NASHVILLE - A Republican-backed bill requiring Tennesseans to show photo identification before voting today cleared a major House committee today.
The bill passed the House State and Local Committee on a voice vote. It has already passed in the Senate.
Democrats objected, saying they wanted to delay consideration until they knew the outcome of discussions with Senate Republicans to provide free photo ID for the poor.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said in his opinion, the bill sponsored by his counterpart, House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville is a "backdoor poll tax" on poorer Tennesseans.
"But if we're going to fund that photo ID and pay for it as has happened in some other states ... this changes the whole complexion of this bill," he said. "I might even support this. Why are we in such a big hurry to proceed?"
Maggart said she is having discussions with Senate Republican leaders about finding money to fund photo IDs for low-income Tennesseans, including many elderly voters. But she said she cannot commit to putting the bill on hold until or unless that happens.
"I'm going to try my best to get it funded," she said.