Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan Calls on AWOL Democrats to Return Daily Per Diem
By virtue of the Texas Constitution, the annual pay rates for Texas state representatives and state senators can be described as part-time as best. $600 per month ($7,200 annual), plus a daily per diem of $221 for the reps and senators when the Texas Legislature is in session.
Right now, the legislature is in the midst of a 30-day special session, but for 50 or so Democrats, that's not the case. Those Democrats have fled the state to Washington, D.C. to break the quorum needed to conduct business in the Texas House. The Democrats who fled the state are also campaigning against election reform and some of the other agenda items for Governor Greg Abbott's special session. However, due to state law, all state representatives and state senators are being paid their daily per diem, even if they aren't in Austin to conduct state business.
On Wednesday, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan called out the Democrats who fled the state. Specifically, for still accepting their daily per diem.
"Texas Democrats currently in Washington continue to collect their legislative per diem of $221 during regular and special sessions, which equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars during the course of this special session," Speaker Phelan said. "While these Texas Democrats collect taxpayer money as they ride on private jets to meet with the Washington elite, those who remain in the chamber await their return to begin work on providing our retired teachers a 13th check, protecting our foster kids, and providing taxpayer relief. Those who are intentionally denying quorum should return their per diem to the State Treasury immediately upon receipt."
FOX News reported that Texas Democratic Caucus chair State Rep. Chris Turner said he would be keeping his per diem. When asked if he, or his colleagues who left Texas, would be giving back any of their pay since they were not currently in the state, he said, "We're working harder doing what we’re doing right now than we would be if we had stayed in the chamber."
Governor Greg Abbott has gone on the record saying the Democratic lawmakers that fled Texas during this special session will be arrested. "Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol and we will be conducting business,." Governor Abbott told FOX News' Laura Ingraham. "We have special sessions that last 30 days. And the governor calls them, and I will continue calling special session after special session because over time it is going to continue until they step up to vote."
Right now, there is no mechanism in place to force the Democrats who fled, to return their per diem. But that may change in the future, the longer this group of AWOL (absent without leave) politicians stay out of state.