Proposition 11: Recorded votes

The Chron has begun a series of articles on the various constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this November. First up is Prop 11, which will require recorded votes in the Legislature.

Legislators brag about some votes they cast at the state Capitol but try to hide from others.

Hiding would become more difficult, although not impossible, if Texas voters approve Proposition 11 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

This constitutional amendment would require the House and the Senate to take record votes on final passage of all legislation, except some local bills. Each lawmaker’s vote would be recorded in the House or Senate journals for later public review and also be available on the Internet for at least two years.

Media organizations and other open-government groups, such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, support the amendment as an opportunity to shed more light — or provide more accountability — in the lawmaking process. But they admit the proposal is limited.

“It’s clearly better than nothing, but it’s not as strong as it should be,” said Suzy Woodford, spokeswoman for Common Cause of Texas.

For one thing, House and Senate rules already require record votes on final passage of bills. Those rules, however, can be changed from session to session. A constitutional requirement would lock in the practice.

The Senate has been taking record votes on final passage of bills since 2005, and the House, yielding to pressure from open-government advocates, put a similar requirement in its rules for the first time during this year’s session.

But the rules and Proposition 11 don’t require the recording of thousands of other votes, most notably on preliminary, or second-reading, approval of bills and on amendments that are offered during second-reading debate — the step when most major decisions on legislation are made.

The speaker and lieutenant governor grant record votes when they are requested by lawmakers. Three members have to make such a request in the Senate and one in the House.

Hundreds of amendments to bills, some of major significance, are approved or killed each session without a permanent record of how legislators voted on them.

“Some of those are the most crucial votes,” Woodford said. “I think their (legislators’) constituents would be very interested in how they voted on some of these controversial amendments.”

It’s a start. I see no obvious reason why anyone would vote against this, and I think it’s highly unlikely there will be any organized opposition to it. If it doesn’t pass easily, like say with 75% of the vote or more, I’ll be surprised.

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2 Responses to Proposition 11: Recorded votes

  1. Gary Denton says:

    Doesn’t eliminate the problem of ghost votes. Legislators often run around and vote for those not there. That should be made illegal but won’t be.

  2. Joe says:

    Like you said, it’s a start. It won’t make much of a difference one way or the other, voice votes and division votes on 2nd reading and amendments are where we need some transparency. Kronberg hit the nail on the head here:

    And Gary, as long as the Lege only has 140 days every 2 years to make laws, you’ll continue to see ghost voting. I personally don’t think it’s a terrible thing, members tell their deskmates how they are voting so they can be on the record if they are away from their desks. If you wanted every member to sit at their desk for every vote, nothing would get done.

    Ghost voting isn’t an issue, it’s the little amount of time lawmakers have to pass legislation. Real reform should start with a full time Lege.

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