Texas Democrats hold out as Republicans call for their return before state special session ends

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The stalemate at the statehouse continues with just days remaining in the special legislative session called by Gov. Greg Abbott to address a dozen of his priorities.

The specially-called session ends this weekend, but work at the state Capitol remains at a standstill with Texas Democrats gone to Capitol Hill and Republicans left with no way to proceed on any legislation.

“We have a long way to go until this Friday,” said State Rep. Joe Moody, D- El Paso.

Democrats said they are holding out to thwart the GOP-led elections bill filed at the state Capitol. Their east coast trip aims to push Congress to change federal voting laws to preempt the Texas proposal.

“We have one goal we’re focusing on: that goal is to attain the freedom to vote for all persons,” State Rep. Dr. Alma Allen, D-Houston, said in a Zoom question and answer session with reporters on Tuesday.

In a joint press conference an hour later, Senate and House Republicans called on the Democrats to return and make use of the final few days of the session.

“It is time for the House Democrats to come back to the state Capitol and take care of the business state of Texas,” said State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound.

Republicans have spent the better part of the 30-day session highlighting agenda items that will fall by the wayside if Democrats don’t restore the supermajority of lawmakers needed to conduct business in the House. They said several key priorities that were unable to be passed during the regular session due to budget shortfalls will now be possible if Democrats come to the table, since updated financial estimates by the Comptroller revealed additional funding available.

Among those items are action on foster care funding, supplemental checks for retired teachers and the controversial elections bill.

“We can’t do it long distance while they’re in D.C. trading tweets and stuff back and forth,” State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said.

“The legislative process requires committees meeting, getting together, having discussions and work on going on the floor, taking amendments,” added Taylor, who’s also chair of the Senate Republican Caucus.

A sense of urgency looms as money for the legislature, including more than 2,000 Capitol staffers, will run out on Sept. 1 if lawmakers don’t restore that funding. Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed that section of the budget, known as Article X, after Democrats broke quorum and walked out at the end of the regular session in May. Lawmakers face losing staff if they can’t strike a deal. Some shared they were willing to pay salaries using their campaign cash.

“My contributors came gave mine for me to be a successful and effective legislator, and for me to do that, I have to have a great staff,” Taylor, also on the Senate Finance Committee, explained. “I’m very blessed with the people I have on my staff and I don’t want to lose a single one on over an impasse like this.”

State Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said she was working on a plan to keep her staff on the payroll.

“We need our Republican colleagues in the Texas House and the Texas Senate to stand up to the Governor over his unconstitutional veto,” she said Tuesday morning. “You don’t negotiate with a bully — you stand up to them, and that’s what we are doing.”

Gov. Greg Abbott said repeatedly during the month of July that he would bring lawmakers back to the Capitol over and over until they passed the items on his agenda.

“I’m committed to calling special session after special session after special session, every 30 days, until we do get these items passed,” Abbott said July 21 at a ceremonial bill signing for legislation cracking down on fentanyl distribution.

House Democrats say they plan to take each day one at a time.

“We’re here for the long haul,” Allen said. “We will do whatever it takes to complete the task at hand.”

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