Texas Lawmakers, Texas AFL-CIO, and State Workers Respond
Gov. Abbott’s Friday Announcement of Limited, Temporary Funding Does Not Solve the Constitutional Crisis
Austin, TX — Today, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition brought by 66 Texas lawmakers, several affected state employees, and the Texas AFL-CIO seeking to halt Texas Gov. Abbott’s unconstitutional act to defund the separate and co-equal Legislative Branch.
Without the reinstatement of legislative funding, more than 2,000 affected state employees are set to soon lose their income and benefits. To prepare, staffers are making tough financial and life planning decisions and are experiencing considerable stress. Many staffers will soon be unable to make ends meet for themselves and their families.
In response to the Court’s decision, Democracy Forward President & CEO Skye Perryman issued the following statement:
“While our team continues to review the Court’s decision, a few things are clear: In a democracy, the government derives its power from the people. In Texas, Governor Abbott violated this fundamental principle when he defunded the legislative branch of government—the branch that represents the people of Texas—after it refused to pass legislation that suppressed the right of the people to vote. We are disappointed that the Texas Supreme Court failed to stop this abuse of power, which hurts our clients and the more than 2,000 other hard-working civil servants whose jobs remain in the balance. That Governor Abbott’s veto violates the Texas Constitution and threatens democracy is a position supported by a broad bipartisan coalition of current and former Texas lawmakers and legal scholars. As threats to democracy play out in statehouses across the country, we will not be deterred in our fight to ensure that people have their voices heard in government, including in Texas.”
Rick Levy, President of the Texas AFL-CIO issued the following statement:
“We are extremely disappointed to see the Texas Supreme Court empower Governor Abbott to deny more than 2,000 state workers their livelihoods, denying our petition challenging the Governor’s unprecedented and unconstitutional veto. The Court’s decision is a threat to democracy and to working families, as acknowledged by a broad bipartisan coalition of current and former lawmakers from both parties who supported our challenge to the veto. The facts remain that the Governor vetoed the existence of the entire legislative branch of government as retaliation for failing to pass his plan attacking Texans’ freedom to vote. Governor Abbott continues to abuse his authority to prevent school districts, Mayors and County officials from protecting our families from the coronavirus delta variant. Greg Abbott may think he is above the law, and the Supreme Court may embolden this view, but working families will continue to fight for our democracy and for the health and well-being of Texas families.”
Under the Texas Constitution, one branch of government cannot effectively abolish another. But that is precisely what Governor Abbott did in June when he vetoed the Legislature’s funding for the next two years.
On June 25, 66 Texas lawmakers, several affected state employees, and the Texas AFL-CIO filed suit in the Texas Supreme Court seeking expeditious consideration of a petition to reject the governor’s unconstitutional veto and allow the state Legislature to be funded. This petition is supported by leading legal scholars and current and former elected officials from both parties.
When the Texas House of Representatives did not pass several bills supported by Governor Greg Abbott in May—including a restrictive election bill—Governor Abbott retaliated by vetoing funding for the state Legislature’s operations. This action effectively eliminated the co-equal branch of government for the next two years. This action remains unprecedented, unlawful, and coercive.
As a result of Governor Abbott’s action, funding for the state Legislature will soon run dry. Having announced a special session that will extend into September, and having left the Legislature with no funds to operate, last Friday Governor Abbott announced the reallocation of some limited, temporary funding for the state Legislature to operate during that special session. Gov. Abbott’s announcement of short-term stopgap funding does not solve the constitutional crisis.
The Texas AFL-CIO and individual staff are represented by Jim Dunnam of Dunnam & Dunnam and lawyers at Democracy Forward. The Legislative Members and caucuses are represented by Chad Dunn of Brazil & Dunn and Kevin Vickers of Brady & Peavey.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization founded in 2017 to litigate challenges to unlawful executive branch action on behalf of organizations, individuals, and municipalities. The organization has taken 650 legal actions and reversed dozens of harmful policies. Democracy Forward is expanding its work, building on its success to confront unlawful threats to democracy and social progress.