AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas lawmakers on Friday hurriedly passed legislation to prevent delays to their top promises to voters, confronting a challenge to the November constitutional amendment election that temporarily blocks property tax relief, teacher pension increases, and more from taking effect.
The Texas Senate passed legislation in a whirlwind legislative feat Friday that would shorten the timelines for lawsuits filed against constitutional amendment elections. The move comes as Republicans confront a lawsuit filed in Travis County by right-wing activists acting on false beliefs that the voting machines used in November were connected to the internet and unreliable.
Those voting machines were certified by the Secretary of State and were not connected to the internet. But any challenge to the election, valid or not, delays the policies approved by voters from becoming law.
“The election contest is pending. That complicates certifying the election, and without certifying the election, the amendments can’t take effect,” State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, told Nexstar Friday.
Senate Bill 6 would require courts to hear these cases within 50 days of the election — much shorter than the current 180 days.
“The people who file these lawsuits have every right to have them heard. We’re not doing anything to take away there,” Hughes said. “This just says the court has to rule quickly. So the people of Texas aren’t waiting around to see what the result is.”
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, was the one senator who voted against the bill. She joined other Democrats in accusing Republicans of fomenting the election denialism that now impedes their prized policies.
“They created a monster, and the monster is now eating their signature legislation for the session,” Eckhardt said. “It is ironic that elections deniers who have been encouraged at the very top of the Republican ticket are now challenging some bipartisan, hugely popular initiatives that are near and dear to the very Republican leaders who had encouraged this behavior.”
Sen. Eckhardt expressed concern for the precedent this change will pass, as the shortened deadlines apply not only to this case but to all challenges to constitutional amendment elections in the future.
“The two things I want to stress is we don’t want to change the law so that legitimate cases of election integrity cannot prove their case,” she said. “And second, as I sit here today, I have no reason to believe that the judiciary won’t handle these six cases expeditiously.”
SB 6 heads to the Texas House, which has until next Wednesday to pass this version of the bill in the fourth special session.