Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Texas Bill Introduced to Move Presidential Primary to January

Legislation was introduced on Monday, February 9 to move the presidential primary in Texas from March to January.

Provocative though that may seem, HB 1214, would appear on the surface to be a "boy who cried wolf" primary bill. The proposal from Representative Lyle Larson (R-122, San Antonio) would shift the date of the presidential primary -- and those for other offices as well -- from the first Tuesday in March to the fourth Tuesday in January. That would move the primary from March 1 to January 26 on the 2016 presidential primary calendar.

Sure, that would fundamentally disrupt any plans either of the two major parties had for an orderly calendar for 2016. Yet, similar bills have come and gone in Texas over the last few years with little serious consideration, much less actual passage.

In 2007, legislation actually passed the Texas state House to move the primary up a month from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. February primaries were allowed during the 2008 cycle. The bill subsequently got bottled up in the state Senate and the Texas primary stayed in March.1

The same thing happened in 2009. Legislation to move the primary up to February was introduced in the state House, but it died in committee.

Then in 2010, legislative Democrats prefiled legislation for the 2011 session to again attempt to move the Texas primary to the first Tuesday in February. The rules were different in 2012 and that February date would not have been compliant with the national parties' regulations. As in 2009, though, the bill died in committee, keeping the Texas primary in February.

Starting to see the pattern here?

In the last legislative session in 2013, history repeated itself again, but this time with a twist. Instead of Democrats leading the charge to alter the Texas primary date, Republicans took up the banner. Legislation was introduced in the state Senate that would have pushed the presidential primary up into February and out of compliance with national party rules. It, too, died in committee.

The 2015 entry takes things back to the Texas state House and ramps up the provocation by settling on a date a week earlier than all the other previous bills: the last week in January.

The only thing that has moved the Texas primary since legislation moved it up a week from the second to first week in March has been redistricting. And that 2003 bill was delayed from taking effect until 2008. The only thing that chased Texas out of March in recent history was the fallout from congressional redistricting that forced the primary into late May for the 2012 cycle.

Would it be interesting, if not fun, to see the chaos a move such as this would trigger? Absolutely. But recent history suggests that this is nothing more than a bill that will not go anywhere in the Texas legislature.

FHQ finds it interesting that this legislation would place the Texas primary on the same date as the tentative New Hampshire primary date here. Someone ask Rep. Larson if he was looking at that calendar while visions of tweaking New Hampshire's position on the calendar were on his mind.

1 There were three other bills that session that proposed the same primary change and met the same fate.

Hat tip to FHQ reader, Joe Wenzinger, for the heads up on the legislation out of Texas.

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