The Texas runaway legislators have been enjoying fawning attention from the corporate media for weeks for making themselves into self-described “fugitives.” The large group of Lone State State Democrats has successfully delayed a floor vote on an elections integrity bill designed to provide for security while keeping voting accessible for all.
However, fleeing the state to deprive the legislature of a quorum as needed to do business has only served as a delay tactic. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has pledged to arrest willfully absent lawmakers and have them returned to the capitol building in Austin until they have discharged the duties they were elected to fulfill.
One step Gov. Abbott took as far back as June was vetoing the funding bill for the legislature to ensure that runaway lawmakers would not collect taxpayer-funded payments while refusing to show up for work. The Democrats responded by filing legal action against the government, seeking to bypass the veto that threatened their paychecks.
On August 9, the Texas Supreme Court ruled a decision on the Democrats’ demand for a writ of mandamus, which would be a court order requiring the state treasury to pay them notwithstanding the veto.
The court found that the runaways were willfully absent and had traveled to Washington, D.C. It was also found that the trip to D.C. was in part to campaign for adopting a federal election reform act that would work as a takeover of the electoral power that states maintain under the U.S. Constitution.
The court also found that public statements made by the runaways that they are not being paid are not because of a dispute with the governor but because of the argument they have with fellow lawmakers. The claims of the Democrats are speculative in that they cannot know what the outcome of the vote they are denying would be or how the government might respond to it, if at all.
The Texas Democrats could have easily maintained their legal payroll if only attended to their jobs as required by law. Choosing publicity over duty cost them their pay, and that choice was entirely theirs.
It is likely that sooner or later, enough Democrats will end the game and return to Texas for the state’s business to go forward. At that point, they will return to the capitol building, voluntarily or otherwise. The next state election will provide a final judgment on the propriety of the desertion of their jobs.