Labor Legislative Update - August 21, 2021

Aug. 21, 2021 — #29
Second Special Session Edition
Well, the night was falling as the desert world
Began to settle down
In the town they're searching for us everywhere
But we never will be found
Band on the run, band on the run
And the county judge who held a grudge
Will search forever more
—From “Band on the Run,” by Paul McCartney & Wings. Dave Grohl’s   sparkling 2010 White House performance, with McCartney’s current band backing him up:
I fought the law and the law won
—Refrain in “I Fought the Law,” the great pop standard written by Sonny Curtis. A version by The Bobby Fuller Four made the song a perennial. The late, great Texas singer Nanci Griffith performed the number with Curtis: (Then there’s the Nahuatl version performed by Natalia Lafourcade:
38 Days and 38 Nights Later, Great Quorum Break Ends — Late Thursday, the Texas House achieved a quorum, referred pending bills to committees, and adjourned. House Democrats killed the entire slate of bills in the first special session and stymied progress for nearly the first half of the second one. The Texas AFL-CIO praised the quorum break and noted the fight against warped priorities now moves to the Capitol. “The end of the quorum break is not the end of the struggle,” Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said. “It is just the next phase.” Levy cited the “heroic struggle and sacrifice” and “refusal to yield” of the holdouts, noting the Democrats made real progress toward congressional action on voting rights. Full statement:
More Like a Crowd Estimate Than a Count — When the quorum was pronounced, there were two vacancies in the House: former Rep. Jake Ellzey, a Republican from Waxahachie, had joined the U.S. House of Representatives and Rep. Leo Pacheco, D-San Antonio, had resigned to pursue college teaching. That dropped the two-thirds quorum requirement to 99. But media report the House attendance count may have been marred by members pushing the buttons of other members who were not actually present. Via House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner: “[B]ased on numerous media reports, it seems evident there was not a true quorum present today — ironic, given this entire session is premised around Republicans preaching about so-called voter integrity.” Any member present could have called for verification of the quorum, which would have required the Speaker to establish each member’s physical presence; no one did, and under House rules, it became official. Telicon listed 17 Democrats who joined 82 Republicans to form the quorum: Canales, Coleman, Dutton, Fierro, Mary Gonzalez, Guerra, Guillen, Hernandez, Herrero, Tracy King, Longoria, Lucio, Moody, Eddie Morales, Talarico, John Turner, Walle.
You’re Over ‘Arrest’ — Attainment of a quorum canceled the “Call on the House” and civil “arrest” warrants for unexcused Democrats, but not before the Texas Supreme Court weighed in with an opinion stating the Texas Constitution and House Rules permit physical detention of lawmakers for the purpose of returning them to the Capitol to do business. The unanimous ruling overturned a temporary restraining order preventing such civil “arrests” that had been issued in a district court. The House Sergeant-at-Arms went to legislative offices and some homes to deliver summons notices. Some GOP lawmakers called for escalating that tactic to take members into custody.
Resistance Is Not Futile — Resistance grew among school districts and other local governments to Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order barring local mask requirements. Attorney General Ken Paxton compiled a list of more than 60 school districts that are requiring masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The school districts were not intimidated, and some large cities and counties also imposed mask requirements of varying reach. Late this week, the Texas Supreme Court denied Abbott’s effort to obtain an extraordinary order to stop mask requirements in Travis County. (Earlier in the week, the high civil court had overturned a different judge’s order protecting mask requirements.) Sending up a brighter flare, the Texas Education Agency said it would not enforce Abbott’s order while the courts are considering it. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education pointed up the possibility of civil rights lawsuits from parents who fear their children could be exposed to COVID-19 because of Abbott’s order against masking requirements. 
Abbott Gets COVID-19 — Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott, who has insisted on a “personal responsibility” mantra to fight the virus, announced he tested positive for COVID-19, but has no symptoms. News reports stated Abbott was treated at the Governor’s Mansion with an expensive drug that until recently had been available only to patients with symptoms. Unconfirmed accounts stated that Abbott also received a vaccine booster shot before it will be available to the general public. The Governor’s diagnosis was announced a day after he attended a large, almost exclusively unmasked political gathering in Collin County, during which he posed for photos with attendees.
When It Rains…— The Capitol annex was flooded during a heavy (and localized) rainstorm Sunday, forcing the state to engage in an overnight mopping and drying operation. Officials called the episode “a fluke” and blamed the flooding on a clogged storm drain pipe, which has since been cleared. See video of the flooding: As bad as it looked, the water reportedly did not impede legislative staffs. 
Election Bill Hearing Monday — SB 1, the ULLCO-opposed voter suppression bill, is set for hearing 8 a.m. Monday before the recently formed House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights. Because of the pandemic, the committee has provided an option for you to make an official comment on the bill at this link: Reach your State Rep to OPPOSE SB 1 here:
New AFL-CIO Leadership — The AFL-CIO Executive Council elected Liz Shuler (IBEW) as AFL-CIO President and Fred Redmond (USW) as Secretary-Treasurer. Shuler, who had been Secretary-Treasurer, succeeds the late Rich Trumka. The unexpired terms in the offices run until June 2022. The Texas AFL-CIO congratulated the new national officers. Statement here:
What’s Next — The House returns 4 p.m. Monday and is expected to move quickly on agenda items chosen by Gov. Greg Abbott for the special session. The Senate, which returns 2 p.m. Monday, has passed almost all the items on the agenda, but has unfinished business with regard to funding of the Legislature and quorums. 

The Basics

How does the recently concluded House Democratic quorum bust rank in the annals of legislative history?
Pretty damned well. The quorum break of 38 days was not the longest in memory; that honor would go to the 46-day Texas Senate quorum bust in 2003 when Democrats sought to kill a congressional redistricting bill. But House Democrats who walked out garnered national notice for their fight against voter suppression and helped elevate the issue to the point where Congress is again considering federal voting rights legislation. Whatever happens next, the quorum break gained ground outside the Legislature.
Who is the most famous would-be quorum-buster of all time?
Very likely Abraham Lincoln, who literally scrambled out a window while in the Illinois House to try to prevent Democrats from closing a state bank. But, reports, the majority ruled the quorum had been present and passed the bill. Note: Lincoln was a Whig at the time.
Can sergeants-at-arms really drag lawmakers kicking and screaming to a legislative chamber?
The Texas Supreme Court clearly suggested it’s possible in Texas, though the just-completed episode didn’t come to that. In the U.S. Senate in 1988, however, Republicans were resisting a campaign finance bill and sought to bust quorum. Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Oregon, hid out in his office, but sergeants found him and his effort to force the door shut on them did not prevail. Packwood then walked to the Senate chamber but requested he be dragged in feet first, which happened.
Should we attach any blame to sergeants-at-arms for such behavior?
No way. The Texas House sergeant-at-arms, by all accounts, was doing his dedicated best to secure attendance during the quorum break, and there need be no speculation on what might have happened had the quorum break continued. In 1942, however, a U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-arms named Chesley Jurney paid a heavy price for bringing Sen. Kenneth McKellar back to the chamber after McKellar departed to try to kill a bill outlawing poll taxes. The Tennessee senator blocked Jurney’s reappointment and told President Franklin Roosevelt not to even think of appointing Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barkley later became Vice President to President Harry Truman.
What’s the most ‘preposterous’ quorum break ever?
According HistoryNet (to, the “stink bomb” incident in Rhode Island in 1924 probably takes that honor. Senate Republicans actually placed a rag soaked in poison behind the rostrum to knock out Senators and keep them, literally, on the floor. From the website: “When the chamber was aired out and the Senate called back into session, the Republicans boycotted, claiming fear of ‘probable violence.’ They fled to a hotel in Rutland, Mass., and stayed there for six months. Meanwhile, a consortium of banks lent the state enough money to pay its bills until the next Senate—which was overwhelmingly Republican—took office and finally passed an appropriations bill.”

Bill Positions

ULLCO OPPOSED two bills that would prohibit mask mandates in public schools — HB 141 by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano and HB 127 by Rep. Jeff Cason, R-Bedford. 
ULLCO also OPPOSED a third bill, HB 128 by Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, which would bar the Governor or local officials from issuing mask orders unless the Legislature authorizes them.