Texas Democrats and Legislative Staff Take Governor Greg Abbott to Court for Funding Legislature | State / Natl / World News
A group that includes Texas House Democrats and legislative staff is asking the Texas Supreme Court to override Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent veto on a portion of the state budget that funds the legislature, members staff and legislative agencies.
More than 60 House Democratic members signed a petition for a mandamus subpoena, which was filed Friday morning, as did the House Democratic Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, four state employees and the Texas AFL-CIO .
“The state is currently in a constitutional crisis,” Chad Dunn, an attorney involved in the petition, said in a briefing with reporters Thursday.
The governor had promised to veto the funding of the Legislative Assembly in the closing hours of the regular legislative session in May after House Democrats broke the quorum and left the chamber to prevent the passage of a controversial election bill. This legislation, a priority for Abbott, would have created new limitations on early voting times, increased restrictions on mail-in voting and restricted local voting options.
The petition contends that Abbott overstepped his executive authority and violated the doctrine of the separation of state powers. Parties to the petition are asking the all-Republican court to declare Abbott’s veto unconstitutional, which would allow Article X of the state budget, the section in question, to become law later this year.
“Governor Abbott’s veto is an attempt to constrain, and therefore direct, the way Parliament carries out its functions – going far beyond the usual veto mechanism to control legislative excesses,” the petition says. “If accepted, it would allow the governor to indirectly requisition the legislature by making its very existence conditional on its willingness to implement the governor’s preferred agenda. And that would set a precedent for the governor to do the same with the judiciary.
In a statement later Friday, a spokesperson for Abbott called the Democrats’ argument “misleading and misguided.”
“The Constitution protects the legislative branch, and as Democrats well know, their positions, their powers and their salaries are protected by the Constitution,” said Renae Eze. “They can continue to legislate despite the veto.”
State Representative Chris Turner, a Democrat from Grand Prairie who chairs his party’s lower house caucus, told reporters on Thursday that about 2,000 employees in the state’s legislative branch would be affected by the veto Abbott if he was retained.
Legislators receive $ 600 per month in addition to a per diem allowance of $ 221 for each day the Legislative Assembly sits for regular and special sessions.
” It is not a matter [lawmakers’] paychecks, ”Turner said at the briefing. “What he’s doing is hurting our staff and hurting our constituents.”
Abbott’s veto is on the next two-year state budget that goes into effect on September 1. The issue could be resolved next month when state lawmakers return to Austin for a special legislative session beginning July 8. If Abbott puts statutory funding on the agenda, lawmakers could pass supplementary estimates to restore funding and prevent employees from going without paychecks. This document, should the legislature pass it, would also require Abbott’s approval before it could go into effect.
In the meantime, the petition asks the court to proceed on an expedited schedule to help resolve the issue by September 1.
“This is what happens when one branch conflicts with another – the third leg of the stool kicks in and resolves it,” said Dunn, counsel for the plaintiffs. “That’s what we’re doing here.