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Texas House reaches quorum, will get back to work in second special session

Three Houston Democrats returned to Austin on Thursday, and House Speaker Dade Phelan announced a quorum has been reached.

AUSTIN, Texas — After nearly six weeks, the Texas House finally reached quorum during Thursday's special session.  House Democrats had been staying away to block a GOP voting bill.

Democratic Reps. Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle -- all from Houston -- returned to Austin as the House reached the necessary members present.

After returning, Rep. Coleman delivered the invocation. You can watch video of that in the window above.

At around 6:15 p.m., Speaker Dade Phelan made the announcement. Shortly after, the House adjourned until 4 p.m. Monday.

In a letter posted to Rep. Ana Hernandez's Twitter account, the three House Democrats mentioned COVID-19, the surge in cases and the need to protect Texas students as their reasons for returning.

"It's time to move past these partisan legislative calls, and to come together to help our state mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 surge by allowing public health officials to do their jobs, provide critical resources for school districts to conduct virtual learning when necessary, while also ensuring schools are a safe place for in-person instruction and will not become a series of daily super-spreader events," part of their letter read.

According to the Texas Tribune, the House reached quorum with 99 members present instead of the necessary 100, saying the threshold was lowered by one after the retirement of Leo Pacheco (D-San Antonio) went into effect. Also, U.S. Rep. Jake Ellesy, who was previously the state representative for the 10th district of Texas, resigned effective Thursday to take his congressional seat, according to KVUE.

Late Thursday night, House Democratic Chair Chris Turner released a statement, questioning if it was a true quorum. 

The second special legislative session began on Aug. 7 after no quorum was reached in the first one. During that first special session, House Democrats went to Washington D.C. to keep the election bill from moving forward.

Back in May, House Democrats tried to kill the bill when they walked out of the House chamber before the regular session deadline, preventing passage.

After that, Gov. Abbott called the first special session that began in July and led to the more than 50 Democrats leaving for D.C.

Republicans say the Texas voting bill would protect election integrity. Democrats say the bill is voter suppression.

With a quorum, Republicans are back on track to pass new Texas elections laws before the second special session ends on Sept. 5.