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Tribune News Service

Democrats continue to deny a quorum in Texas House as civil arrest warrants delivered to law enforcement

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Democrats on Wednesday continued to deny Republicans a quorum in the House, as Speaker Dade Phelan delivered 52 civil arrest warrants to state law enforcement to corral the absent members.

A group of nearly 60 Democrats left the state a month ago in an attempt to block passage of a GOP-backed voting bill during the first special session of the year and most have yet to return to the Capitol.

Four days into the second special session, House Republicans on Tuesday voted to direct state law enforcement to bring absent members to the floor, the second time such a vote has been taken during the quorum-bust. The use of civil arrest warrants is not mandatory under the vote, but an option that Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont, has decided to use.

The House gaveled in briefly Wednesday for those lawmakers present on the floor to collect their permission slips to leave the chamber for the day. The chamber will return to session Thursday afternoon.

“The speaker issued this warrant for my arrest last night,” state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, an Austin Democrat, said in a tweet. “Arresting me is the only way they will get me back in that House.”

Rodriguez is one of a group of more than a dozen members remaining in Washington, even as other Democrats have returned home to Texas or traveled to other locations outside the state. Democrats were able to avoid the reach of state law enforcement during the first special session of the year by crossing state lines.

They left the state to block passage of legislation to make changes to voting procedures in Texas that Republicans say will improve election integrity but Democrats argue will disenfranchise Texas voters, primarily people of color.