Texas Supreme Court allows for arrest of Democrats who don’t show up to Legislature

According to a new report from the Texas Tribune “The Texas Supreme Court has voided a state district judge’s temporary restraining order barring the arrest of Democratic lawmakers who have refused to return to the Legislature, putting in jeopardy the liberty of some Democrats who have returned to the state.”

Per the report:

The news, first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, comes after Judge Brad Urrutia, a Democrat in the 450th District Court in Travis, signed a temporary restraining order barring state officials from arresting the quorum-busting Democrats, who were in Washington, D.C. for about a month. Urrutia’s order opened the door for those Democrats to return to Texas without the threat of arrest. Abbott and Phelan have asked the state’s highest court to void Urrutia’s order.

The Democrats had left the state to block the passage of a Republican elections bill they say would restrict voting rights in the state. They successfully blocked its passage during a 30-day specially called session that ended on Friday, but Abbott immediately called for a second special session which began on Saturday. Though some House Democrats have returned, many have stayed away from the capitol and have blocked the chamber from reaching a quorum to conduct its business.

In the first special session, Republican lawmakers voted for a call of the House, a procedural move that allowed them to authorize law enforcement to arrest members who were not present, however it had no teeth since Texas law enforcement has no jurisdiction outside the state. On Monday, the House which is still a few members shy of a quorum, issued the call of the House for a second time. But this time the call only called for the doors of the chamber to be locked and did not address arresting members, likely because of the temporary restraining order blocking such arrests.

Last month, Texas Governor Abbott Abbott told local station KVUE “If these people want to be hanging out wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.”

Abbott also said the Speaker of the Texas state House can also “issue a call to have these members arrested,” vowing he “can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year.”