Looking down on 2nd Special Session, Texas Democrats missing on plans
Twenty-five days after a majority of Texas House Democrats left state for Washington to kill a GOP-backed ballot bill, the first special session of the legislature ended quietly Friday without adopting any of the items on the governor’s agenda.
But lawmakers are now watching the barrel of a second special session that will begin around noon on Saturday, giving Republicans yet another opportunity to pass the Election Bill and other Tory priorities while forcing Democrats to decide on themselves. they want to maintain their quorum or go home.
Caucus leaders declined to share details on Friday, but said “a significant delegation” of House Democrats would stay in Washington to continue advocating for federal voting rights legislation. .
Following: Quorum-breaking Texas Democrats joined in DC by lawmakers from other states
“Today is a bittersweet day,” said Representative Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth.
“Yes, we managed to miss the time for the first extraordinary session, but we are not naive to think that we have won the war and that our work is done, because tomorrow we will have to face new challenges and a new battle, ”she said. . “Now is not the time to go. Now is not the time to throw in the towel. Rather, now is the time to recharge and regroup, for what lies ahead.”
If Democrats are to continue denying the House a quorum for the conduct of business, at least 51 members must remain out of the chamber at the start of the second special session.
In July, 57 of the 67 House Democrats officially broke the quorum and left the state, allowing them to bypass the reach of state law enforcement officers who were led by Republicans to track down absent members and send them back to the chamber.
Representative Chris Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, declined to share details on the party’s future plans, adding that “the governor would like us to do it, but we are not going to do it.”
“There is a collective will from this caucus to do everything in our power to continue defeating Republican voter suppression efforts in Texas,” said Turner, D-Grande Prarie.
Following: Three Texas Democrats without a quorum testify before a US House panel
But Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said some members plan to stay in the nation’s capital to advocate for the passage of federal voting rights legislation.
“Don’t be fooled,” he said. “If Congress is in session, we are in session. Our work is here, and we will have a significant number of members who will stay here.”
2nd special session
The Texas Election Bill that caused the quorum to break is a top priority for Republicans, who say it will improve election integrity and promote confidence in election results.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday called for a second special legislative session to begin on Saturday, a day after the current session ends, with the Elections Bill and 16 other items on the agenda.
Some items are the same conservative priorities that were on lawmakers’ to-do list in the first special session, including increased funding for border security initiatives, limits on transgender student athletes, and restrictions on how race can be taught in schools.
But the new program has six more points, including a ban on masks and vaccines in schools, an overhaul of radioactive waste laws and the appropriation of some federal coronavirus relief dollars.
Following: Abbott calls second special session as House Democrats stay in Washington
It also includes a call for the legislature to adjust quorum rules that require two-thirds of Representatives and Senators to be present in either chamber to conduct business – the same rule as House Democrats. used to block the voting measure during the first extraordinary session called.
No pomp, special circumstances
Back in Austin, the first special session ended quickly on Friday without any of the usual handshakes and pomp – and without any bills passing as the breaking of the quorum prevented the House from to conduct business beyond daily prayers and American and Texan flag promises.
Representative Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, delivered the closing prayer of the session: “In the coming days we expect conflicts, but we pray that you save us from our anger and guide us with your grace. as we continue, determined, in our mission to serve others. “
Landgraf then proposed to formally end the special session, and House Speaker Dade Phelan granted the motion with a hammer blow. It was over in under two and a half minutes.
The Senate adjourned even more quickly, without discussion and with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick not even at the head of the chamber.
But Patrick has warned senators he will embark on the second special session, with committee hearings on the bills starting this weekend and tiered votes slated for next week – repeating the activity blitz of the first week which saw overnight hearings and a rapid passage of priority bills during the first overtime session.
“We are ready to pass all laws on Governor Abbott’s appeal,” Patrick said on Twitter.
Phelan lamented the missed opportunity to pass a bill this session and said in a statement that the House will move forward on special consideration as soon as there is a quorum.
“With a second special session starting tomorrow, Texas House remains committed to meeting its responsibilities upon the return of our fellow Democrats from Washington or their vacation abroad,” he said in a statement, referral reports that two House members left Washington for a previously scheduled vacation in Portugal.
Claimed victory; The GOP pushes back
After the fall of the last hammers, House Democrats claimed victory by blocking passage of the GOP elections bill as well as legislation restricting the use of abortion-inducing drugs, limiting class discussions on race and limiting the participation of transgender student athletes.
“Today we achieved a key victory for all voters in Texas with the end of this special session,” Democratic House leaders said in a statement. “Our resolve has resulted in a renewed focus and clear action on Capitol Hill to accelerate the necessary voter protection legislation – and we will continue to fight for the freedom to vote. “
But Republicans backed down by focusing on popular items on Abbott’s agenda that were thwarted when Democrats broke the quorum – avoiding mentioning more than a half-dozen Tory priorities that favored de deep partisan divisions in ordinary sessions and first special sessions.
The House Republican Caucus released a video on Friday accusing Democrats of abandoning Texans when they left the ground, halting progress on additional funding for foster families, a 13th check for retired teachers and bail reforms targeting those accused of violent or sexual crimes.
“Republicans look forward to getting down to business on important issues facing Texas since the special session began,” the GOP caucus said in a statement accompanying the video.