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What Happens When Paychecks Stop At The Capitol?

a closeup view of empy chairs and desks in the state house chamber
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
The Texas House of Representatives.

From Texas Standard:

In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed much of the state's legislative budget to punish lawmakers for not passing his priority voting legislation. The veto has meant that beginning Sept. 1, lawmakers, their staff members and many other employees at the Capitol will not be paid.

Michael Green is a law professor and director of the Workplace Law Program at Texas A&M University School of Law. He told Texas Standard that state and federal laws require employers to pay employees for the work they perform. The Texas payday law guarantees that employees who work get paid.

"Once you've done certain work, people rely on their paycheck," Green said. "And it's kind of to protect people from having their paycheck screwed around with at the last minute, by the employer."

Even if the employer has a problem with the way a worker had done the job, the issue isn't supposed to be addressed by withholding pay.

But, Green says, the Texas Payday Law does not cover governmental bodies and the federal law that guarantees pay for work specifically does not apply to legislative bodies.

"It's a really kind of unique exception and, like I said, I've never seen something like this where it might come up so it'll be interesting to see what happens," Green said.

Green expects legislative workers will eventually be compensated, but that it may take a while before complaints can be filed and ruled upon.

"And if you live paycheck to paycheck, that really is an issue," Green said.

He says he hopes a resolution can be worked out that would not impact the compensation of lawmakers and their staff.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.