For the first time in over six weeks, enough legislators were present in the Texas House on Thursday to conduct business, paving the way for the approval of the GOP priority elections bill that led Democrats to abandon the state in July in an attempt to derail it.
Following a nearly six-week departure from the Texas House over a GOP voting law, enough Democrats have returned to begin work.
Democrats originally planned to kill the voting law in May, when they walked out of the House chamber in the last hours of the regular legislative session, blocking final approval before the clock struck midnight.
Abbott reacted by convening a 30-day extraordinary session in July. This resulted in more than 50 Democrats fleeing Texas to camp out in Washington, D.C. for many weeks, out from the reach of Texas law enforcement.
During that session, which ended on August 6, the Democrats successfully stopped the bill’s approval. However, Abbott, who made the elections law and jail reform legislation his top objectives this year, quickly convened another 30-day session to expedite the measures’ passage. Abbott has stated that he will continue to summon legislators back into session until the elections bill is enacted.
The return of some Democrats who had decided to stay absent during the first extraordinary session aided the House’s restoration to regular procedure. Democrats such as Round Rock’s Rep. James Talarico, El Paso’s Joe Moody, Art Fierro, and Mary Gonzáles, and Brownsville’s Eddie Lucio III increased the chamber’s numbers after refusing to participate in the first special session.
Houston Democrat Garnet Coleman informed The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday night that he will be returning to the chamber, putting the House one legislator closer to the 100-member threshold required to conduct business. With the departure of San Antonio Democrat Leo Pacheco on Thursday, the quorum requirement was reduced to 99 legislators. (According to reports, Pacheco is resigning to teach public administration at San Antonio College.)
The legislators cited the increase of COVID-19 cases in the state, an overburdened hospital system, and the return of children to school as areas where the Legislature needed to address.