The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s decision that temporarily protected Democratic lawmakers from arrest, allowing for the possibility that Democrats who staged a walkout last month to prevent a vote on restrictive voting laws could be forced to return to the Capitol.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) prodded the all-Republican high court to weigh in as the standoff enters its second month.
The reversal on Tuesday means House Democrats who fled could face arrest upon returning to the state. The Austin-American Statesman reports that at least four Democrats have returned to Texas but have not reported to the Capitol, thereby denying the chamber a quorum.
The lawmakers who left Texas and haven’t returned remain safe from arrest, as the state has no jurisdiction outside its borders.
Abbott called the session in a bid to force through a handful of election restrictions measures that failed to advance during the regular session.
Other bills on the docket would block transgender youth from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity, strengthen cash bail requirements and crack down on access to certain reproductive health care, among a litany of other hotly contested measures.
Just 13 of the state’s 67 Democrats are present, but all 82 members of Texas’ Republican contingent are on hand. That includes Rep. Travis Clardy, who tested positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks ago and went to the Capitol on Monday with a cough and a diminished sense of smell.