Texas Gov. Greg Abbott probably thought he had checkmated Democrats in the state legislature last week when he vetoed a portion of the state budget that funds the workings of the body, essentially defunding the state’s legislative branch. The Republican made his move after Democrats blocked approval of new Republican-written voting suppression laws by walking out of the House chamber before a vote on the measure.
But now a group of Texas House Democrats, state employees and others have executed their own gambit and have petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to override the governor’s retaliatory veto. More than 60 Democratic members of the House signed a petition for a writ of mandamus, which was filed Friday morning. Joining in the action is the House Democratic Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, four state employees and the Texas AFL-CIO.
Chad Dunn, an attorney involved with the petition, told reporters, “The state is in a constitutional crisis at this moment.” The petition argues that Abbott exceeded his executive authority and violated the state’s separation of powers doctrine. The parties are asking the all-Republican court to find Abbott’s veto unconstitutional, which would allow Article X of the state budget, the section at issue, to become law later this year.
Commenting on the petition, State Rep. Chris Turner, a Democrat from Grand Prairie, previously called Abbott’s defunding of the legislative branch an “abuse of power.” “Texas has a governor, not a dictator,” Turner said in a statement. “The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that [Abbott] is simply out of control.”
Turner also pointed out that Abbott’s move does more than just harm lawmakers, who are paid $600 a month, financially. More than 2,000 employees in the state’s legislative branch also will see their income dry up if the veto is not overturned and funding restored. “This isn’t about [lawmakers’] paychecks,” Turner said. “What he’s doing is hurting our staff and hurting our constituents.”