The Texas Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that House Democrats who fled Austin in early July in an effort to fight a GOP-backed elections bill can be arrested in order to restore a quorum to the legislature's lower chamber.
The Texas House of Representatives has the "authority to physically compel" members to return to the floor, according to an opinion authored by Republican Justice Jimmy Blacklock.
He wrote that the question before the court was not whether it was a "good idea for the Texas House of Representatives to arrest absent members" or if the voting bill at issue is "desirable," but whether the House has the authority to "physically compel the attendance of absent members."
"We conclude that it does," Blacklock wrote.
Lone Star Politics
Covering politics throughout the state of Texas.
The temporary restraining order granted to Democrats said members could only be compelled to attend through persuasion and dialogue. The state supreme court, which consists of eight Republicans, disagreed.
“Many people have relationships with colleagues they have served on committees with, or are from the same town, and those conversations are occurring," House Republican Caucus Chair Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston). "We are trying to encourage them to come back. We're listening to what they have to say, telling them they will be appreciated and to be part of the process here."
Democrats fled the Capitol for Washington on July 7, breaking quorum on the first day of the state's first special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
Many still haven't returned.
When Abbott called another special session immediately following the conclusion of the first, Democrats continued to hold out.
At issue is an elections bill that Democrats say will suppress the vote in Texas. Republicans say the added ID requirements, limits on mail voting and drop boxes and new controls over local elections officials are meant to protect against fraud and restore confidence in the system.
Democrats first killed the voting bill on the penultimate day of the regular special session, walking out just before midnight.
They went to Washington when they broke quorum a second time to lobby lawmakers to pass federal voting rights legislation.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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