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#SB5 Time-Stamp Change to be Investigated by Public Integrity Unit

by: Ben Sherman

Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 04:00 PM CDT

The Public Integrity Unit is investigating the timestamp change that occurred at the end of Tuesday's filibuster against SB 5, KXAN reported today.

In the first minutes of Wednesday morning, it appeared clear that Senate Bill 5 had failed by failing to pass before midnight. The Senate's online record showed that the vote had taken place on 6/26, Wednesday. Then, the Texas Senate's legislative record website went down, and when it reappeared the vote was mysteriously recorded as taking place on 6/25. It then switched back to 6/26 and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announced the vote had been too late, and the special session was over. Thousands of protesters, and millions of supporters around the country, celebrated.

But why was the record changed, if only temporarily?

After receiving numerous complaints about the change, Texas' Public Integrity Unit is now investigating this question. And if they find the documents were intentionally tampered with, well, that's a felony.

Read more below the jump.

The agency that maintains the unofficial records of Senate actions told KXAN that chaos on the Senate floor caused them to incorrectly change the time-stamp. But that's not a very good answer. Did the recorder read the clock wrong? Or was he told to change it by a Republican? The Republicans were telling the press that the bill had passed - and the time-stamp was very inconvenient proof against that bogus claim.

Many on the floor believe the time-stamp change was intentional.

Senator Wendy Davis said this week that "I know it [the time change] was done intentionally based on a conversation that one of my Senate colleagues had with the office that actually puts that online or makes that information available. And he was told by them when he asked why it was changed that they were instructed to do it."

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a key fighter against the bill, said: "I think there will be an investigation. You can't try to change a government document. The length they were willing to go to to break Senate rules - tampering with a government document? That's a felony."

The horrible irony here is that Rick Perry vetoed funding for the Public Integrity Unit, which has statewide power to conduct ethics investigations, during the regular legislative session.

Perry line-item vetoed PIU funding in an apparent reaction to District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's arrest. However, speculation continues that Perry issued the veto in an attempt to shut down an investigation of the relationship between his donors and CPRIT.

The PIU's investigation into the timestamp change makes clear why the PIU is such a vital mechanism for statewide ethics and corruption enforcement. It's no surprise that Perry wanted to shut it down. Do any of us think that Attorney General Greg Abbott would launch such an investigation out of his office?

We'll be keeping our eyes on this story as it develops.  

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