Abbott’s Rebuke Of State Legislature Funding Focal Point During Weekend Of Vetoes

Gov. Abbott followed through on a threat to veto pay for state lawmakers and their staff as punishment for Democrats’ quorum break which killed a highly-charged, Republican-led voting bill.

By Jill AmentJune 21, 2021 11:58 am

It’s unclear whether Abbott’s line-item veto to defund state lawmakers and their staff is constitutional. Houston Chronicle politics reporter Cayla Harris said at issue is whether one branch of government can constitutionally defund another.

“It’s something that Democrats are pursuing as a legal matter,” Harris said.

State lawmakers make around $7,000 a year. But Harris says it’s really the lawmakers’ staffs that will be hit the hardest by this veto.

“Their staffs, this is their livelihoods,” Harris said. “Critics [of the veto] have said this would be a really horrible thing for them… to lose their entire paycheck.”

Gov. Abbott is expected to call a special session over the voting bill, Senate Bill 7, that House Democrats walked out on at the end of the regular session in May. Democrats have said the bill makes voting less accessible, while Republicans believe the measure would bolster election integrity. Harris said it’s possible funding could be restored if lawmakers do reconvene to take up  SB7.

“It’s fuzzy on how exactly they would do that, but potentially they could take up some measure to restore funding,” Harris said. “I imagine if the Governor were to add that to the list to items that legislators take up, it would be kind of hinged on a version of SB7 passing.”

While Democrats have expressed outrage over Abbott’s move to rescind state lawmaker pay, Republican leaders such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have indicated support for the decision. Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan, however, has expressed hesitancy towards the veto threatening the pay of legislative staff. Phelan told the Texas Tribune earlier this month he was concerned how it would impact staff, saying he felt like it wasn’t their decision to walk out on the House floor and break quorum.

Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott also vetoed 21 other measures over the weekend. Sunday was the deadline for the Governor to announce his vetoes. Harris said other vetoes that stood out included legislation that would have banned hypnosis during criminal investigations.

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