Texas House Attacks Freedoms
SB 19, authored by Senator Van Taylor, began as an ethics reform bill requiring financial transparency and accountability of elected officials. Governor Abbott had called for such reform, and it passed the Senate unanimously, 31-0.
In the House, however, the bill was rewritten. The mangled result, directly contradicting both the U S and Texas constitutions, attacked freedoms of speech, association, and press. Even churches could have been adversely impacted. Among other provisions, the re-write specifically made audio- or video-recording legislators in the Capitol building – even in public areas – a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per occurrence, unless with prior consent of the legislator. Worse, this bill was made retroactive for 30 years – to 1985.
Astoundingly, on Wednesday, May 27, SB 19 – after heated debate on the floor of the House – passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Redeeming amendments were offered but rejected. Rep. Jim Keffer of House District 60 and 45 other Republicans voted FOR this alarming assault on liberty.
Because the Senate and House versions were different, SB 19 was sent to conference committee. The differences were not resolved before the 84th legislature adjourned. Thus an attack on liberty died, but so did an opportunity for cleaner, better governance.