Texas Supreme Court says police can arrest fled lawmakers
- The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that authorities can arrest Democratic lawmakers who skip the Second Special Legislative Session.
- If arrested, lawmakers will not be charged with a felony and will be brought to Capitol Hill to establish a quorum.
- The decision overturned a decision by a district judge that had barred lawmakers from being detained.
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Police now have the power to arrest Democratic lawmakers in Texas who have not reached a quorum, according to a new decision from the Texas Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruling allows officials from the Ministry of Public Security to detain and return missing representatives to the House chamber for the purpose of securing a quorum and voting on the legislation.
Fifty-seven of the state’s Democratic lawmakers abandoned Texas in July to block a Republican elections bill restricting voting rights in the state. The vast majority of the group traveled to Washington, DC to work with federal lawmakers to pass a national franchise bill.
A temporary restraining order from District Judge Brad Urrutia prevented authorities from arresting absent lawmakers for 14 days, leading Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican MP Dade Phelan to petition the state Supreme Court to block the decision.
Texas House leaders voted on a “House Appeal” motion at the start of Gov. Greg Abbott’s first special legislative session that requires all members to be present in the House chamber and gives permission to authorities to detain missing lawmakers and bring them to Capitol Hill.
But even with the “Appeal from the House” motion, there was no way the police could prosecute missing lawmakers in Washington DC because they were outside the purview of the Texas Police Department. However, some of the state’s lawmakers have since returned to Texas from Washington, DC, and are still avoiding the Capitol to maintain a broken quorum.
Now that some are back, they may be forced by authorities to return to the chamber, depending on the court ruling. A “House Call” can also order the Sergeant-at-Arms to lock the room and prevent members from leaving.
The Texas House of Representatives needs a two-thirds majority present in the chamber to establish a quorum and vote on legislation. There are currently 67 Democrats and 82 Republicans in the House, which means that at least 18 Democrats must be present to establish a quorum if every Republican lawmaker is also in the chamber.
Abbott’s second special legislative session began on August 7. Much like the First Session, its agenda for the Second Special Session includes a litany of right-wing causes, including:
- Ban schools from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or face coverings.
- Restriction of bail for certain accused criminals.
- Provide legal recourse to people banned through “censorship” of social networks and messaging platforms.
- Restrict transgender athletes from participating in teams that correlate with their gender identity.
- Ban on teaching “critical race theory” in schools.