Tuesday, November 9, 2010

They're Wearing the Same Legislation, How Embarrassing

Yesterday Rep. Patricia Harless (R-Harris County) filed legislation that is almost an exact copy of the voter ID bill Rep. Riddle so notoriously camped out for two days to file first thing on that morning.

HB 112 varies from HB 16 by only a few words. Both bills list a court ordered sex change as an identifying document. I'm tempted to take my cue from Rep. Harless and just copy/paste what I wrote about the Riddle bill here, but instead here's the LINK.

The reason something like this can happen is that most legislators do not write their own legislation. "Legislative Council" is a team of lawyers who work for the Texas Legislature and write most of the bills filed. You can go to www.legis.state.tx.us to look up any legislation (I always try to link to that site when writing about legislation, so following the link is also an option). When you view at the text of the bill look to the upper left corner. If you see a series of letters and numbers that starts with 82R and ends with three letters a dash and a letter that means that the bill was written by Legislative Council.

The three letters are the initials of the drafter. So looking at HB 112 and HB 16 we can tell that they were drafted by the same person - "JRJ" (which is not surprising since the lawyers who work for Legislative Council tend to specialize). Legislative Council lawyers are not allowed to tell lawmakers about the bills they are writing for other lawmakers so JRJ would not have been able to let Riddle or Harless know they wanted to file the same bill. It would seem that JRJ got almost identical instructions from two Representatives and drafted almost identical bills.

This is also the real reason that Rep. Riddle camped out to file her bills first. While it's true that a lower bill number makes a bill more likely to pass the difference between 16 and 112 is nominal when there are over 5000 bills filed. The real reason to be first in line is so the press will talk about you, and not the person 96 bills behind you who filed the same legislation.

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