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House Acting on Disclosure Bill Despite Recall

UPDATED: The Texas House is moving ahead with a bill requiring disclosure of certain political donors despite an effort by the Senate to pull the legislation back. Meanwhile, the bill's author, Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said senators had been heavily lobbied to change their vote.

Sen. Dan Patrick R-Houston, speaks during budget bill SB1 discussion on March 20th, 2013

Updated, 6:30 p.m.:

The Texas House is moving ahead with a bill requiring disclosure of certain political donors, despite an effort by the Senate to pull the legislation back. 

The bill by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has been referred to a House committee, said Jason Embry, spokesman for House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. The Senate had approved the bill on Tuesday, then attempted to "recall" it on Wednesday. But the House already got custody of the bill and appears in no mood to give it back.

"Senate Bill 346 has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee," Embry said. "The House has not been notified of any effort by the Senate to recall the bill."

Meanwhile, Seliger issued a statement saying he was concerned about setting a precedent with the highly unusual recall vote.

He also said the bill, which would force certain nonprofits to disclose their donors, triggered heavy lobbying of his colleagues.

"It's obvious that this bill deals with an important issue, otherwise those seeking to continue to operate outside of transparency would not have pressured my colleagues to change their votes so dramatically," Seliger said. "This bill absolutely does not infringe on the First Amendment; it addresses only transparency which almost every member of this body claims to support. However, evidence indicates otherwise."

Original Story:

The Texas Senate took the unusual step Wednesday of reconsidering its vote approving a bill that would have required the disclosure of donors to certain tax-exempt, politically active organizations.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill 23-6 and sent it to the House. A day later, senators voted 21-10 to reverse themselves, though it was not immediately clear whether the House would need to act to send the bill back to the Senate.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, brought the resolution to repeal Senate Bill 346, which had been authored by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.

An animated discussion preceded the vote. Seliger noted that Patrick had voted for the bill the bill the day before.

“How did this bill go over to the House?” Seliger said. "... You voted for it.”

“Yes. … Because I made a mistake, Senator,” Patrick replied.

Seliger, who said that SB 346 was about transparency, said that it was the “first time during my time of service that I’ve seen someone want to bring their bill back” because they had voted wrong. He asked Patrick if he was in the habit of voting on bills he didn’t read.

Patrick replied: “Senator, I’m not going to stand here and be insulted … I own up to my error. … [SB 346 is] a significant bill and a significant impact.” He said he supported transparency but was concerned that the disclosure rules laid out in SB 346 violated the First Amendment, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court case in 2010, which limited the restrictions on political donations.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, seemed concerned about “heading down a pathway of having other recalls come.” He suggested to Patrick that he adopt a “quieter, perhaps more subtle means” of dealing with the concern — by making an entry about the concerns in the Senate’s journal. “I think this bill will take care of itself in the House,” Carona said.

Patrick said he respectfully disagreed with Carona, and his resolution to recall SB 346 passed.

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