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Texas lawmakers ask if quorum-breaking Democrats vacated seats

Texas State Capitol (Photo: KTSA/Elizabeth Ruiz)

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Republican lawmakers are seeking an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on the constitutionality of breaking quorum.

Rep. James White, who represents counties in Southeast Texas serves as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, asked Paxton whether Democrats were within their constitutional rights to break quorum and if their seats can be considered vacated.

If the seats are determined to be vacated, a special election would be called to fill them.

White submitted the request for opinion Tuesday morning, asking for an expedited response in place of the months it can take for an opinion to be issued. He said the decision to petition the Attorney General’s Office for an opinion came after a “thoughtful inquiry” from a constituent.

“[B]ecause in times such as this we need the cooling saucer of reasoned and constitutional deliberation and not the cauldron of ideological fervor. In a 1963 sermon, Reverend Martin Luther King highlighted the ‘midnight of the social order.’ He described a darkness that ‘is so deep that we hardly see which way to turn,'” White wrote. “The only response to this darkness that grips our political culture at this moment is our U.S. Constitution, our Texas Constitution, the history, thoughts, and writings of our Framers. Our State has too many acute challenges that demand our attention. I pray that we do not lean to our own understanding and instead rely of that wisdom that is tried and proven.”

An opinion by the Attorney General is a written interpretation of the existing law, but cannot be used to created new laws or correct unintended effects of the law. The office states that “opinions do not necessarily reflect the attorney general’s personal views, nor does the attorney general in any way ‘rule’ on what the law should say.”

 

More than 50 Texas House Democrats left the state on July 12 to break quorum in an effort to block a vote on contentious voting and election legislation that was set to take place during a Texas Legislative Special Session that began July 8. Democrats vowed to stay in Washington D.C. until the end of the session on August 8.

Republican lawmakers have explored many avenues to get their Democratic colleagues to return home, including signing a civil arrest warrant after a San Antonio representative returned to Texas briefly before returning to Washinton D.C. this week. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he will “call special session after special session” until the Texas elections in 2022 to pass the legislation under consideration during this special session.

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