Democrats celebrate the end of the Texas special session, but it may be short-lived

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- As the special session came to a close, Texas Democrats celebrated, but the victory might be short-lived.

DEMOCRATS SUCCESSFULLY STALL THE GOVERNOR'S SPECIAL SESSION

A few weeks ago, 57 House Democrats and several Senate Democratic leaders left Texas during the special session. Because of this, there weren't enough House members to hold a quorum.

SEE RELATED: What it means to break quorum in Texas House of Representatives

House republicans met each day, but they weren't allowed to debate or vote on bills. Many of the Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. and stayed there.

On Friday, many of them spoke outside the U.S. Capitol, thrilled they stalled items at the capitol in Austin.

"We stuck together," said State Rep. Senfronia Thompson. "We didn't think we could, but we did."

As Democrats celebrated out of state, Republicans are growing anxious.

"We don't have much to celebrate right now," State Rep. Jacey Jetton said. "We went through a whole special session where we weren't able to get anything accomplished because quorum was broke."

As Democrats celebrated 1,500 miles away, Republicans are getting ready to do it again. On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a second special session to begin on Saturday.

SEE RELATED: Quorum-busting Texas House Democrats still plotting next move ahead of second special session

"They need to get out of the swamp and get back to Texas, and talk to real Texans and what we can do to help real Texans, like property tax relief, and bond reform," said State Sen. Paul Bettencourt.

It's unclear if Democrats will return. During a news conference on Friday, they mentioned some members would be remembered in D.C.

"If you're looking for us to telegraph exactly what we're looking to do over the next couple of days, we're not able to do that at this time," said State Rep. Chris Turner. "I think the governor would love us to do that, but we're not going to."

ABC13 asked State Rep. Jon Rosenthal if he plans to return.

"I'm not going to answer that at this time," Rosenthal told us.

ELECTION INTEGRITY BACK ON THE AGENDA

Democrats left the state because of the election integrity bill, which Abbott added to the second special session.

Democrats don't like how it eliminated 24-hour and drive-thru voting. They also worry it gives poll watchers too much power.

"It makes it harder to vote and easier to cheat," Rosenthal said. "Easier to intimidate voters. Easier to shave points."

Republicans argue it makes voting safer and more uniformed across the state. A new special session means it'll have to be a new bill, but lawmakers believe it'll be very similar to what was debated in committees during the special session in July.

"We've got voter harvester crackdowns," Bettencourt said. "That's not voter suppression. There's not a single Jim Crow law that you could point to in that bill."

RELATED: Sheila Jackson Lee arrested in Washington: 'I will never stop fighting for voting rights'

NEW ITEMS ON THE SECOND SPECIAL SESSION

Abbott added several additional items to the special session, including mask mandates in schools. He banned them with an executive order, but Houston ISD is considering defying it.

There's also an item to tackle lawmakers breaking quorum in the future. Several bills will be interested in the House.

"There should be consequences for walking out on the job," Jetton said. "There are consequences for anybody else that walks out on the job. Whatever we're able to do to address that I'm wholeheartedly in favor of."

The measure is unlikely to pass. It would require two-thirds approval, which means Democrats would have to get on board.

"They want to mess with a constitution provision, and you need 100 votes to do that, and I can pretty much guarantee you that's not going to be there for them," Rosenthal said.

Both the lieutenant governor and the House speaker said on Friday that they plan to gavel the special session on Saturday. The amount of work that gets accomplished in the next 30 days is dependent on if enough House Democrats return.

Republicans said since Democrats left the state, the special session cost Texans $1,082,250, which includes salaries and per diems. Many Democrats vow to return the per diem.

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