Now that state Rep. Dawnna Dukes of Austin has been indicted on charges of collecting pay on days she never showed up at the state Capitol, her attendance record has improved. Slightly.
Dukes managed to attend 45.5 percent of the 2,061 votes taken by the House in the legislative session that just ended.
While that number is still far below all of her colleagues, it is an improvement from the 2015 session, when she appeared for just 18.5 percent of the votes taken.
Nobody was close to Dukes’ total of 1,122 missed votes. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg was second in missed votes, with 309, although Speaker Joe Straus was absent even more often.
The speaker doesn’t vote except to break a tie, his job being to preside over the session, but Straus had somebody else filling in for him on 52.3 percent of recorded votes.
Dukes has said that a car accident in 2013 has caused her health problems that affect her attendance, but that’s not the only problem she’s facing.
Dukes was indicted in January on 15 corruption charges carrying a maximum penalty of 28 years in prison.
These include two misdemeanor counts of abuse of official capacity related to using office staff for personal errands and using campaign funds for personal expenses.
They also include 13 felony counts of tampering with public records over allegations that she collected per diem pay in 2014 on days when she did not actually “travel” to the Capitol. Dukes’ district is in Austin.
Dukes’ response by text to a reporter’s query raised more questions than it answered.
“Per diem request must be submitted,” she wrote. “Plain and simple, I did not submit request forms for per diem during the time period. Any assumption that I did not make a request is or was associated with any reason other than I chose to not do so is falsely and patently INCORRECT.”
The 12-term lawmaker has delayed her criminal trial so far by employing a legislative continuance, a special perk lawmakers grant themselves to delay court proceedings involving them for the duration of the legislative session.
If she is convicted and sentenced to prison, she will be expected to attend 100 percent of the dates.
Jon Cassidy can be reached at [email protected]