HOUSTON - A Travis County judge has temporarily blocked the arrests of House Democrats who don’t return to the state for a second special session that began Saturday.
The judge’s order blocks the arrests for two weeks unless extended.
After fleeing the Lone Star State in July to break quorum and prevent passing an election reform bill, State Representative Gene Wu returned to Houston over the weekend.
On Monday, an Austin judge signed an order that now allows House Democrats, like Wu, to come home without fearing getting arrested.
But Wu and many others were still not present on the House floor Monday.
"In all this time, they've not even attempted to reach out to us to talk to us to see if there's any points where we can negotiate. Democrats, as a whole, have decided that we're not going to be used as hostages, we're not going to be used to push an agenda that the majority of Texans don't support, and we will be here. We will stay out and break quorum until Governor Abbott either negotiates or decides to pull his bill that infringes on the rights of millions of Texans," Wu said.
Governor Abbott reiterated in a statement last week that he will continue to call special sessions until some bills are passed.
"The fact that the Governor is willing to call a special session after special session for this political item tells you all you need to know about the Governor. Because right now, there's a raging pandemic that's burning its way through the state. Schools are reopening and hospitals are full. And this is his priority. His priority is his politics, not your lives," Wu said.
The special sessions come at a cost -- a rather pricey one.
"It’s estimated that a special session costs somewhere between $800,000 to $1.3 million dollars to conduct," said Dr. Eddy Carder with Prairie View A&M University.
Political analysts don’t believe the back and forth will last much longer.
"We’re starting to see more and more Democrats trickle back into the state and go to Austin. I suspect that if not by this week, by early next, we’ll have at least the 100 representatives we need to have quorum and the legislature will be back functioning," said Mark Jones with Rice University.
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In a statement, Enrique Marquez, a spokesperson for Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said, "Any legal filing that seeks to undermine the Texas Legislature and the Texas Constitution will be met with a swift response, and we are confident that the recent challenges made by a dwindling number of House Democrats to subvert the authority of the legislative branch will be overturned."
The court will hear arguments on the temporary injunction on August 20.