HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Texas House Democrats have been out of the state in protest of a special session voting bill for over a week now. So far, they have succeeded in stopping the voting bill from moving forward, but there are other items on the special session agenda being held up as well.
There are eleven items on the special session set by Governor Greg Abbott.
Republicans and Governor Abbott have said that by leaving the state, Democrats are harming their constituents.
“There are a lot of good measures on the bill,” said Texas House Republican Caucus leader Jim Murphy, who represents District 133 in Houston. “We want to help the retired teachers, we’ve got a great bill on bail reform, we’re talking today – doing a press conference shortly on things we’re doing for foster kids.”
One of the focal points for Republican efforts to show that the actions of Democrats are harming people is a bill that would give retired teachers a “thirteenth check”.
According to Murphy, the raise was a long time coming.
“The way to think about that, that’s like an 8% raise—you get 12 checks. And so that’s a significant boost of income to teachers who have not had an increase in 17 years,” he said.
Versions of the bill were worked on in both the state Senate and House, but no unified version was ever decided on before the end of the normal session on May 31.
The bill, which was House Bill 3507 during the regular session, had bipartisan support and was sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats in the House.
Murphy explained to KVEO that the bill didn’t move forward because “the funds just simply weren’t available” to be appropriated for use in the bill during the regular session due to a still—weakened pandemic economy.
Another bill on the agenda for the special session would reform the bail process in Texas.
House Bill 20i was a Republican-led bill and was sponsored only by Republicans in the House. It did have some bipartisan support during the voting process when 19 House Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
Murphy said the bill would make it more difficult for the people who are accused of committing violent offenses to get bail, “it doesn’t allow it for violent offenders”, and easier for less violent crimes.
According to Murphy, the bill would also change how “pre-trial confinement” is handled.
“Some people can be in jail for months awaiting a trial for a relatively minor crime; we don’t want that to happen,” said Murphy.
Those bills and others will have to wait for now, because House Democrats have indicated that they are prepared to stay away from the state for the duration of the current special session.
Governor Abbott has already said he would call more special sessions if necessary.
Murphy said Democrats could do more good back in Texas.
“We need them here, not just to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but to help shape the ideas and influence their colleagues. They know we listen to them. And all the good things we’ve achieved here in the Texas House, and they’re many, have been achieved with bipartisan support,” said Murphy.