Texas House Democrats file lawsuit to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto on legislature funding
Update at 4:25 p.m. with comment from Abbott’s spokesperson.
Texas House Democrats are asking the state Supreme Court to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto over a budget provision that funds the legislature, accusing his action of being unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, filed Friday morning, argues that Abbott’s veto, which could lead to around 2,000 legislative staff going unpaid for two years, violates the separation of powers clauses of the Texas Constitution . Members of the Texas House were joined in the lawsuit by members of the legislative staff, the AFL-CIO of Texas and several legislative caucuses.
“If the governor is allowed to zero the budget of the legislative branch until he gets what he wants, he can also eliminate the budget of the judiciary until he gets what he wants. he wants, ”said Chad Dunn, an attorney for the Department of Justice. 50 Democrats who filed a complaint. “If we’ve learned anything from recent history, or for that matter from long history, it’s that once this executive gets power, it will be used forever.”
Dunn said Abbott’s veto, if left unchecked, would give future governors a dangerous weapon against the Texas Constitution.
“If the Texas Supreme Court does not follow its precedents and overturn this law, we can bet that future governors will impose on the legislature and the judiciary to perform duties as it pleases and to take revenge when it does.” is not the case. happen, ”Dunn said.
The lawsuit is the latest salute in the fight against a Republican-led election bill that Democrats say would suppress votes from black and Hispanic residents. This bill, killed when House Democrats came out to break the quorum at the end of this year’s regular session, is expected to resurface in a special session Abbott called for July 8.
Abbott said The morning news from Dallas that the walkout stimulated its veto of the section of the budget that finances the legislature.
Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze said the governor’s veto powers are clear and the state’s constitution does not restrict them.
“This is not the first time, and it will probably not be the last time, that a governor has vetoed the funding of government positions and salaries,” Eze said in a written statement. “Any limitation of this authority directly contradicts the Constitution and decades of veto by governors.
“Democrats’ claims about the governor’s veto ‘overturning’ legislative power are misleading and misguided. The Constitution protects the legislature and, as Democrats well know, their positions, powers and salaries are constitutionally protected. They can continue to legislate despite the veto.
The veto wipes out the compensation of lawmakers’ staff, and it could also fund a group of other experts and support staff on the legislative branch’s payroll. About 2,000 people could be affected. Salaries for lawmakers are outlined in the Texas Constitution, so they could still receive their $ 7,200 a year, although it’s unclear how that would happen.
The recently approved Texas budget – along with Abbott’s veto – goes into effect on September 1.
Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie and caucus chair for his party, called the case a constitutional crisis.
“The legislature is a co-equal branch of government, and the governor does not have the power to simply overrule the legislative branch,” Turner said.
No Republican, who has a majority in the House and Senate, are part of the trial, although their staff are not paid either. Democrats prepared for the trial without GOP participation.
“Republicans should be concerned about all of the issues we have raised and the governor’s separation of powers violation,” Turner said. “If at any point our Republican members want to intervene in a lawsuit, they certainly have that ability to do so.”
The lawsuit alleges Abbott’s veto is an attempt to coerce and direct the functioning of the Legislature, going beyond the veto.
“If accepted, it would allow the governor to indirectly requisition the legislature by making its very existence dependent on its willingness to implement the governor’s preferred program,” said the lawsuit. “And that would set a precedent for the governor to do the same with the judiciary.”
Abbott vetoed it in response to the legislature’s failure to approve and send him a controversial GOP election bill.
Democrats argue the legislation is designed to suppress votes from black and Hispanic residents. House Democrats killed the bill the day before the regular legislative session adjourned by exiting the House chamber, denying Republicans the quorum necessary to pass the bill.
Abbott later said The news that Democrats had a responsibility to stay in the House chamber and complete their work.
Its veto aims to force Democrats to stand for the extraordinary session, because the salaries of their collaborators are in question.
“In America, we don’t pay people who quit their jobs,” Abbott said. The news. “They could have stayed. They could have done all kinds of things… but you don’t quit the job. And we don’t pay people who don’t show up for work.
If the Democrats’ trial is successful, Abbott will not be able to use the prospect of funding his staff for two years to get them into the special session. This means that a successful lawsuit for Democrats could lead to another quorum break to kill the Election Bill and other Republican proposals.
“I expect them to show up and do their job,” Abbott said The news when asked about the possibility of another walkout by the Democrats.
Dunn, the Democrats’ lawyer, argues that Abbott’s veto is flawed because it goes beyond an articles strike. With future funding, it prevents money that has not been used in the current biennium from being spent over the next two years.
Dunn argues that there is precedent against such action.
“If he had simply chosen to veto part of the legislature, we would have a much more difficult case,” Dunn said. “But the governor does not have the power to completely eliminate funding from another branch of government.”
The Republican-controlled high court, however, could maintain Abbott’s power to veto.
Is legal action necessary? Perhaps, in particular because other governors might use Abbott’s tactics against their legislatures. The question, analysts say, therefore requires a legal answer.
Meanwhile, the legislature has the power, with a two-thirds vote, to override Abbott’s veto. But Republicans are unlikely to overturn a veto without the Election Bill being approved first. It is also unclear whether lawmakers can address the issue in a special session, where new laws can only be approved when they are put on the governor’s agenda.
A veto is not a new law, so it is a question for parliamentarians.
“I’ve never seen a veto override, because it’s a function of governors who typically sign bills and veto bills after the legislature adjourns,” Turner said. “Democrats are in the minority, so the courthouse is the appropriate place to seek a resolution of this matter. “
Read the trial here: