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Central Texas state rep. questions constitutionality of Gov. Abbott’s veto of funding for legislature

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 4:06 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Texas state lawmakers — including those in the Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s party — are calling out his decision to veto a portion of the state budget that funds the Legislative branch, including state lawmakers, their staffs and other legislative agencies.

Abbott did so in retaliation against dozens of Democratic lawmakers who walked out of the House chamber in late May and ultimately ran out the clock on SB 7, the far-reaching voting bill that would have limited access to voting in Texas and imposed new penalties on election officials.

“I think the real question is the constitutionality of one branch of government being able to eliminate the funding for another branch of government, and I’m not sure how that’s going to play out constitutionally,” state Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, told KWTX.

“I think there’s going to be some lawsuits filed in that regard,” he said.

There will be no funds for the legislative branch starting in September unless lawmakers can meet in a special session and pass a supplemental budget restoring their funding.

“This is unprecedented,” Shine said.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, agreed that this is “something we haven’t seen before.”

“This is a new model of how Republican governors have acted in Texas where Rick Perry would have just called them back into a special session the next day, you have Gov. Abbott taking a much more aggressive tactic and vetoing the entirety of the legislative branch,” Rottinghaus said.

He said that decision has upset lawmakers in both parties and could drum up political vengeance.

“When the governor says, ‘We want you to spend some money on a border wall’ or ‘We want you to put limits on taxpayer-funded lobbying,’ it might be that the Legislature just out of solidarity with their own institution says no to everything the governor says,” he said.

The governor is expected to call a special session in July, Shine said, and another one in the fall to address redistricting.

Abbott has vetoed 20 bills from the legislative session, including a bipartisan anti-animal cruelty bill that would have banned people from using heavy chains to tether dogs.

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