The Texas Supreme Court cleared the way for the arrest of Democratic lawmakers who fail to show up for the second special legislative session of the year, overturning a lower court ruling that prevented it.
“The Supreme Court of Texas swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do,” said Renae Eze, a spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott, according to The Texas Tribune, of Aug. 10.
She added, “We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the rule of law and stopping another stall tactic by the Texas Democrats.”
Based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, the congressmen involved could be detained by law enforcement and brought back to the state Capitol, in short order.
The most recent obstacle to stopping the 50 Democrats who traveled to Washington, D.C. to prevent a quorum was the ruling of a Travis County District Judge Brad Urrutia, who had blocked Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan’s authorization to do so.
Faced with Urrutia’s decision, Abbott and Phelan petitioned the Supreme Court to vacate the order by 5 p.m. on Aug. 10.
To do so, they argued that it prevented them from exercising their constitutional authority to arrest and detain the lawmakers who broke the quorum.
“The ruling by the Travis County judge is contrary to the Texas Constitution and violates the separation of powers between the different branches of government,” Eze stated.
She added, “We are confident that this overstep will be overturned—Texas Democrats need to stop the charades and get back to work.”
For now, Democratic lawmakers have until 4 p.m. on Aug. 12 to respond to the Supreme Court.
Should they be arrested by law enforcement officials, they could only attempt to take them to the House chambers, with no criminal charges, jail time, or fines.
The complex situation created by these lawmakers began in July when Democrats fled the state to block a vote on a GOP-backed voting overhaul bill.
To justify their unexpected protest, they argued that the election reform bill allegedly restricts voting access.
For his part, Abbott called another 30-day special session in an attempt to pass the pending legislation once again.
In reaction to the arrest authorization, twenty-two of the Democrats who fled Texas sued state GOP officials for trying to get them back into the state.
Attorneys representing the group claim that judicial efforts to summon them for a special session violate their civil rights, calling it a “discriminatory scheme” to infringe their constitutional right to assemble.
The lawsuit accuses the governor and GOP state Reps. Dade Phelan and James White of conspiring to “coerce, threaten, intimidate and impede” state Democrats from exercising their constitutional rights.