On Tuesday, Democrat State Rep. Michelle Beckley (Carrollton) announced that she would be donating the entirety of her per diem—the $10,000 of taxpayer money paid to her for being absent from work in July and August—to the Denton County Planned Parenthood.
Beckley was one of several Democrat House lawmakers who, enabled by House Republican leadership, busted quorum earlier this summer. She and her fellow Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., and ultimately paralyzed the Texas Legislature for upwards of 37 days, only to temporarily halt the consideration of bills like one relating to election integrity, which was finally signed into law last week.
Only a few Republican lawmakers made efforts to penalize their colleagues who caused the quorum paralysis, including fining them of their per diems, but their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. As such, nothing has been done to penalize those who bust quorum or to prevent them from doing it again.
A few days into the quorum break in the first called special legislative session in July, House Speaker Dade Phelan submitted a letter requesting that absent lawmakers return their legislative per diems, which are $221 per day, to the State Treasury. Though some of the fleeing House Democrat lawmakers had indicated that they would decline or return their per diem payments, only two did. This meant that the others, including Beckley, got paid for their absence from work.
“If the recent Republican attacks on women’s healthcare have shown us anything, it is that now, more than ever, is the time to act and support those doing the most good for women’s reproductive rights and healthcare,” Beckley said in a statement.
Beckley continued, “Therefore, I will be donating $10,076.89, my per diem from the 1st and 2nd Special Session received as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, to Planned Parenthood of Denton County in order to do my part to support their efforts to keep Texas women healthy.”
While absent from her duties in the first special legislative session, Beckley also announced her bid to challenge freshman Republican Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne (Irving). Beckley remained absent for the entirety of both the first and second special legislative sessions.
What Does it All Mean?
Some speculate that Beckley’s bid for Congress might have been motivated by a desire to avoid running for re-election with the looming redistricting process, especially as she only narrowly defeated her Republican candidate in the last two election cycles.
In the 2020 general election, Beckley won with 51.5 percent of the vote, compared to former Lewisville ISD board of trustees member Kronda Thimesch’s 48.5 percent. In 2018, Beckley ousted former State Rep. Ron Simmons (R–Carrollton) by a narrow majority of 51.1 percent.
As House Republican leadership remained reluctant to penalize absent lawmakers, they enabled Beckley and the other quorum-breakers, to be paid despite not rendering services to the state. As such, Beckley’s per diem, funded by taxpayer dollars, was used to support Planned Parenthood.