In the order, Travis County Judge Brad Urrutia banned Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan from ‘detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent,’ as well as ‘issuing any warrant or other instruments’ that would lead to their confinement.
In the order, Travis County Judge Brad Urrutia, above, banned Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan from ‘detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent,’
Urrutia was re-elected on the Democratic ticket in 2020.
The order paves the way for Democrats to return to the Lonestar State without any threat of ending up in handcuffs.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for later this month, and Urrutia’s restraining order will expire in two weeks if it is not renewed, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Nineteen of the House lawmakers filed a complaint arguing their arrest would rely on a misrepresentation of the House constitution and would ‘government power to arrest its political opponents.’
Originally 22 Democrats had been named in the suit, but at least three of the plaintiffs later asked for their names to be removed, saying they had not agreed to be included.
With great fanfare, 58 Texas House Democrats hopped on private jets chartered at $100,000 in July and flew to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to their cause and deny the passing of a voting bill they say is overly restrictive.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, above, promised to have fleeing lawmakers arrested and compelled to attend a special legislative session to vote on election security once they returned to the state
GOP Gov. Greg Abbott then vowed to have the lawmakers arrested upon their return, and the remainder of the House voted to authorize law enforcement to track down the absent members and issue arrest warrants if needed to compel their attendance to the legislature’s special session so that the voting bill could be passed.
Democrats filed suit, naming Abbott and Phelan as defendants, said they had been ‘deprived of liberty for substantial periods of time, [and] suffered much anxiety and distress over the separation from their families.’
Texas Democrats who fled the state filed suit against Gov. Greg Abbott and Speaker Dade Phelan, saying they had suffered ‘much discomfort and embarrassment’ because their reputations have been ‘impaired’ after the governor threatened them with arrest
They also said they had suffered ‘much discomfort and embarrassment’ because their reputations have been ‘impaired’.
In the suit, the Democrats further allege that they ‘have lost much time from their homes and the companionship and care of their families and have been required to spend substantial sums of money’.
The Texas House and Senate began a second special legislative session of the year on Saturday as a number of Democrats who fled began to return to the state. Still, the House lacked the quorum needed to take action.
During the weekend’s proceedings, Republicans did not authorized the arrest of Democrats to force them to return to work but instead adjourned until Monday at 4pm.
At least 26 Democrats have vowed to remain in Washington and ramp up pressure for Congress to enact federal voting legislation, but that number is well below the 51 needed to deny quorum.
Republicans are seeking to pass two new ‘election integrity’ bills, whereby voting would be allowed on election days from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and mail voters would also be asked to verify their identities with a state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
The fleeing lawmakers received a warm welcome from members of their party in Washington, and met with high-powered lawmakers to discuss voting rights legislation and even Vice President Kamala Harris herself. At least three of them tested positive for Covid-19 after jet-setting maskless to the nation’s capital, and Harris subsequently tested negative.
The Democrats left Austin to avoid the vote on two election bills, touching down in Washington D.C. in two private jets, which were chartered at $100,000
The group was also seen on board a bus without a face mask in sight
TEXAS’ VOTING RIGHTS BILLS: WHAT’S IN THEM AND WHY THE DEMOCRATS THINK THEY ‘RESTRICT’ ELECTIONS
- The bills – House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 – were filed last week during a special legislative session called by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
- The proposed legislation creates harsher criminal penalties for people who help voters at the polls or those planning to vote by mail.
- The bills, if passed, would be a ban on 24-hour voting. Instead, there would be a new voting window from 6am to 10pm on election day.
- Rules would require residents to fill out paperwork if you are taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person.
- Regulations would require someone to exit their car during curbside voting.
- Bills would mean voters would have to provide their drivers license or the last four digits of their social security number to cast a ballot.
- New rules would stop local election officials from sending out mail-in ballots to those who haven’t requested them.
- Drive-in voting would be banned.
- Expands what partisan poll watchers can observe during counts.
- Prohibits poll watchers from being removed for violating election laws.
- Both bills would increase early voting from eight to nine hours.
- Also lowers the population threshold required for counties to provide at least 12 hours of early voting each weekday of the second week of early voting.
- Protects the legitimacy of elections and avoids fraud, according to Republicans.
Democrats argue that:
- The measures included in the bills would mainly stop minority communities and shift workers from voting because of the restricted hours.
- The regulations in the bills would make it harder to control disruptive partisan poll watchers.
- Would make it easier for losing candidates to try and overturn election results and harass winning candidates with court battles and recounts.
- Democrats also claim the provisions do nothing to make elections more secure in Texas.
- Insists the proposed legislation would help further the claims of election fraud Donald Trump has made in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
- Argue that restricted voting hours on a Sunday would have impacted the ability of black churchgoers, also known as ‘souls of the polls’, to cast their ballots.
- They instead want the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to be passed by Congress to address elections on a federal level.
- But Republicans insist that this is a power grab and would represent a ‘federal takeover’ of elections
Meanwhile, several of the Democrats have reportedly jetted out of the country from DC to go on vacation as their time away from Texas continues.
The Texas Democratic Caucus could not account for state Representatives Julie Johnson of Farmers Branch and Jessica González of Dallas in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, a person familiar with the situation told the Texas Tribune in a Wednesday report.
A reporter for Texas Monthly tweeted on Tuesday they could confirm both lawmakers and their partners went to ‘Portugal for a vacation they had been planning, with non-refundable tickets, for a year-and-a-half.’
The duo, the reporter continued, were still participating in meetings with the caucus over Zoom.
‘Please pray for these heroic Texas Democrats as they suffer away from home, in Portugal. Perhaps consider sending them a care package?’ Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House, sarcastically tweeted.
The Dallas Democrats posted on their Twitter last month, ‘Our Dems in DC said they’d appreciate care packages from home,’ as they prepared to send items to the runaways.
‘Before 5pm Tues, we’re collecting Dr. Pepper, salsa, hard candy, hairspray, travel toiletries, hand sanitizers, sewing kits, first aid, and/ or $ to pay shipping,’ the tweet continued.