. Jose Rodriguez appears to be a co-author – and her press release for it is here. I noted Rep. Anchia’s efforts from the last session. I have some hope that he’ll have more success this time, but I can’t say I have any faith. Speaking of faith, it sure would have been nice if all those people that had been pushing that “commitment” for a “renewal” of “conservative values” back in 1997 had stopped for a moment to consider the possibility that their actions might have real consequences for a bunch of people who had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve the hardship they were about to face. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Fixing this self-inflicted damage to birth certificates is one of many things that will remain on the “to do” list after marriage equality is finally the law of the land. The more we take care of now, the easier it will be later, and the better off many people will be.

We need to fix birth certificates

This needs to happen.

Texas law prevents gay parents from both being listed on supplemental birth certificate forms for adoptive children. The forms provide space for only one mother, a woman, and one father, a male. The gender-specific language was added in 1997 as a part of a renewed commitment to conservative values, said the amendment’s author, former state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas.

Opponents of the provision say it compels same-sex families to present unwieldy paperwork to prove legal parentage for medical care, school enrollment and international travel, and prompts extra scrutiny that can embarrass or confuse children.

Connie Moore, a Houston adoption lawyer, said children do not “understand the legal distinction” when their birth certificate causes a hold-up “while in line to sign up for soccer.”

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has filed legislation this session to strike the 1997 amendment from the Texas Health and Safety Code. The first two efforts to pass the bill in pervious sessions died in committee.


For Anchia, the bill is more about children than about parents. “When you point out to people that children can be adversely impacted by an inaccurate birth certificate, then the argument becomes clear and persuasive,” he said.

Hartnett, who did not seek re-election last year, said he would want the measure to be reconsidered if there was evidence it was “causing some hardship for the children.”

Though supporters of Anchia’s measure think growing national support for gay rights bodes well for its passage this session, its success may hinge on its initial fate in the House Public Health Committee.

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who has chaired the committee in recent sessions and is likely to do so again this year, said she would wait to see if the bill had the votes.

“It’s a cultural shift and a big issue,” Kolkhorst said, adding, “You never want to throw a bill out there that just cuts the membership up.”

Rep. Anchia’s bill is HB201. There are still plenty of haters out there who will whine and stomp their feet and tell lots of lies in a desperate attempt to prevent the undoing of this wrong – one of the more prominent such people is quoted in the story – but the flame of their hatred is dying out, and it’s just a matter of time before this is seen as the incomprehensible anachronism that it is. I don’t expect Anchia’s bill to pass, because stuff like this always takes more than one session to come to fruition, but if it doesn’t happen this session the existing law may be made moot by upcoming Supreme Court rulings. Even if that doesn’t happen, we all know this is a relic. We can do the right thing now, or be forced to do it later. The only difference is how many people are hurt in the interim.

Sen. Chris Harris and Rep. Will Hartnett to retire

One more out the door of the upper chamber.

State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, announced [Monday] afternoon that he will not seek reelection — the fourth veteran lawmaker to announce their retirement from the Upper Chamber.

He is the longest serving Republican in the Senate and chairs the Senate Jurisprudence Committee.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to the people of North Texas and to my family for allowing me to serve,” Harris said in a statement. “It has been the greatest honor of my life that my friends and neighbors have asked me to represent them alongside so many amazing men and women for almost three decades.”

Harris has served in the Senate since 1991 and served before that in the Texas House.

State Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, announced last month that he planned to challenge Harris in next year’s primary, insisting that the district needed a more conservative voice. Harris said at the time that he planned to run again.

In his announcement, Harris encouraged Victor Vandergriff, son of late former Tarrant County Commissioner and Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff, to replace him in the Senate.

Sen. Harris is joined at the exit by State Rep. Will Hartnett in HD114.

Eleven-term Dallas state Rep. Will Hartnett has decided not to seek re-election, creating an opening for other Republicans to move up the ladder — or in one case, return to the House.

As expected, Hartnett said in a statement on his future plans Thursday that he would retire.

“My wife and three sons have stood by me during my years of public service, and now I look forward to having more time to stand by them in our family life and events that, in the end, are vastly more important than political life,” he said.

First elected in 1990, Hartnett is the longest-serving House member from North Texas and has sponsored scores of new laws — many of them refining the state’s legal system, though he also did some heavy lifting in 2005 to help secure water supplies for the region. In July, Hartnett was selected by Texas Monthly as one of the Ten Best lawmakers, largely for his handling of a House election contest. The magazine also applauded him for winning passage, in “a session in which any issue having to do with immigration or citizenship was potentially explosive,” of a resolution urging the federal government to grant a conditional green card to noncitizens who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and who graduate from high school, and then allow them to enlist in the armed services and be granted citizenship after four years of service. In his retirement statement, though, Hartnett took pains to point out that in 2001, he “was the only House member who voted against passage of the now controversial HB 1403, which provides in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants.”

A mixed record, to say the least, but I will definitely give him his props for running a fair election contest process. I hope whoever succeeds him at that does half as good a job at it.

From an electoral standpoint, Hartnett’s HD114 is more purple now that it was before. To sum it up in two numbers:

Dist McCain % Obama % Wainwright % Houston % ================================================ Old 54.5% 44.6% 54.2% 43.4% New 52.4% 46.6% 51.7% 45.7%

There was only so much the Republicans could do to hold onto what they won in 2010 in Dallas County. With HD114 being open, this ought to be a top tier race.

As for SD09, as redrawn by the Lege it’s almost identical to SD10 in terms of partisan performance. Assuming SD10 doesn’t get altered by the courts, it deserves a respectable challenge from a Democratic contender. For what it’s worth, SD09 could have been a pickup for the Dems in 2008 – as it is now in the new map, SD09 was nearly identical to SD10 in partisan performance, when Sen. Wendy Davis knocked off Kim Brimer. Sen. Harris was fortunate to draw an underfunded no-name, and still barely beat him by ten points.

All ancient history now. I wish Sen. Harris and Rep. Hartnett well in their retirement, and I hope someone on the Democratic side is sizing both of these races up.

Howard wins again

It’s fourth and long for Dan Neil.

The House Election Contest Committee unanimously voted [Tuesday] to uphold Rep. Will Hartnett’s determination that Donna Howard won the long-disputed House District 48 seat. Committee members said Republican Dan Neil did not provide clear and convincing evidence to win. If Neil decides to challenge the committee’s vote, it will go to the House floor.


The committee, chaired by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, heard closing arguments from both sides today. Neil’s lawyer and former state Rep. Joe Nixon focused on five voters — two who lived outside the county and three who lived outside of the district during the election season. According to current statutes, residents are allowed to vote in their individual district if they reside in the same county and fill out a statement of residence. The three voters, Nixon said, did not fill out a statement of residence.

“It’s like having a suspended driver’s license,” he said. “You don’t really have one.”

Nixon said Neil was bearing the burden of human error, and that it was up to the committee to fix those mistakes if the true outcome could be ascertained — and, if not, to declare the election void.

Howard’s attorney, Randall “Buck” Wood, said Neil was asking for legislators to ignore existing law and make new law.

“They are simply asking you not to ask a judicial body, but to act as a legislative and political body,” Wood said. “But you’re sitting here as judge and jury.”

Hartnett said the only issue in question is where the individual actually lives.

“If we open the door to strict application to these requirements, we might as well allow re-dos for every time an election is this close,” he said.

After the committee vote, Neil said he was not surprised about the outcome, but about the unanimous vote. Going into today’s committee meeting, Neil said his team leaned toward taking the matter to the House floor, but he is likely to finalize that decision [Wednesday].

Seems to me that if we always adhered to the standard Nixon advocates, Sen. Bill Birdwell would have been knocked off the ballot last year. Be that as it may, I don’t know what Neil was expecting. I doubt he’ll get any more joy from the House, but hey, it’s Bob Perry’s his money. Rep. Howard released a statement that said:

I am obviously pleased with the committee’s decision regarding this extremely close election. Their unanimous vote reaffirms Master Hartnett’s thorough scrutiny of the details of this election contest. I look forward to continuing to serve the residents of House District 48.

As do the rest of us. Most of us, anyway. Postcards has more.

Neil in it till the bitter end

I guess he doesn’t have anything else to do right now.

After some vacillation, the Republican who is contesting his loss to incumbent state Rep. Donna Howard said [Wednesday] that he is now inclined to take his fight the distance.

Last month, Republican Dan Neil said his decision to continue contesting the election might depend on the upcoming recommendation of a special House committee. But now, he said, he wants to push the matter all the way to the House floor.

“I’m back and forth on it,” Neil said.

Howard beat Neil on Election Day by 16 votes. Eventually, Neil contested the election, which led to a trial-like hearing led by Rep. Will Hartnett, a Dallas Republican. Hartnett ruled that Howard should keep her seat.

Hartnett presented his opinion to a special House committee. And next week, the committee will hear from both sides’ lawyers. Then, the committee chair, Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, will announce the committee’s thoughts on the matter.

And ultimately, the members of the House could figure it out. No date has been set for the members to consider the matter.

Whatever. It’s his right, and Bob Perry’s his money. If nothing else, this ensures he gets cited in future news stories about election contests, as in “The last time a contest went all the way to the House floor was in 2011 when Dan Neil contested his loss to Rep. Donna Howard”. Gotta grab that little bit of immortality whenever you can, I always say.

Keeping track of innocence-related bills

From Grits:

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has posted an agenda which includes three important pieces of innocence legislation carried by Chairman Pete Gallego:

  • HB 215 Relating to photograph and live lineup identification procedures in criminal cases.
  • HB 219 Relating to the electronic recording and admissibility of certain custodial interrogations.
  • HB 220 Relating to procedures for applications for writs of habeas corpus based on relevant scientific evidence.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis is carrying the first two on the senate side, while Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire has filed a companion bill to HB 220. In the House, Gallego is Innocence Man!

He’s optimistic that these bills, whose effect he describes in more detail, will make it through. There’s a committee hearing for today, so this is a chance for them to progress. Click over for more information.

Howard declared the winner in HD48

At long last.

Rep. Donna Howard won the House District 48 seat by four votes over Republican Dan Neil, according to state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas. Hartnett was appointed to investigate their election after Neil challenged the results.


Hartnett’s recommendation goes now to a select committee chaired by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, which in turn will make a recommendation to the full House. The House’s decision is final. Neil can, if he chooses, withdraw his appeal at any time.

During the four-day hearing, Neil’s lawyer, Joe Nixon, argued the margin of votes was too close to definitively declare a winner. Howard’s lawyer, Randall “Buck” Wood, said Neil could not request a recount just because he did not like the results.

Seven voters moved out of Travis County but did not change their address before voting in the election, Hartnett wrote in his recommendation. Hartnett opened four ballots during the course of the trial and did not count one of those votes because of ineffective registration, which left Howard’s margin of victory at four votes, he said.

The full report will be out later; I’ll link to it when I find it. I expect Neil to withdraw his challenge before this ever get to the House, as Talmadge Heflin did in 2005 after contesting his close loss to Rep. Hubert Vo. But who knows, he may draw it out further still.

One important point to note, from Patricia Kilday Hart:

Representative Will Hartnett, Master of Discovery for the Election Contest for Texas House District 48 releases the following statement:

“After a thorough review of the numerous challenged ballots, I have concluded that Donna Howard won the House District 48 election by 4 votes.

Voters who had moved out of Travis County without changing their voter registration and returned to vote in their former precinct caused a net subtraction of 7 votes from Ms. Howard’s margin of victory. Counting 4 unopened ballots subtracted a net of 2 votes from Ms. Howard’s margin.

Striking 1 vote by a voter who was not effectively registered added 1 vote to her margin.

I have seen no evidence of any voter fraud or of any substantial errors by any Travis County election official. My report will be released later this evening.”

Emphasis mine. Fraud, rampant fraud, was also alleged by Heflin in 2005, and it too turned out to be nothing. Be sure to remind your local teabagger of this the next time they rant about illegal immigrants stealing elections or whatever else the voices in their heads are telling them. A statement from Rep. Howard is beneath the fold.


HD48 election contest still going on

There’s still some more testimony to be heard in the election contest between Dan Neil and Rep. Donna Howard in HD48. That and closing arguments are scheduled for today. There was a key development in the contest on Thursday just before everyone headed home to hunker down for the Snowpocalypse:

On Thursday morning, a Travis County sheriff’s deputy arrived at the hearing with a locked bag of ballots. He was accompanied by Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, whose integrity was to be tested.

Neil’s lawyer, Joe Nixon, stood beside Ray Bonilla, one of Howard’s lawyers, as they examined the 265 nonmilitary mail-in ballots. DeBeauvoir observed from a couple of feet away.

Nixon said he thought the votes might have been included in the recount in December. Buck Wood, another one of Howard’s attorneys, said the votes had been properly eliminated.

In the end, it was determined that the votes had not been included in the recount.

Howard, Neil and members of their campaign staffs watched as the votes were announced by Nixon and agreed upon by Bonilla.

Neil said he wasn’t disappointed and was glad to get “to the bottom of it.”

Howard said the recount corroborated her position. “It lends more credibility to what we’ve said all along.”

If Thursday’s count hadn’t matched the number from the December recount, Neil’s effort to unseat Howard could have gotten a substantial boost. Such a finding would have cast suspicion over how the ballots were handled by the clerk’s office. And it might have provided enough of a reason for Hartnett to recommend something that Neil has been after all along: a new election.

Hartnett is Rep. Will Hartnett, the Special Master appointed by Speaker Joe Straus to investigate the matter. By all accounts, Howard is still leading though a couple of votes have been knocked off her tally. Barring anything dramatic, it looks like she’ll hold on, but we won’t know where things stand officially until Hartnett writes his report. Looks like we may have some answers this week, just in time for committee assignments.

UPDATE: We should have a result by Friday.

Update on the HD48 election contest

Patricia Kilday Hart sums up the state of things in HD48, where there’s a recount of the recount and a lot more testimony to come. I have no idea what to expect from this, but I think she’s right that it’s unlikely the House would vote in the end to seat Dan Neil, if only because if Special Master Will Hartnett tallies it in his favor, he’d likely be declared to be ahead of Donna Howard by an even smaller margin than she currently has. I can see a do-over election being called, for which I’d make Howard the favorite – the environment is considerably different than it was three months ago – and I can see Howard being seated if she manages to maintain the lead. Beyond that, who knows? Honestly, one more R wouldn’t mean that much now, and I’m sure the redistricting process will seek to make HD48 more GOP-friendly regardless of the outcome of this contest. We’ll see how it goes.

Senate stands down again

No vote on the rules till next week, so the 2/3 rule lives for a few more days.

In an hour-long caucus behind closed doors, Texas senators decided today to put off for a week a potentially acrimonious public debate over changing their rules. The discussion will occur next Wednesday, as Senate leaders had hinted yesterday.

In the meantime, the Senate will continue to operate under the rules it approved last session.

At issue: A proposal championed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to change a rule that requires two-thirds of senators to agree before a bill can be brought up for debate. Most senators say they favor leaving the rule as it is. Patrick insists the two-thirds rule thwarts debate on important issues — read that as ones that Republicans want to pass, and Democrats don’t.

Under the current rule, because the 12 Democrats constitute a third of the Senate, they can block debate on some issues.

As Trailblazers notes, the rules the Senate operated under last session allowed for voter ID legislation to be exempted from the two thirds rule. If the default is to simply use the previous rules, which I believe is the norm, then that’s what we’ll get this session as well. This is what I expect to happen, but we’ll see. Burka has more.

There was a little bit of House action to note:

Rep. Todd Hunter will now chair the select committee in charge of determining the HD 48 vote. After a recount, incumbent Democrat Donna Howard won by just 12 votes—a result challenged by opponent Dan Neil.

The rest of the committee: Eiland, who will serve as vice-chair, Kolkhorst, Giddings, Guillen, Bonnen, W. Smith, Madden, and Lewis. State Rep. Will Hartnett remains the master of discovery.

After the committee was read, Hunter took the floor to tell members to “be very careful in discussing this matter.” Members could inadvertently cause problems by discussing the controversy in casual conversation. The committee will ultimately issue a report on the challenge.

Hartnett’s discovery report is still the main thing. In 2005, once his report made it clear that Talmadge Heflin had no case in his contest against Rep. Hubert Vo, Heflin withdrew his challenge before the House voted on it; it may have been before the committee vote as well, I honestly don’t remember. Point being, the hope is that this committee winds up having little to do.

Howard files formal response to Neil’s election contest

Just before Christmas, Dan Neil filed an election contest that challenged the result of his race against Rep. Donna Howard in HD 48, in which Neil lost by 12 votes. Howard filed a response called “special exceptions” at that time, and now she has filed her official response to Neil’s contest.

Every allegation made by Republican Dan Neil “is either wrong under the law or has no factual basis,” Democratic state Rep. Donna Howard said today in her formal response to Neil’s contest to her narrow victory in the House District 48 election.

“I am still troubled by the lack of detail Mr. Neil has provided thus far,” Howard, D-Austin, said in a statement. “If his motives aren’t purely political, then he should have no problem answering questions about the allegations he has made.”

Also today, she filed a notice of intent to take Neil’s oral deposition.

Zach Vaughn, Neil’s campaign manager, said today that Neil “is perfectly willing to answer any questions.” Vaughn said that the campaign does not yet have all the information it needs from Travis County and has more research to do on information it received last week.

“She’ll get the details as we get the details,” Vaughn said of Howard. “We believe that once we get the information we originally requested, we’ll have proof of our case.”

That deposition, which is requested for January 4 at Buck Wood’s law office, ought to be fun. You can see Howard’s answer here and her deposition notice here. Among other things, Howard says that “In one glaring instance, Neil seeks to have ballots counted in this race which should not be counted but which, if counted, would increase Howard’s margin of victory from 12 votes to 38 votes.” Wonder what Neil’s answer to that will be.

In related news, Speaker Straus has appointed Rep. Will Hartnett to be the master of discovery for the contest. Hartnett was the master for the 2004 Heflin/Vo contest, and did a commendable job. I have no reason to doubt that he’ll do another good job this time around.

Campaign finance bill passes the House

I’ve had plenty of harsh things to say about House Elections Committee Chair Todd Smith this session, but he’s always been one of the good guys on campaign finance reform.

Texas could start regulating how political parties use corporate and union campaign contributions under a bill the Texas House passed Friday 71 to 63.

House Bill 2511 would close what author Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, has called an “absurd” loophole that enables corporations and labor unions to escape a century-old ban against political donations by funding issue ads that stop short of urging a vote for or against a candidate.

Under the bill, donations from corporations and unions could only go toward a political party’s or political action committee’s administrative costs.

You may recall that a broad definition of just what “administrative costs” are was a key part of the fight over what TAB and TRMPAC did in the 2002 elections, as they had claimed things like polling were “administrative” in nature.

The Texas Pastor Council sent an email blast urging a vote against the bill.

“HB 2511 will censor free speech and drastically change how nonprofit organizations communicate with their supporters about important policy issues,” the group wrote. “This very email could be ruled illegal under this proposed law, prohibiting nonprofits from highlighting elected officials and their bad votes on legislation affecting all Texans.”

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said he head received a letter from a host of conservative groups including Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Eagle Forum and the Texas Alliance for Life that were worried about the bill.

“They are concerned that this will limit their ability to come out and talk about issues,” King said.

If all those folks are against this bill, it must be doing something right. Though HB2511 only got 71 votes to pass, six of them were Republicans – Delwin Jones, Charlie Geren, Will Hartnett, Brian McCall, Tommy Merritt, and Smith; the latter three were coauthors of the bill, along with Rafael Anchia and Mark Strama. Still, I suspect that this won’t make it through the Senate; that two-thirds rule that ol’ Dan Patrick hates so much will surely see to its demise. A previous version of this bill died a messy death in the 2005 Lege amid allegations of partisan sniping at then-Speaker Tom Craddick. I like how now-former Rep. Terry Keel basically tells Tommy Merritt he’ll never eat lunch in this town again in the aftermath of that. Karma sure is a strange thing sometimes.

UPDATE: Burka figures out the reason for the partisan split on this one.