Jun 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Governor defunds Texas legislature over voting reform block

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) during a signing ceremony in Austin on June 8.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) during a signing ceremony in Austin on June 8. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed funding for the state's legislature on Friday as he promised to do earlier in June after state Democrats staged a walkout to protest and block a GOP-back voting reform bill.

Why it matters: Funding is no longer lined up for the entire state legislature — including the paychecks of state lawmakers and their staff members and the budgets of legislative agencies — though it is unclear if the unprecedented veto is constitutional, according to the Texas Tribune.

State House Democrats in late May broke quorum and prevented the chamber from passing Senate Bill 7, a sweeping overhaul of elections in the state that in part places numerous restrictions on several types of voting in the states.

  • Voting advocacy organizations, civil rights groups and state Democrats have warned that Texas' bill targets people of color and marginalized groups. Major corporations like HP, Microsoft and Unilever urged state lawmakers to reject it.
  • Abbott has threatened to call the legislature back for a special session to pass the overhaul bill.

What they're saying: According to the Tribune, Abbott said in a statement that “funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”

  • “I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations,” he added.

The other side: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner in a statement called Abbott's veto an "abuse of power."

  • "Texas has a governor, not a dictator. The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that Governor Greg Abbott is simply out of control," Turner added.

The big picture: Alongside restrictions on forms of voting, the bill also includes provisions that would raise criminal penalties on election administrators and workers for committing loosely defined offenses during elections, according to the States United Democracy Center, a bipartisan organization created to protect democratic norms.

  • One provision, for example, makes it a felony for an election worker to solicit a person to submit an early voting ballot application unless the official knows that the person had already requested an application.
  • The bill would also make it easier for losing parties to contest elections results and gives courts the ability to overturn those results in certain cases.
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