Texas Gov. Abbott Fulfills Promise, Vetoes State Legislature Funding
Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, on Friday fulfilled a promise to Democrats who walked out to prevent passage of an elections bill – he vetoed a portion of the state budget bill that funds the legislature.
Abbott's veto, reported by the Texas Tribune, comes after House Democrats walked out in the final days of the regular legislative session to block passage of Senate Bill 7, Abbott's priority elections bill that would have overhauled voting rights in the state.
The Democrats' move also killed bail legislation that Abbott had earmarked as important.
"Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session," Abbott said in a statement, the Tribune reported.
"I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations."
The Senate-passed elections bill called for new voting restrictions, including limits on early and curbside voting, and a ban on 24-hour voting and temporary outdoor polling places.
Opponents argued it would hurt segments of the population, including low-income and handicapped voters, according to The Hill.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner called Abbott's veto an "abuse of power," the Tribune said, and added his caucus "is exploring every option, including immediate legal options, to fight back."
"Texas has a governor, not a dictator," Turner said in a statement. "The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that [Abbott] is simply out of control."
The veto has raised concerns on how it affects legislative staff and agencies.
"I’m just concerned how it impacts them because they weren’t the ones who decided that we were going to break quorum, it wasn’t their decision, right?," House Speaker Dade Phelan, R, told the Tribune in an interview earlier this month.
Democrats also question the constitutionality of Abbott's action, which, according to the Legislative Reference Library, is unprecedented.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had expressed support for Abbott's then-proposed veto, saying the move might force Democrats to return for a special session.
The biennial budget covers the fiscal year beginning Sept. 1. A supplemental budget to restore funding could be passed if lawmakers return to Austin for a special session before then.
The Tribune said Texas lawmakers are paid $600 monthly in addition to a per diem of $221 every day the legislature is in session, during both regular and special sessions.
Abbott has said the legislature is expected to convene for at least two special sessions. One session, set for September or October, is to focus on the redrawing of the state’s political maps and the doling out of $16 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.
The governor also has said he will call back lawmakers to work on the elections and bail bills, as well as other issues not yet announced.
"I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations," he said, according to the Tribune.