87th LegislatureState House52 Arrest Warrants Issued for Absent Democrats After Supreme Court Decision Sided With Governor, Speaker

Arrest warrants have been issued for much of the House Democratic Caucus after nearly a month of legislative stalemate.
August 10, 2021
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After a month-long standstill without a quorum, tensions came to a head Tuesday evening when Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) issued civil arrest warrants for 52 absent Democratic House members.

When the House gaveled in Tuesday afternoon, only 92 members were in attendance — three fewer than were in the chamber on Monday. A motion to send the sergeant-at-arms for the absentees passed 80 to 12, one of the “nays” being from GOP member Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio).

A spokesman for the speaker, Enrique Marquez, said, “Speaker Dade Phelan signed 52 civil arrest warrants this evening, which will be delivered to the House Sergeant-at-Arms tomorrow morning for service.”

If arrested, the Democrats will not face legal penalties and instead be transported to the House chamber.

Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), told the Texas Tribune of the warrants, “It’s fully within our rights as legislators to break quorum to protect our constituents.”

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“We are committed to fighting with everything we have against Republicans’ attacks on our freedom to vote.”

The move comes after a day of legal back and forth during which a Travis County district court judge issued a preemptive stay on Governor Greg Abbott and Phelan arresting truant members. The following morning, Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court overruled the lower court’s order issuing a temporary stay on the prohibition of arrest.

Until Tuesday evening, only one arrest warrant had been issued since the summer break of quorum — for Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) who returned to Austin in mid-to-late-July, only to return to Washington, D.C.

Cortez and his colleagues, nearly 60 of them, had been living in the nation’s capital since July 12 when they flew to the East Coast on a privately chartered plane.

“Texas House Democrats have abdicated their sworn oaths of office and duties, they’ve disrespected fellow colleagues and all Texans, and they’ve collected their monthly pay and $221 a day in per diem to be in Austin, all paid by the taxpayers,” Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) told The Texan.

Tinderholt was the first member to propose a House Rules change to explicitly punish those members who broke quorum back in mid-July.

“I am proud of my Republican peers and the Speaker for issuing arrest [and] detainment orders to return them all to their legally appointed place of duty, the Texas House of Representatives floor in order to do the work we were all elected to do. We all have three choices when we are on the house floor. Vote yes, no, or vote present not voting. Breaking quorum is not an option.”

One member who, after the initial lower court ruling, returned to Austin was Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin). After news of the warrant issuance, Israel said, “I think they’re bluffing. Do they really want to arrest a woman of color?”

Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), who’s been among the more publicly critical members of the Democrats during the quorum break, told The Texan, “I fully support Speaker Phelan’s decision to issue warrants for the missing representatives.”

“We unanimously agreed to the House Rules at the beginning of session and this is right in line with his authority. Foster kids, retired teachers and property taxpayers cannot get the resources they need until our colleagues return. It’s past time to get to work in the Texas Capitol.”

While some Democrats had gradually trickled back into the chamber over the last couple of weeks, a group of 26 committed to remaining in D.C.

Another lawsuit filed by some House Democrats alleged that Abbott, Phelan, and Rep. James White (R-Hillister) had violated First Amendment rights by, in White’s case, calling into question the constitutionality of breaking quorum.

A full list of those 52 members who did not appear in the House chamber on Tuesday was provided to The Texan. They are listed below:

  • Alma Allen (D-Houston)
  • Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas)
  • Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton)
  • Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio)
  • Rhetta Bowers (D-Garland)
  • John Bucy (D-Austin)
  • Elizabeth Campos (D-San Antonio)
  • Sheryl  Cole (D-Austin)
  • Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth)
  • Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio)
  • Jasmine Crockett (D-Houston)
  • Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas)
  • Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont)
  • Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville)
  • Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)
  • Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio)
  • Jessica González (D-Austin)
  • Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin)
  • Ana Hernandez (D-Houston)
  • Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin)
  • Donna Howard (D-Austin)
  • Celia Israel (D-Austin)
  • Ann Johnson (D-Houston)
  • Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston)
  • Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch)
  • Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio)
  • Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco)
  • Terry Meza (D-Irving)
  • Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio)
  • Christina Morales (D-Houston)
  • Sergio Muñoz, Jr. (D-Palmview)
  • Victoria Neave (D-Dallas)
  • Evelina Ortega (D-El Paso)
  • Leo Pacheco (D-San Antonio)
  • Claudia Ordaz Perez (D-El Paso)
  • Mary Ann Perez (D-Houston)
  • Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson)
  • Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo)
  • Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City)
  • Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin)
  • Ramon Romero. Jr. (D-Fort Worth)
  • Toni Rose (D-Dallas)
  • Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston)
  • Penny Morales Shaw (D-Houston)
  • Carl Sherman (D-DeSoto)
  • Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)
  • Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston)
  • Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie)
  • Hubert Vo (D-Houston)
  • Armando Walle (D-Houston)
  • Gene Wu (D-Houston)
  • Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood)

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original version to include the list of absent members whose arrest warrants were issued.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.