Two months ago, Texas lawmakers quietly did something rare in this statehouse: They sent Gov. Greg Abbott a bill designed to make voting easier for thousands of Texans. Abbott praised that effort and ultimately signed the legislation that, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, both Democrats and Republicans supported. Scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, the law would overhaul balloting at nursing homes — an attempt to simultaneously remove opportunities to commit ballot fraud while expanding ballot access to nursing home residents. But on Wednesday, the Texas House voted to repeal the new law, which some Republicans dubbed a well-intentioned mistake. “It was an oversight that people missed,” said Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, who led the repeal effort. Goldman’s maneuver came as the House took up a separate bill targeting mail-in voter fraud, one of 20 items on Abbott’s special session call. That proposal, Senate Bill 5, would widen the definition of mail-in voter fraud and increase penalties for those who commit it.
On Wednesday, Goldman tacked on an amendment to repeal the nursing home law. House lawmakers approved the amendment in an 89-48 vote, before tentatively approving SB 5 by a 90-37 margin. That capped more than three hours of debate featuring emotional pushback from Democrats and some Republicans who supported the nursing home law during the regular session.
Rep. Tom Oliverson, a Cypress Republican who had championed the nursing home law, said he was confused about what triggered the push to destroy it, but he suspected that bipartisan buy-in may have played a role.
“It’s a sad commentary on politics in Texas,” he said in an interview. “People get nervous when they see the other side in favor of something, because they assume it gives them an advantage in elections.”