Rebel Texas Democrats Holed Up in Oklahoma - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/12/03

Rebel Texas Democrats Holed Up in Oklahoma

Democrats, angry with the new Republican leadership of the Texas House, brought the chamber to a standstill by failing to show up Monday.

Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick responded by ordering state troopers and the elite Texas Rangers to find and arrest the missing lawmakers. It was discovered late Monday that most of the 56 missing lawmakers are in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Ardmore is on Interstate 35, about 30 miles north of the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Craddick said Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were en route to a Holiday Inn in the city to tell 40-plus members to return to Austin. The troopers have no legal authority to arrest the lawmakers, but Craddick said he made a plane available to Democrats who chose to come back so that the House can continue state business. Craddick said the lawmakers were dining at Denny's when the announcement was made to cheering Republicans.

Later, Craddick announced the House would "stand at ease" until 9am Tuesday morning. He wrote passes for lawmakers in Austin to leave the House Chamber, which had been locked down. Craddick said House members in Ardmore told DPS troopers there that they're not coming back to Texas.

A Democratic lawmaker, on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the members weren't concerned about being arrested and continued to believe they were doing the right thing. The rebel Democrats are planning a news conference Tuesday afternoon at 1pm, in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

The Democrats' quorum-busting boycott capped months of tension between Democrats and the newly-in-control Republicans. It also occurred as the chamber was scheduled to debate a congressional redistricting plan opposed by Democrats.

House rules allow for the arrest of members who intentionally thwart a quorum.

The Texas House cannot conduct legislative business without at least 100 of the 150 members present, and 58 of the 62 Democrats were absent.

If Democrats stay away through Thursday, they could derail major pending bills, including a budget-balancing government reorganization proposal. Thursday is the deadline for preliminary passage of House bills.

Three weeks are left in the legislative session, which ends June second.

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