The measure's sponsor, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, thought he had the support needed to bring the bill up for a vote, but the measure withered after falling two votes short. Under Senate rules, two-thirds of the senators must agree to allow a bill to be brought to a vote. Ellis needed 20 votes Thursday, but he got only 18.
Under state law, a journalist who promises confidentiality to a source -- and then refuses a judicial order to identify the person -- could be jailed for contempt of court.
The bill would require a judge to apply specific tests to determine whether a journalist's information is essential as evidence in a civil or criminal case.
"We want to have a free press. That's what protects people without power from people who do," Ellis said.
More than 30 states and the District of Columbia have some form of a journalist shield law.
But several lawmakers said the bill could hinder criminal prosecutions and would extend a rare privilege to reporters currently covered only by attorney-client relationships, spouses and clergy.
"When people come to court, we want the truth. We're very stingy granting this kind of privilege to people," said Sen. Tommy Williams, a Republican from The Woodlands who voted against the bill.
Fred Hartman, chairman of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association/Texas Press Association Legislative Advisory Committee, said the vote was a "disappointment to everyone who wants to ensure a free flow of information to the public."
"We remain convinced that this is a balanced bill that will allow prosecutors to do their jobs while ensuring protection for sources that wish to remain anonymous," he said.
By: A bill to protect journalists from being forced to testify or disclose confidential sources fizzled in the Texas State Senate on Thursday under concerns it could hinder criminal prosecutions.