The Texas Supreme Court denied a petition from Democratic lawmakers to restore funding to the state legislature Monday.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) vetoed funding for the state legislature in June to withhold paychecks from Democratic lawmakers. Abbott took action after Democrats stalled Republican-backed legislation by refusing to attend votes on the bills, breaking quorum, and blocking the Texas House from conducting business.
Soon after Abbott cut funding to the legislature, Democrats petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to intervene and overturn the governor’s veto of state funding. The court denied the request, saying that the fight Democrats asked the court to resolve is not between two coequal branches of government, but within one branch, namely the legislature, and outside of the court’s purview.
“While in the District of Columbia, Democratic House members have met with members of the Biden administration and Congress to urge passage of federal legislation on voting and have held public meetings to draw attention to their cause,” the court wrote. “They have publicly stated that the importance of defeating the Republican-supported elections bill justified their departure from Texas and breaking quorum even though it also prevented the Texas House from restoring Article X funding. They have not returned to the House to allow it to continue business. The Republican House members, for their part, have insisted that the House pass the elections bill and perhaps other legislative priorities before addressing Article X funding. The special session expired on August 6.”
“These public statements and events make it clear that the subject of the petition for writ of mandamus — the lack of Article X funding for the Legislature — continues to exist not because of a dispute between the Governor and the Legislature, nor even because of one between the Governor and a minority of House members. Rather, the principal dispute is among the members of the Legislature,” the court continued.
The court noted that the majority of members in the Republican-controlled legislature back Abbott’s agenda.
“Although the Governor certainly seeks to advance legislation he favors, the majority of the members of the Legislature support the same legislation. Relator House members oppose that legislation and have broken quorum to further their opposition,” the court said. “It appears from the record of the special session that they could have restored Article X funding for the Legislature had they been present to vote to do so. They have chosen to continue to absent themselves in order to prevent passage of voting legislation. The legislative majority could have chosen to restore Article X funding before taking up the legislation the Governor favors. They have chosen not to do so.”
“This political dispute within the legislative branch is not an issue of separation of powers that we can decide,” the court continued. “For these reasons, the petition for writ of mandamus is denied.”