The 87th Texas Legislative Session was one of the most contentious and difficult sessions in recent memory, in that many pieces of legislation were introduced that drove a major wedge between Democrats and Republicans, namely SB7, which has been referred to my many Democrats as a voter suppression bill.
On May 30, the Republicans sought to push SB7 through before the end of the legislative session, but it was stymied in the midnight hour by the House Democrats who strategically broke quorum in their quest to prevent voter suppression and preserve minority voting rights.
To make it clearer, in order to conduct any business within the Texas House, you have to have a quorum present at the time the meeting is called to order. Because the Democrats chose to walk out of the Texas State Capitol, they were not present at the time there was call for a quorum, which means the Republicans and whoever was present on the House floor at the time, did not have the requisite number of legislators (a quorum) required to pass this controversial bill.
Yes, the Democrats successfully blocked the Republican-led SB7 legislation, but be assured that discussion surrounding this legislation is not over. The Republicans who are championing this bill which includes some of the strictest voting regulations in the country, will undoubtedly bring this back up again real soon, namely during a Special Legislative Session that will more-than-likely be called by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who supports the legislation.
Some of the details in SB7 include eliminating Sunday voting before 1 p.m., which many African Americans refer to as “Souls to the Polls”, where many African American churches and their members participate; banning 24-hour voting; and getting rid of drive-thru voting; amongst other restrictive criteria.
After walking out of the Texas State Capitol to oppose SB7, State Representative Ron Reynolds (TX-27) stated, “My Democratic colleagues and I walked out of the House Chamber to defend the sacred honor of our democracy as we maneuvered to prevent the passage of an egregious voter suppression bill — SB7…Almost five months ago, people stormed the United States Capitol because they were angry about losing a free and fair election. Not only were they wrong and evil…but they plunged our democracy into a very dark place. By walking out of the House chamber, my colleagues and I insisted that everyday Texans continue to have the ability to vote without fear of personal harm or unnecessary sacrifice. Voting is a sacred honor and elected officials should ensure that it is a feasible process for every citizen of this state.”
So, while the Democrats were successful in stopping this once with a strategic legislative move, can the Democrats really stop this piece of legislation from coming back up during a Special Legislative Session and getting inevitably passed?
Some are suggesting that the Democrats refuse the call to return to Austin if Gov. Abbott calls for a Special Legislative Session, which is sure to cause a major rift amongst the legislators who have been elected to represent the people of the State of Texas.
The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats (TCBD) took
a bold stand to encourage Democrats to not back down and stand their ground in one of their recent EBlasts, stating:
“Everyone who really understands Texas politics has to be laughing that Gov. Abbott really believes he can trick (or scare) Democratic state lawmakers into showing up for a special legislative session to continue the criminalization of poverty and to pass legislation that suppresses the voting rights of Black, Hispanic and low income Texans by simply threatening to veto the legislative budget appropriation.
How dumb does Gov. Abbott really think Democrats are? Does he really believe Democratic lawmakers think Texans are going to blame them for him firing state employees for no rational reason? Democrats in the legislature need to force Abbott’s hand.
Gov. Abbott’s threat is bigger than simply a legal question about state constitutional law and separation of power issues. If Democratic state lawmakers give in to this fake threat, they will have given up all the leverage they just acquired when they walked out of the legislature to bust the quorum in defense of democracy. Democrats need to double down and play this hand all the way to the end.
In politics you have to know when you have high ground and Texas Democratic lawmakers now have high ground. Gov. Abbott’s threat is an expression of fear, not power. Democratic lawmakers need to tell Gov. Abbott to “Come And Take It” and break his hold on state government and his ambition to some day be President.
Seven hundred Texans died during the winter storm, tens of thousands of Texans died from Covid all on Gov. Abbott’s watch. Now, he wants to fire hardworking state employees? Wow!
Gov. Abbott’s threat only works if Democrats are afraid and FDR has already told us that “the only thing we have to fear is fear.” We say bring it on.”
In a message sent out in their TCBD newsletter dated June 11, TCBD State Chairman Carroll G. Robinson, Esq. put forth the argument that Democratic lawmakers should not return to the state capitol for a Special Legislative Session, stating the following:
“Texas Democratic state lawmakers should not return to the state capitol until after the November 2022 general election. Texas State House Democratic Legislators now have the high ground on Republican legislators, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and should use it. By walking out to end this year’s legislative session, State House Democrats have the power to decide any legislation will pass, in Austin, before the 2023 regular legislative session. If House Democrats don’t show up, in Austin, for any Special Session(s), Republicans, in the legislature, can’t do anything to hurt Texans any more than they have already done. If you agree, please donate to help build a fund to fight for the future of our state.
State Democratic legislators should not go to Austin for any Special Legislative Session. This is especially true now that Senator Joe Manchin has said he will not be voting for federal election protection legislation in D.C.
For Democratic state legislators, going to Austin for any Special Session of the legislature would only empower Republicans to pass their partisan voter suppression bill. There is no such thing as a good voter suppression bill, if you believe in democracy. President Lincoln once reminded our nation that in America we have “government of the people, by the people, for the people….” The only way that works is for all the people’s right to vote to be protected and respected.
The right to vote is how we protect our right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….” Democrats need to stay away from Austin to force next year’s general election to become a referendum on the future direction of our state. Do Texans want to keep moving forward or do they want to allow Republicans to drag our state backwards into the past? I am for moving Texas forward. Hopefully, so are you and a majority of Texans. I don’t believe Texans really want to go backwards, in time, to have Texas once again become a place where women don’t have control over their own bodies and more Texans will die from freezing weather and more incompetence when dealing with the next pandemic.
Finally, do Democratic state lawmakers really believe that Republicans, in the Texas legislature, are going to let them have any real input into redistricting or on how to spend the state’s Covid-19 relief funds? I don’t believe so. The reality is that redistricting maps, in Texas, will ultimately be decided by the courts. So, why should Democratic state lawmakers go back to Austin? There is no need to do so. There is nothing constructive left to be done, by the Texas Legislature, this year.
Texas Democratic lawmakers have already done their job this legislative session. It’s time to let Texas voters decide the future fate of our state.”
This is not the first time that Democrats have resorted to this tactic in their continual political battles with Texas Republicans. In 2003, eleven of the 12 Democratic state lawmakers in the Texas Senate left Texas twice in a three-month period, including going to Albuquerque, N.M., after the governor called a Special Legislative Session to redraw the state’s congressional districts and give the Republicans more political power and seats. Then in 2009, Texas House Democrats fled Texas for the neighboring state of Oklahoma to thwart the Republicans plan to once again redraw the state’s U.S. congressional districts to give the Republicans even more political power and seats. In 2009, Texas Republicans even ordered Texas state troopers and the legendary Texas Rangers to go search for the House Democrats who left, apprehend them and bring them back to the Texas State Capitol.
The strategy in 2003, 2009 and 2021, was clear – since the Democrats did not have the power, in terms of votes, to block the legislation being brought forth, they used the tactic of leaving the State Capitol and denying Texas Republicans the necessary quorum they needed to conduct legislative business in Austin.
Now the question remains, will the Democrats show back up in Austin, if and when called, or do they have another political strategy up their sleeves that will prevent this bill (SB7) from becoming law. On the other side of the aisle, do the Republicans have their own strategy in the works that will ensure their controversial bill becomes law?
Time will tell, but the Houston Forward Times will continue to monitor the happenings in Austin and keep our readers up-to-date on the latest.