Indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes told KUT that the reason Texas House records show that she has missed nine out of the first 14 days of the legislative session is that her colleagues are not marking her present when she is in the chamber but not at her desk, a common practice.
“Absolutely, I’ve been there and the journal is not always correct,” Dukes, an Austin Democrat, told KUT. “Apparently there’s a new one or two that don’t know the process.”
Dukes’ comments to KUT come a day after the American-Statesman reported that she had missed all but five of the first 14 days the House has met, according to the daily House journal. Dukes did not respond to a request for comment for that story.
A Statesman reporter has been present for most days the House has met so far, and Dukes was not in the chamber for many of them. Her desk is directly in front of the seating area for journalists.
Dukes’ claim that she was in the House even when marked absent is problematic.
When a legislator is running late or is away from his or her desk, other members near the desk often mark the legislator present or even cast votes for the absent legislator, a practice allowed under House rules. Dukes is arguing that new members unfamiliar with the practice have failed to cast votes for her.
If that were the case, Dukes would likely be shown as absent for some votes and present for others, when she was near her desk. But in each of the days the Statesman cited as Dukes being absent, Dukes was marked absent for every vote the House took that day.
In the 2015 legislative session, Dukes missed 84 percent of House votes and 44 of 50 committee meetings, House records show. She cited medical issues stemming from a 2013 car crash as the reason for her absences last session.