Dozens of Texas Democratic state representatives left town this week in a bid to stop a vote on state Republicans’ plan to change state voting laws.
Some of Galveston County’s elected state representatives, all Republicans, are calling for the Capital Ds to be punished.
On Monday, the day at least 57 Democratic lawmakers announced they were flying to Washington, D.C., and breaking the legislative quorum in Austin, state Rep. Mayes Middleton, a Republican from Wallisville, announced he was filing legislation in response to the departure.
One bill, House Joint Resolution 22, proposes a constitutional amendment to prevent lawmakers from being paid salaries, per diems and mileage reimbursements in quorum-breaking situations.
The other legislation, House Bill 249, proposes a new law that would make it illegal for people to make campaign donations during a special session.
Middleton called the Democrats’ trip to Washington a political stunt just meant to raise money.
“This commonsense legislation stops the paychecks for legislators who don’t show up for work and break quorum,” Middleton said. “Just like in a real-world job, if you don’t show up to work, you don’t get paid.”
State Rep. Greg Bonnen, a Republican from League City, called the quorum-breaking move “incredibly discouraging” and a “publicity stunt.”
Texas lawmakers are paid $600 a month, as well as per diem of $221 every day when the legislature is in session.
Lawmakers also are prohibited from collecting campaign donations during the biennial legislative session.
There has, in fact, been a lot of fundraising going on in the name of the Democratic delay. On Wednesday, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced his political action committee had raised $430,000 to support the effort.
Democrats said their effort is necessary to block changes to state voting laws favored by Republicans, including a proposed ban on drive-through voting and 24-hour-voting locations and increased rules on mail-in voting.
While Democrats don’t have enough votes to block legislation in the House of Representatives, they do have enough members to prevent the 150-member house from forming a quorum. There needs to be 100 members of the House present for it to take action.
Middleton’s bills for now are symbolic. Items to be considered during a special legislative session need to be declared a priority item by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. There also, of course, needs to be a quorum to pass the bills into law.
Members of the Texas House of Representatives who remained Tuesday issued a “call of the house” asking the chamber’s sergeant at arms to send for missing lawmakers, under warrant of arrest, if necessary.
Law enforcement won’t actually be sent to Washington, D.C., to track down and round up the legislators and return them to Austin. Abbott has vowed to arrest the missing Democrats if they return to Texas and force them to be present in the House chamber.
Abbott also has vowed to call another special session if the 30-day clock runs out on the current session.
SANTA FE COUNCILMAN RESIGNS
The city of Santa Fe will hold a special election in November to replace a council member who recently resigned.
Councilman IV Hoke resigned on July 1 because he and his family moved outside of the city limits, according to a resignation letter he sent to Mayor Jason Tabor. City rules require council members to reside inside city limits.
Hoke was elected to the council in 2019.
The city council on Thursday plans to approve a special election for Nov. 2, the next uniform election date on the state calendar. During that election, voters in Santa Fe will choose a person to fill Hoke’s unexpired term in office.
Voters then will choose a full-term council member again in the May 2022 regular election.
The city will begin accepting applications for the vacated place on the city council later this month, City Secretary Janet Davis said.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Wednesday announced he was suing the Biden administration over the border wall between the United States and Mexico. Bush asked the U.S. Southern District Court for the Southern District of Texas to declare a Biden order halting the construction of the border wall started by former President Donald Trump as unconstitutional and to prevent money previously budgeted for the wall from being allocated elsewhere. ... Dallas civil rights attorney Lee Merritt this week announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Texas Attorney General. Merritt will be on next March’s primary ballot alongside former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski. ... The Galveston City Council District 1 special election is Aug. 28. Early voting begins Aug. 16 and will run through Aug. 24. If there’s a need for a runoff election, it will be held on Oct. 9.