Central Texas representatives weigh in as House Democrats walk out during special legislative session

Photo of the Texas State Capitol
Texas House Democrats left the state for D.C. July 12 in an attempt to stall out Republican-sponsored voting restriction bills. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Texas House Democrats left the state for D.C. July 12 in an attempt to stall out Republican-sponsored voting restriction bills. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

A majority of Texas House Democrats left Texas July 12 ahead of expected discussion of numerous Republican-sponsored bills aimed at tightening restrictions on voting.

The departure is an effort to break the quorum needed to call those bills to action, with 26 days remaining in a special legislative session called by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas Democrats said the departed House members are headed to D.C. to lobby for voting protections at the federal level.

“Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote. We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy," said multiple Texas Democratic leaders in a statement.

The bills in question address a range of issues related to voting, voter registration and the administration of elections in Texas.

They were crafted this summer after the failure of similar wide-ranging measures in the House and Senate during spring's regular session.

Through the special session's Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, state Republicans are proposing an array of changes related to limiting voting hours, tightening voter assistance procedures, barring temporary or drive-thru voting locations and blocking unsolicited vote by mail applications.

Other topics covered in the legislation include security at polling places, the maintenance of voter rolls, expanded access for poll watchers, ballot security and the legal punishments for voter fraud and related violations.

Along with Republican members of the House, Abbott criticized the move by Democrats July 12 as an abandonment of key issues affecting Texans.

"As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state. It's time to get back to work," Abbott said in a tweet.

House rules adopted by the 87th Texas Legislature require two-thirds of the chamber to attend proceedings and allow legislators to employ law enforcement to compel officials to attend.

With the House set to convene July 13, present House members may call a motion to secure a quorum in order to take up legislation that would allow for the arrest of absent members, according to House rules.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, warned in a statement that he and his colleagues would use "every available resource under the Texas Constitution and the unanimously-passed House Rules to secure a quorum."

"The special session clock is ticking—I expect all Members to be present in our Capitol in order to immediately get too work on these issues," Phelan said.

State representatives and local officials from around Central Texas weighed in on the Democrats' departure.

Several of them invoked the late former U.S. Rep. John Lewis by calling their actions "good trouble," a phrase Lewis coined during his work to spur change during the Civil Rights Movement:

Rep. John Bucy

“We are not going to sit around and negotiate people’s voting rights," Bucy told Community Impact Newspaper. "The Secretary of State's office told us that the 2020 elections in Texas were run smoothly, securely, and that they were a success. And so when we see bills filed around elections that make it harder for people to vote in this state, you have to ask yourself, ‘what problem are we trying to solve?’ As a legislator, I was sent down there to solve problems to make life easier for the people of Texas, and what these bills do is the opposite. Today, we left and we’re headed to DC, and then we’re going to continue the fight to get congressional policies passed that will protect all voters across this country."

Read more from Rep. Bucy here.

Rep. Sheryl Cole

Rep. Vikki Goodwin

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

Rep. James Talarico

"We felt we felt that our Republican colleagues at the State Capitol left us no other option but to fly to DC and beg our federal lawmakers to take action to prevent these types of voter suppression bills from becoming state law," Talarico told Community Impact Newspaper. "My colleagues and I, throughout the regular session and in the special, have vocally requested that we as lawmakers focus on things like funding our public schools, like recovering from the pandemic, like fixing the power grid. None of those things were on the call for this special session. My constituents hired me to protect the Constitution, protect democracy, protect voting rights, and that's exactly what I'm doing ... As a Texas Democrat, I'm used to losing fights on the floor of the House. We lose almost every single day on issues like guns and abortion and immigration. The reason this is different is because the Republicans are trying to rig the rules of the game, and prevent me from fighting the good fight. And that's why this crosses the red line. We can debate issues, but we will not debate democracy itself."

Travis County Judge Andy Brown

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D-TX)

“Greg Abbott and his Republican cohorts have messed with Texan voters one too many times," Doggett said in a statement. "Our Texas Democrats are breaking quorum rather than being accomplices to breaking democracy. They rightly recognize that our democracy is only as strong as our voting rights. With Texas already ground zero for voter suppression, these courageous leaders are defending our democracy. Looking forward to welcoming these good troublemakers to Washington soon."

Editor's note: This story was updated July 13 with additional comments from Rep. James Talarico.
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. After spending more than two years covering in The Woodlands area, he moved to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city.

By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


With more information available to the district than in fall 2020, the fall 2021 guidelines are slightly different than previous guidance regarding COVID-19. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD releases updated COVID-19 safety guidelines

Round Rock ISD releases updated COVID-19 safety guidelines ahead of the fall 2021 semester, which starts Aug. 18.

Austin ISD will offer virtual learning, expecting about 5% of students to apply. (Courtesy Unsplash)
Austin public schools release virtual learning plan

Austin ISD will offer virtual learning, expecting about 5% of students to apply.

student writing on paper
Texas Legislature allows parents to opt for students to repeat grade levels or courses

Senate Bill 1697 is effective for the 2021-22 school year.

Photo of a cupcake trailer
Austin bakery Hey Cupcake relaunches at Native Hostel

The long-time Austin cupcake trailer is making camp near downtown.

Photo of medical professions in a hospital
Health officials warn ICU space is critically low as Travis County sees its 900th COVID-19 death

As the delta variant drives transmission rates up, local hospital systems warn that ICUs are strained.

Several construction projects for Hutto ISD facilities will be delayed due to supply and labor issues as well as weather, according to general contractors for the Hutto Elementary School modernization and Memorial Stadium projects. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hutto ISD experiencing construction delays due to lack of labor, supply shortages, weather issues

The completion of some Hutto ISD construction projects, like the modernization of Hutto Elementary School and renovations to the Hutto Memorial Stadium, have been delayed due to weather as well as supply and labor shortages.

At Blue Gecko, a Texas Taco comes with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese and bacon. (Courtesy Blue Gecko)
New taco spot opens in Four Points; roadwork for Austin's Zilker Eagle continues and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area, including news on when Lou Neff Road will open in Central Austin.

TheraWave Vibrant Wellness is located at 1616 Williams Drive, Ste. 107, Georgetown. (Courtesy TheraWave Vibrant Wellness)
TheraWave Vibrant Wellness now open in Georgetown

The business is focused on offering pulsed electro-magnetic frequency therapy.

Water retention ponds and flood control features can now be seen on the site of the 80-acre Village of Spanish Oaks development. (Courtesy CCNG Inc.)
Permanent features take shape at Village at Spanish Oaks

The Village at Spanish Oaks will feature a boutique inn as well as retail and office space.

The delta variant has now been confirmed in New Braunfels. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Comal County reports more than 490 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 during the week of July 26 as two local cases of delta variant are confirmed

Since July 26, Comal County has reported a total of 492 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases. It is the highest number of weekly reported cases since the week of January 25.

Williamson County data shows there are only 2% of intensive care unit beds available for coronavirus hospitalizations. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Williamson County drops to 13 available ICU beds as coronavirus cases climb

County data shows there are only 2% of intensive care unit beds available for coronavirus hospitalizations.

Rendering of a taproom and event hall
Dripping Springs business news: distillery expands with bar and event hall; new primary care clinic plans opening and more

Dripping Springs Distilling plans to add Distillers Bar and Distillers Hall to its property this summer.