Laws Allow Arrest Of Absent Lawmakers: Texas Supreme Court

The state House of Representatives, as per the state’s constitution, is allowed to arrest absent lawmakers who are “inactive” and not performing their duties in the legislative business, the Texas Supreme Court said in a recent ruling. The verdict marks a win for House Republicans.

The ruling lifts a last week’s temporary restraining order issued by a county judge blocking arrest warrants — signed by Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan. The order targeted dozens of House Democrats who fled the state to stop Republicans from passing a restrictive voting bill, NBC News reported.

The court said in a statement: “The question now before this Court is not whether it is a good idea for the Texas House of Representatives to arrest absent members to compel a quorum. Nor is the question whether the proposed voting legislation giving rise to this dispute is desirable. Those are political questions far outside the scope of the judicial function.”

The majority of the Democrats members left for Washington in July to spread information about the state’s voting bill and push Congress to approve the national voting rights legislation. Many called the Democrats’ move a “delay tactic” to hinder the passing of the bill since Republicans have complete control of the House and the Senate, and the Governor’s Mansion. 

The court said, “The Texas Constitution empowers the House to ‘compel the attendance of absent members’ and authorize the House to do so in ‘such a manner and under such penalties as House may provide.’”

The court also said that the district court might have mistakenly interpreted the state constitution.