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Governor Abbott Convenes Another Special Session to Pass Election Bill after Dems Fled the State

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas, Texas, May 4, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott will convene the Texas House for a special legislative session this weekend in another attempt to pass an election integrity bill, fulfilling his promise to pursue every constitutional avenue to enact it despite Democratic lawmakers’ attempt to deny the GOP quorum by fleeing the state in protest.

The special session will begin Saturday, forcing Democrats to remain out of the state for another 30 days to deny Republicans an adequate number of legislators to begin voting on the measure.

“I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve,” Abbott said in a statement. “Passing these Special Session agenda items will chart a course towards a stronger and brighter future for the Lone Star State.”

While most Texas Democrats remain out of the state, lobbying for federal voting legislation in Washington, eventually they will need to return, risking arrest for their unlawful departure.

While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated he and other Democrats are amenable to the Texas delegation’s ambitions for a federal election bill, the chamber is preoccupied with pushing Biden’s infrastructure package and associated agenda items before summer recess.

To block the GOP elections reform measure, the Democrats walked out of a special session, the second obstructionist scheme they’ve orchestrated, to deny the House chamber the minimum attendance needed to conduct business.

Abbott vowed in July to arrest the Democrat defectors, who disrupted the legislative process by leaving the state, upon their arrival. Texas House Republicans voted recently to ask the sergeant-at-arms to “send for all absentees…under warrant of arrest if necessary.” In July, the Texas Senate passed the bill in question, leaving a final House vote to complete awaiting a full chamber.

Some Texas Democrats said they would consider breaking another quorum to continue to stonewall the GOP’s election bill, which more closely regulates poll-watching, bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, and cracks down on paid “ballot harvesting” as well as mass mail-in ballot distributions.

A few Texas House caucuses, including the Black Caucus and Mexican-American Caucus, signaled to the Washington Post that they are prepared to deploy the same strategy again to stall the GOP measure.

Since the Democrats’ exit, bipartisan relations in Texas have deteriorated, with many Republicans slamming their colleagues’ move as constitutionally and fiscally irresponsible, given the $1 million exorbitant cost of holding the first special session.

“While we’re disappointed that the Democrats have walked off the job and caused that expenditure, we remain committed to achieving the results for the people of Texas — the ones who elected us, elected us to come to Austin to accomplish our work,” Representative Jim Murphy, the chairman of the Texas House Republican Caucus, said at a press briefing Tuesday. “We want to get those bills passed into state law — that’s our focus.”

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