A little over a month ago, more than 50 Texas House Democrats fled the state like petulant children to prevent the quorum necessary for the Texas State legislature need to debate and vote on elections integrity bills.
In response, the Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan had arrest warrants issued for them.
On Sunday, a Texas state district judge signed an order that prevents Texas Department of Public Safety troopers from arresting them upon their return to the state.
First, the question must be asked: does state law allow the state representatives to be arrested. The short answer is, yes.
According to the Austin-American Statesman:
“Texas House rules state that absent legislators can be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms, or somebody appointed by the sergeant-at-arms and returned to the House floor. Because of this rule, Texas Democrats looking to break quorum travel out of state, where Texas officers lack jurisdiction.
An order to arrest House members must be voted on by a majority of lawmakers present after quorum has been broken.”
Ok, so now that we know that the state legislators of years passed voted on a rule allowing for these arrests to be legal.
So, what did Democrat Judge Brad Urrutia do when he signed the order? Aside from protect his fellow Democrats, he basically sat on his bench and deemed a legal activity to be illegal.
The order, which prevents DPS officers from “detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent,” reported the Epoch Times.
Further, it prohibits the “issuing warrants or other instruments demanding the detention, confinement or other restriction of a Texas House Democrat’s movement.”
The order, which will expire after 14 days unless extended, argued Urrutia, is based on the fact that Texas law doesn’t “provide for the physical confinement of lawmakers who have committed no crime.” .
As this battle plays out, it would appear that Governor Greg Abbott lost this one. However, in what Abbott and many others consider a win, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the governor’s veto of Article 10 of the budget recently passed. Article 10 is the section that funds the legislature.
In other words, you don’t show up and work, you don’t get paid.
“Texans don’t run from a legislative fight, and they don’t walk away from unfinished business. Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session,” Abbott said.
We will see how this plays out in the next few weeks. Hopefully, the AWOL legislators will come home and go to work to do what they were elected to do.