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Legislative Library takes blame on altered timestamps after SB5 vote

(Photo: The Desk / Matthew Keys via Texas Legislative Information System)

The Legislative Reference Library of Texas is taking blame for altering timestamps on the Texas Legislative Information System related to anti-abortion bill SB5 early Wednesday morning.

The bill, which would have made abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, was filibustered by State Senator Wendy Davis, who represents Texas’ 10th District. The filibuster lasted for more than 10 hours before her Republican counterparts successfully ended her campaign.

With two hours to go, Davis’ colleagues continues an ad hoc filibuster through a series of parliamentary inquiries. The final inquiry, made by State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, led to a raucous response from onlookers in the senate gallery.

Despite several calls to order, cheers and applause filled the senate chambers, causing confusion among senators who tried feebly to cast their votes with minutes to go before the midnight deadline.

With confusion lingering after the deadline, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst declared that the vote on SB5 had been carried out minutes before midnight. However, a record of vote posted on the website of the Texas Legislative Information System (TLIS) countered Dewhurst, recording that the vote had taken place on June 26th — after midnight.

Ten minutes later, the record was changed to reflect a vote before midnight. The Legislative Reference Library of Texas (LRL) has since claimed responsibility for changing the timestamps.

“The LRL strives to ensure the information (on the website) is timely and accurate,” read a statement issued by the LRL on Wednesday. “As part of our normal business process, the LRL ultimately verifies actions posted (on the website) against the official journals of the senate and the house.”

The LRL statement said when they entered the vote, “the system automatically entered 06/26/13.” The LRL later said they “modified the date of the action to 06/25/13” due to an “understanding at that time that a vote was taken on the motion to concur.”

Several journalists noticed the altered timestamp within minutes. Eventually, the altered record became a discussion point on the senate floor, with politicians and journalists in attendance tweeting two hard-copies of the record side-by-side — one with the timestamp as it was recorded and one with the timestamp as it was changed.

Though the LRL says information on the TLIS “is not an official record” of actions in the senate, many senators did use the altered timestamps — among other things — to challenge the validity of the vote on SB5. After a two-hour caucus with senators, Dewhurst reversed himself.

At 3:01 a.m., Dewhurst announced to the senate that the vote on SB5 had taken place after midnight, conceding that the bill had failed. Dewhurst then gaveled out.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).