The 82nd legislative session will be about halfway over by the time lawmakers on a specially appointed committee decide whether Republican Dan Neil or incumbent state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, won the disputed House District 48 seat.
Neil ran against Howard during the November 2010 general election. He lost by 16 votes, then asked for a recount — and lost again by 12 votes. He took the matter to the House, where Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, appointed state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, to handle the legal aspects of the dispute. Hartnett reviewed the testimony earlier this month and today urged the committee to accept his recommendation that Howard won the seat by four votes.
The House Election Contest Committee, chaired by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, is scheduled to hear closing arguments from Howard and Neil and make a decision on March 15.
Neil's lawyer, former state Rep. Joe Nixon, said that although the decision may take a while, he understands it is a process.
"That's the way it works," he said.
Howard said the amount of time the process takes is entirely up to Neil, who requested the election contest.
"As long as he persists with his challenge, it is important not to rush the committee as they deliberate," Howard said in a statement. "No matter how long it takes, the voters of HD-48 are not disenfranchised. I am currently serving as their state representative, and even if a new election is ordered, I will continue serving until the outcome of that election is known."