Texas Democrat leaves Washington to return to state, risking arrest


One of the nearly 60 Democrats who fled the state of Texas and traveled to Washington, D. C., this month to stonewall a pair of GOP-backed voting bills has returned to Austin to engage in “good faith dialogue” on the legislation.

Lone Star State Rep. Philip Cortez announced his decision in a Wednesday statement after he said colleagues at the Capitol requested his presence to oppose one of the two bills floating through the Texas Legislature.

“I proudly stood with my Democratic colleagues and left Texas to ensure House Bill 3 would not be approved as introduced,” he said. “A small working group of Democrats decided to begin active discussions here in Austin on improving HB 3 and asked that I return to establish open communication lines.”

“I returned to Texas to try to engage in good faith dialogue about the aspects of the bill that I, and others, think are harmful,” he added.

Cortez’s departure marks the second time a lawmaker left the district after state Rep. Harold Dutton returned to Texas over family matters, namely over concerns that he would expose his sister, who is undergoing chemotherapy, to the coronavirus after at least six of his colleagues tested positive for COVID-19 since they initially fled Austin. Neither of the two has been arrested despite statements from Gov. Greg Abbott that the intentionally absent legislators would be apprehended upon their return.

The Democrats’ move began earlier in the month after Abbott called a special session to deliberate on Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, a pair of legislation that would ban drive-thru voting, implement more comprehensive voter identification requirements for mail-in ballots, and prohibit officials from sending voting applications to those who did not request them. S. B. 1 was passed by the Senate amid the lawmaker’s departure, but H.B. 3 has been stalled as the House lacks the two-thirds quorum necessary to vote on the legislation.

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