Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new state budget that defunds the entire state legislature
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott defunded the state legislature while signing the state budget on Friday.
- Abbott made the decision after Democrats staged a walkout in May to prevent restrictive voting legislation from passing.
- Texas legislator pay is written into the state constitution, so legislative staffers will be most affected.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed Article X of the state budget on Friday, effectively defunding the entire state legislature after Democrats staged a walkout to prevent restrictive voting laws from passing in May.
"Texans don't run from a legislative fight, and they don't walk away from unfinished business," Abbott said in a statement. "Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session. I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations."
State Republicans were close to passing Senate Bill 7 in May which would have cracked down on initiatives that local election officials undertook in 2020 to expand voting options during the COVID-19 pandemic including:
- Making it a felony offense for election officials to send unsolicited absentee-ballot applications to voters, even those who are eligible to vote absentee in Texas. Harris County officials tried to send absentee applications to the county's 2.4 million registered voters in 2020 but were blocked in court.
- Banning election officials from offering drive-thru voting, which Harris County did in 2020. The county successfully defended itself against last-minute legal challenges to its drive-thru voting system.
- Limiting counties to a maximum of eight hours of voting, between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., on Sundays during early voting.
But while Abbott's aim is to punish Democratic legislators, the people most affected will likely be legislative staffers. Abbott may have vetoed the piece of the budget with the legislature's overall funding, but Sec. 24 of the Texas Constitution states that "Members of the Legislature shall receive from the Public Treasury a salary of Six Hundred Dollars per Month."
The state constitution also dictates that the legislators must receive a per diem pay for every day they serve when called for a special session, so they would still likely get paid regardless of the state budget.
Democratic State Rep. Sheryl Cole said on Twitter that the legislators "will be alright," but stressed that staffers are going to face the brunt of Abbott's veto.
-Sheryl Cole (@SherylCole1) June 18, 2021
Texas House Democratic Chair Rep. Chris Turner said in a statement that "the tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that Governor Greg Abbott is simply out of control."
"Our caucus is exploring every option, including immediate legal options, to fight back against Greg Abbott's abuse of power."
Grace Panetta contributed reporting.
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