Texas House Democrats' walkout costing taxpayers $43,000 a day
State Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday reiterated what Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged: Democrats who left the state to break quorum can be arrested as soon as they return to Texas.
(The Center Square) -
The more than 60 Texas House Democrats who walked out of a special legislative session could be costing taxpayers up to $43,000 a day, one lawmaker estimates.
Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan has demanded that the truant Democrats return the $221 a day they earn during a legislative session. These per diem payments, combined with the regular salary they would normally receive, if it were to be restored, costs taxpayers $7,230 per legislator during the 30 days of the special session while they remain in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) estimates that the Democratic standstill is costing taxpayers $43,000 a day. On top of this, their staff members are not being paid.
The Democratic lawmakers boarded chartered private planes July 12 to Washington, D.C., where they remain. The charter flights cost $100,000.
This is the second Democrat-led walk out in two months. The first was during the end of the regular session, just days before it ended in May. Gov. Greg Abbott in response vetoed a portion of the budget, suspending all lawmakers' salaries, including those in the Senate and Republicans, and the salaries of their staff and legislative employees. In order to restore funding, Democrats would need to return to finish legislative business and then vote on restoring funding by Sept. 1.
Texas Democratic House Caucus Chair Rep. Chris Turner, who helped stage a walkout as a former legislative staffer in 2003, said in a statement the decision to break quorum was to "refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans' freedom to vote."
Republican lawmakers are prepared to take up election reform measures that would make things like early voting and mail-in ballots uniform across the state. Democrats say Republicans are trying to suppress voting.
The Democrats' trip was paid for by Powered By People, an election group run by former Rep. Beto O'Rourke. The group has raised more than $500,000 as of last week.
Some have vowed to stay in Washington, D.C., for the rest of the special session, which lasts for 30 days, through Aug. 11. However, even if they remain outside of Texas for the entire special session, Abbott said he will call another 30-day session in August and continue to do so until the legislature finishes its job. Only the governor can call a special session. He can call concurrent special sessions as many times as he wants, according to the state constitution.
Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday reiterated what Abbott has pledged: Democrats who left the state to break quorum can be arrested as soon as they return to Texas.
"The Democrats could be arrested as soon as they step back on Texas soil," Paxton told Newsmax.
"If you care about the Constitution, there are constitutional duties to show up when there is a session and represent the people they are elected to represent," he said. "We have a minority of Democrats who decided that they are not going to let any other legislator vote, so they're not even going to let other legislators do their duty. It's clearly a violation of the law."