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Law enforcement deputized to track down Democrats after Texas Supreme Court overrules effort to block arrests

Three Houston judges were trying to temporarily protect dozens of Democrats from civil arrest for staying away from the special session at the Capitol.

HOUSTON — Texas law enforcement was deputized Thursday to track down Texas House Democrats still missing from the chamber and bring them to the state Capitol in Austin, a process that Speaker Dade Phelan's office said: "will begin in earnest immediately."

"Earlier today the House Sergeant-at-Arms deputized members of Texas law enforcement to assist in the House's efforts to compel a quorum," Phelan's spokesperson Enrique Marquez told KHOU's Janelle Bludau who is in Austin covering the Lone Star Showdown.

If lawmakers are arrested, they will not face criminal charges or fines and could only be brought to the House chamber, the Texas Tribune reports.

Thursday afternoon, the Texas Supreme Court overruled Harris County Judges who signed orders to protect Democrats from being arrested for breaking quorum, Bludau reported.

It was the latest move in the legal chess match between Republicans and Democrats over a controversial GOP voting bill that Dems are trying to fight by staying away from the Capitol.

Phelan, R-Beaumont, signed warrants earlier this week for the House members who haven't shown up for the second special session.

The three state district judges were trying to temporarily protect more them from civil arrest for being absent from the state House, state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Wu was granted the same order by one of those state district judges, Judge Chris Morton of the 230th Criminal District Court, which the lawmaker said temporarily shields him against the warrant should law enforcement track him down.

The Senate passed the voting bill Thursday shortly after Houston Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) ended her 15-hour filibuster. She stood non-stop and talked about the bill thanks to a back brace, catheter and sneakers. 

WATCH: ALVARADO TALKS TO KHOU ABOUT FILIBUSTER

A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott called the move by Democrats "just another stall tactic in a long line of stunts by the Texas Democrats, all of which have failed" and said the court this week "swiftly rejected [their] dangerous attempt to undermine our Constitution."

"Texas Democrats need to stop avoiding doing the job they were elected to do and get back to work," Renae Eze said in a statement.

 

This story is from our news partners at the Texas Tribune. Read more here.

Janelle Bludau on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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