Texas lawmakers are finished, but expected back for a special session
AUSTIN, Texas - The 87th regular session of the Texas Legislature wrapped up Monday.
A political tactic made a few hours earlier guaranteed the coming special session will deal with more than just redrawing voting lines.
"To say this session was unique would be an understatement, every day it was something new. But we persevered," said Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).
Phelan’s attempted to focus on what was accomplished during the past 140 days, including legislation like expanding health care coverage for children, education funding, and power grid reform.
"The rules apply to everyone, 100%, even when some of you didn’t like it. Maybe some of those outside this chamber didn’t like it," said Phelan.
That comment appeared to be a reference to Texas House Democrats who left the capitol overnight to break the quorum. It was a last-ditch way to killed Senate Bill 7, a sweeping Republican-drafted voter security reform bill.
In reaction to that Gov. Greg Abbott, in a social media post on Monday afternoon, made it clear political tactics also have consequences. He announced he would veto article 10 of the state budget – the part that allocates pay for state lawmakers – "no pay for those who abandon their responsibilities," he wrote.
In reaction to that, state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), who was among those to walk out, defended the move.
"So he wants to dock us for a couple of hours, you know we have been working, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning to try to pass legislation. We have a limited number of tools at our disposal, one of which is to break quorum, and it's a very last resort. No regrets? No regrets, no," said Howard.
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The governor in an earlier post said he will add to his special session call the voter security bill and a bail reform measure that also died.
State Rep. John Cryier (R-Lockhart) said the walkout surprised him, but not the fallout, adding the political consequences for Democrats could be painful.
"We all make decisions, and I think with that there might be even more than comes into SB 7 as we see it in probably a special session," said Cyrier.
After going sine die, House Democrats gathered in the capitol extension and made no apologies.
"This is Texas, this is the Alamo, we will do everything we can to stop voter suppression, even though we are outnumbered," said state Rep. John Bucy (D-Cedar Park).
But finding common ground in that fight, according to Howard, is not out of the question.
"This is something I think we all need to look at more thoughtfully and more prudently because it's not just going to hurt certain pockets of the populations, it's going to actually prevent access for almost all Texans," said Howard.
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If a pay cut happens it would not take effect until the new budget kicks in at the end of August. It was unclear if the cut in pay would only be for lawmakers or also for their staff. The other unanswered question is will there be only one special session or multiple.