87th LegislatureState HouseConsequences for Quorum-Breakers Proposed in New Texas House Rules Change

The proposal must pass through the House Administration Committee before members will be able to vote on the proposal.
August 24, 2021
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Now with a verified quorum, Republicans in the Texas House are beginning their political maneuvering to establish consequences for future mass absences.

Rep. Cody Vasut (R-Angleton) filed House Resolution (HR) 72 that would punish unexcused absences and aim to prevent similar debacles to the mess that has encompassed the last 40-some-odd days.

Under the resolution, a member may be removed from their committee chair or vice-chair positions by a simple majority vote if the member in question has been unexcused absent for more than seven cumulative days during a regular session, more than three cumulative days during a special session, or more than 14 cumulative days during the previous six months.

To make such a motion, there must be 25 members to second the motion on the floor and 24 hours’ notice must be provided.

Additionally, the proposal would establish an automatic fine of two-times the member’s $211 per diem should they not appear in the chamber by 24 hours after the call of the House is initiated. If that member does not show up by 48 hours after the call of the House, they will automatically have their seniority service time zeroed out.

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Seniority gives members priority in choosing offices, desk spots on the House floor, and other benefits.

And if after 72 hours from the call of the House a member has not appeared in the chamber, then their committee chair or vice-chair positions would be automatically revoked.

The first provision concerning committee leadership positions could be applied retroactively — a way to punish members that have already broken quorum, such as the nearly 60 who participated in the July spectacle — while the trigger would apply only going forward. The trigger being automatic would also remove from the speaker’s control the ability to pick and choose which members to recognize for such motions to levy consequences.

“I believe those who break quorum should not retain their leadership positions and should be held accountable,” Vasut said of the resolution.

Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), who was the first member this year to introduce proposed consequences for the quorum break to the body, backed Vasut’s resolution.

He said, “Actions have consequences. We MUST stand firm & penalize our colleagues for their costly and disruptive actions.”

Notably, the resolution explicitly states that such motions to revoke committee chairmanships are “incidental to the call of the House.” That means these consequences can be levied, and motions exercised, with or without a quorum. Under the current version, the House Rules are silent on what constitutes “incidental” — a fact that was the subject of intra-party consternation during the period the House lacked a quorum.

Vasut and Tinderholt were on opposite sides of that debate but are now united behind this proposal.

On the floor after the quorum verification vote, Vasut’s resolution was referred to the House Administration Committee chaired by Rep. Will Metcalf (R-Conroe). It must first move through the committee before it can be voted on by the full body.

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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.