AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: KVUE News verified the claims Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made about Senate Bill 7. You can find that information at the bottom of this web article.
This week, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) talked with KVUE Political Anchor Ashley Goudeau about the regular session and his priorities moving forward.
Ashley Goudeau: How would you describe this regular session?
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: "It was a challenge. We started out in the dead of winter, not knowing what was ahead with COVID and we wanted to be a legislature that met in person, not by Zoom, like a lot of other states were doing. We wanted people to come and testify in person and that worked itself out and that was very successful. Secondly, though we had an ice storm and we lost days for the ice storm. And then the next week we came back. We spent all of our time on the ice storm. So a couple of challenges early. But at the end of the day, we passed a lot of major legislation – the most conservative, probably, session I've ever been involved in if you look at some of the bills we passed, like the heartbeat bill and constitutional carry and other strong conservative issues. And we also addressed the storm with Senate Bill 2 and 3, but more to do on that. So I think it was a very strong session for Republicans and for Texas, for Texas business. At the same time, as everyone knows, key bills died in the House on the last day or days, and that shouldn't have happened. We passed all those bills out to the House in mid-April. They should have been brought up earlier. And the Democrats walking out was not the right thing to do. Just because you're losing a vote, you can't go home. That's not the way democracy works. And so that was the wrong thing for the Democrats to do. But the House should have taken up a few days earlier and probably prevented that. But it was a very good session. I feel very good. The Senate had a great session. We passed out 27 of our, I believe, 29 priorities. Twenty became law and the other ones will take up in the special session, I believe will become law as well. And at the end of the day, I think 24 of our 29 priorities will become law."
Goudeau: Let's talk a bit about the winter storm and the reaction to the winter storm. You said there is still some work to do. What didn't get done?
Patrick: "So from day one, the Senate said we want to reprice those last 32 hours. We passed a bill to the House, they didn't pick that bill up."
"At the end of session we said, 'OK, we want to add $3 billion to, I believe the bill number was 4492, to give ratepayers a credit on their electric bill. And the House did not agree. So that's what I mean, the work is still not done. And I said, Ashley, if you go back and look at the tape, some of my last words on the Senate floor was in a special session or the next session, I'm not going to pass any other bills sending billions of dollars to industry and to ERCOT unless the ratepayers also have a part of that deal or major part of that deal. So that's one thing that the Senate wanted to do the House did not want to do. The second thing is that we still haven't added new generation. And these problems are so big it was going to take more than a few months to solve. But in Senate Bill 2 and 3 we've gone a long way to restructuring the ERCOT board, the PUC board. I asked for resignations of everyone and they all either stepped down or were fired. So that's a big step. We're going to focus on winterization and we're also going to focus on making it a more even playing field between renewables and, and deliverable energy from gas. Because right now, if our renewables, which are important and it's great to have in our portfolio, but if you lose your renewables, your wind and solar for whatever reason and they're not producing, then we are very tight on our generation that we have from gas power plants. So we need to create an equal playing field there so we have more investment in the thermal, the gas, to create our energy. And so we're still working on that. And so those are the things we haven't done, but we're still working on."
Goudeau: But as you said, proud that you got a lot of conservative bills passed, a lot of your priority bills passed. There were some of them, though, that didn't make it across the finish line. Talk to me about that and your request for the governor to call a special session.
Patrick: "Well, a week before he said he would call a special session, I had already asked for a special session because Senate Bill 29, again all these bills passed the Senate in April and why they were delayed for almost two months in the House is anyone's guess. I'll let them answer those questions. But Senate Bill 29 said boys shouldn't play girls sports. And it's not really a controversial issue. It's not being anti-transgender, it's being pro-girls and pro-women. Boys just can run faster, hit the golf ball further, throw the basketball further. Whatever girl sport it is, they won't have a chance to compete adequately. So that bill, we'd like to see on the special session. Senate Bill 12, which stops big tech from censoring speech, liberal speech, conservative speech, independent speech, it doesn't matter. We can't have big tech just cutting off people for some algorithm that they can't even explain. And so that was Senate Bill 12. That did not pass. We want that on the special session. Senate Bill 10 stopped taxpayer-funded lobbying. That's supported by over 80% of Democrats and 90% of Republicans. They don't want cities and counties to be paying hired gun lobbyists in Austin to fight against their tax, their own tax dollars. So those are three bills. And, of course, one Senate Bill 7, which was not voter suppression, it's just a strong voter security-integrity bill that does not suppress the vote at all or reduce anything at all, despite what you may have read or seen or heard from the left, that bill didn't pass and that surely triggered the special session."
Goudeau: Let's talk a little bit about Senate Bill 7 though, since you brought it up. There are a lot of independent groups who take issue with the bill, take issue with some of the things in the bill limiting early voting hours.
Patrick: "Not true."
Goudeau: Why do you say that? It changes the hours? Some places had 24-hour voting. And they did it in response to the pandemic?
Patrick: "Ashley, we have not changed any early vote. This is just the left. And I'm not saying you, I'm talking about the media reads or hears something and they don't investigate it totally. We had two weeks of early vote. We still have two weeks of early voting. In fact, we've expanded the hours if they want instead of closing at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. You haven't heard that anywhere. We have not changed early voting. We added a week just because of the storm last year. We added one week so more social distancing could take place. But that was for a temporary disaster. So we had two weeks before COVID, we have two weeks now. In fact, there are many states that don't have any early voting. So we have not, I want to say this very clearly, we have not rolled back early voting. It's still two weeks. In Harris County, Ashley, they – on their own – decided to have 24-hour voting and drive-in and voting. That was against the law. It's not, you can't do that. And no other county of our 254 counties did it. And so we just, we just put it in a little stronger words here that no one county can go off and write their own rules. And people say, well, why wouldn't you want drive-in voting? Very simple answer Ashley.
"When you go to the voting booth, you don't take two or three people with you. It's not allowed. You go to vote, even a husband and wife, you got a separate voting booth. But if you allow drive-in voting and have three, four or five people in the car, then the ballots are being potentially being shared around, 'Who you're voting for?' 'Who you're voting for?' 'Oh, you shouldn't vote for that person.' That's not the way our election works. You go into a private voting booth and you cast your votes. And to have volunteers and election judges for every car that has multiple people in it, that's a violation of the law. So we're just saying you can't do that. You've never been able to do it. So we haven't restricted anything at all. What we said is, if you're going to have a mail-in ballot, it needs to be sent to someone over 65 or has a disability, which is the law. You just can't send it to anyone because people move so often. If you send it out to everyone, which Harris County wanted to do, and we stopped, then you have it going to addresses where people don't even live. So we just want to tighten it down to be sure there is no opportunity for any kind of fraud. And, and the voters are, you know, if you look at the polling, Ashley, the voters support securing our mail and voting, they know that can be a real opportunity for people to commit fraud. They support photo voter ID at the polls. They support a paper ballot that's in this bill. So everything you've heard from the Democrats or independents who say they're not, you know, they're not on the left, it's just been wrong and untrue."
Goudeau: Do you anticipate that the election reform bill that we're going to see during the special session is going to be exactly Senate Bill 7 as it was presented to the Senate in the final days of session?
Patrick: "It will probably be a little different because the House came up with a few good ideas. Now, they came up with a few things that we didn't like. So our bill that we send over will be, if not exactly, it'll be very, very close to the bill we passed. And the changes will be some of the good things the House put on, they had some good ideas that they added to it. We're going to pass – look, we believe in Senate Bill 7, it has nothing to do with suppressing the vote. I'm so tired of people, not tired being asked about it, but tired of people saying it. But they can't point to anything. They can't point to anything. 'Oh, you've restricted early voting.' No, we haven't. It's been two weeks forever. It's still two weeks. Joe Biden criticized our bill and his state of Delaware, they don't have any early voting. We have two weeks of early voting. We've always had it. We're going to continue to have it. And again, if the districts want to do it, we'll keep the polls open till 9 p.m. You know, there was a poll done by the Texas Association of Business, Ashley, 95% of the people in Texas believe it's easy to vote in Texas. And it is. Two weeks of early voting, mail-in for anyone 65+ and with a disability. We make it easy to vote in Texas. And here's something, Ashley, I challenge you to include this in your interview, because I keep telling the media this – it never gets reported and people don't know this – I was one of the authors of Photo Voter ID in 2011 and I heard the same thing, Ashley, the Democrats and all, 'This is going to suppress the vote. People can't get an ID. This isn't fair. They should have an ID.' Since 2011, we have increased voting in Texas more than any other state in the country by over 40%. Our gubernatorial turnout is up over 76%. And back in 2011, about 58% of registered voters voted. Today, it's near 68%. We have some of the most robust voting in the country in the State of Texas. There is no voter suppression. We hear about this every time from the left because they don't want anything at all to try to have election security integrity. And that's all this bill's about."
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick stated several statistics in his interview, KVUE Political Anchor Ashley Goudeau fact-checked the claims.
"Since 2011, we have increased voting in Texas more than any other state in the country by over 40%."
We analyzed voting data from the U.S. Census Bureau for presidential elections. Since 2008, the last presidential election before the voter ID law passed, the number of Texas voters who cast a ballot has increased 40%. But when you look at that number relative to the population in each state, Texas didn't increase voters more than any other state in the U.S. Arizona, Utah and the District of Columbia saw larger increases than Texas.
"Our gubernatorial turnout is up over 76%."
We analyzed data from the Texas Secretary of State's Office for the Gubernatorial elections in 2010, 2014 and 2018. Voter turnout has increased, but only 68%.
"Back in 2011, about 58% of registered voters voted. Today, it's near 68%.
Based on data from the Texas Secretary of State's Office, in the 2012 presidential election, about 58% of registered voters did vote. In the 2020 presidential election, 66.7% of registered voters cast ballots, so not quite 68%, but close.
"We've expanded the hours if they want instead of closing at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m."
This needs context.
In the conference committee version of Senate Bill 7, the final version of the bill that went to lawmakers in the final days of session, page 10, lines 16-17, state during early voting, the polls would be able to stay open until 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. But it's worth noting the bill also states voting can't happen before 6 a.m. on weekdays. And that comes with another caveat. You've likely heard people criticize the bill for ending "Souls to the Polls," which is when people go vote right after their Sunday church service during early voting. Souls to the Polls is particularly common in the Black community. On page 12, line 16, of SB 7, it states the polls can't open on the Sunday during early voting before 1 p.m.
"What we said is, if you're going to have a mail-in ballot, it needs to be sent to someone over 65 or has a disability, which is the law. You just can't send it to anyone because people move so often. If you send it out to everyone, which Harris County wanted to do, and we stopped, then you have it going to addresses where people don't even live."
The Harris County clerk wanted to send applications for mail-in ballots to all of the registered voters in the county, not ballots. The clerk expressed a concern about people's ability to print out applications during the pandemic.
During the interview, Patrick also weighed in on the governor's plan to defund the legislature, tension between the chambers and what made him bring permitless carry to the Senate floor for a vote. You can watch the full interview here:
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