SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — 19 Texas House Democrats petitioned a Travis County court for a restraining order against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan.
Judge Brad Urrutia of Travis County granted the temporary restraining order Monday to stop the state’s top officials from “from detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement within the State of Texas,” the caucus said in a press release. The temporary order bars Abbott and Phelan from issuing arrest warrants or commanding law enforcement from arresting lawmakers in an effort to cabin them in the Capitol and force a quorum.
The lawsuit alleges that “[a] fundamental principle of our constitutional system of government is that the State’s power to arrest and incarcerate cannot be used for political purposes” and that Texas House Democrats are “facing imminent and irreparable injury due to an interpretation and application of the Texas Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas that would confound this principle by giving the government the power to arrest its political opponents.”
The lawsuit was filed by Texas State Representatives Gina Hinojosa, Alma A. Allen, Michelle Beckley, Jasmine Crockett, Joe Deshotel, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Vikki Goodwin, Celia Israel, Ray Lopez, Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez, Trey Martinez Fischer, Ina Minjarez, Christina Morales, Mary Ann Perez, Ana-Maria Ramos, Richard Peña Raymond, Ron Reynolds, Eddie Rodriguez, and Ramón Romero, Jr.
“The men and women of the Texas House, many of whom are Black and Brown Democrats, are not animals or property to be corralled by law enforcement and cabined against our will,” said Texas State Representative from San Antonio Trey Martinez Fischer. “It is morally wrong to believe otherwise. We will not allow our democracy to devolve into dictatorship; we will use every tool necessary to defend the Constitution.”
Abbott called a special session to begin July 8 that would pick up on 11 agenda items including voting and election legislation that died during the regular session which ended May 31. More than 50 Texas House Democrats left the state to head to Washington D.C. on July 12 to break quorum, block the vote on the legislation and to lobby federal lawmakers to pass The For The People Act.
Democrats made threats to stay in D.C. until the end of the first special session and followed through on the threat. The first special session ended Friday and Abbott convened a second that began official on Saturday.
Abbott told KVUE News on July 12 that Texas Democrats will be arrested and “cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done” as soon as they return to the state. He also told reporters that he would “call special session after special session” until the 2022 elections in an effort to pass this legislation.
Phelan signed an arrest warrant July 26 for Texas Rep. from San Antonio Phillip Cortez after he briefly returned to Austin to take part in “good faith dialogue” about the legislation before jetting back to Washington D.C. Cortez said that talks with lawmakers in Austin on negotiating the legislation “have not produced progress.”