- Texas Dems walked out of the chamber Sunday, preventing a restrictive elections bill from passing.
- Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he would defund the legislative branch after the walkout.
- Abbott is expected to call a special session to address redistricting and the voting legislation.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared in a tweet on Monday that he would suspend the pay of the Texas Legislature after state Democrats staged a walkout to prevent Republicans from passing restrictive voting legislation.
The Texas Constitution grants the governor the power to veto line items in bills and state budgets, giving Abbott the authority to unilaterally remove the Legislature’s funding in the recently passed budget.
Abbott’s potential veto comes after state Democrats collectively walked out of the chamber to ensure there wouldn’t be the quorum of lawmakers necessary to vote on the legislation, a move that killed chances of the bill being passed before a midnight deadline.
-Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 31, 2021
Texas Senate Bill 7 would have cracked down on initiatives that local election officials – particularly Democratic officials in Harris County – undertook in 2020 to expand voting options during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Making it a felony offense for election officials to send unsolicited absentee-ballot applications to voters, even those who are eligible to vote absentee in Texas. Harris County officials tried to send absentee applications to the county’s 2.4 million registered voters in 2020 but were blocked in court.
- Banning election officials from offering drive-thru voting, which Harris County did in 2020. The county successfully defended itself against last-minute legal challenges to its drive-thru voting system.
- Limiting counties to a maximum of eight hours of voting, between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., on Sundays during early voting.
The Texas Legislature meets every two years for 140 days, meaning Republicans will not be able to bring the elections bill up for a vote during the normal legislative session until 2023. Under the Texas Constitution, however, the governor has the power to call a special session of up to 30 days solely to discuss and work on items brought by the governor.
Abbott was already expected to hold a special session to tackle redistricting, and it’s now likely that the voting legislation will also be debated during that time as well. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is also pushing for Abbott to include anti-transgender youth in sports legislation and other bills in the special session that failed to pass before the 87th legislative session ended in the state.
Texas legislators make $7,200 per year when not in session and $38,140 when in session, leading most state lawmakers to pursue other careers when the Legislature is not in session. If the governor calls for a special session, each legislator will receive a per diem payment of $221 for every day the special session is open, or up to $6,630 for the full special session.
Abbott’s veto would also likely affect legislative staffers, who are paid via the legislative branch.