Texas Senate Rules to Allow 'Light' in Through Record Votes
By J. Lyn Carl, GalleryWatch.com
Austin, TX –
The sunlight continues to shine in the State Capitol, as the Texas Senate today followed the actions earlier in the day of the Texas and made rule changes that allow for more record votes on the Senate floor.
There has been a public and media outcry in recent months for more record votes in both chambers so that the public could see how members of the House and Senate vote on legislation in their respective chambers.
Following a Senate Caucus this morning, Senate Dean John Whitmire (D-Houston) laid out SR 11, the Senate's rules resolution, and explained the changes relative to record votes.
Whitmire said that in his 22 years in the Senate, "I have never seen a time when a substantive bill was passed without there being a record (vote). I'm very proud of the operation of this body." Whitmire said even when a record vote is not required, such as on procedural matters, any member of the Senate can ask the presiding officer for a record vote and get one.
The Dean explained that the Senate has in the past used voice votes on procedural issues to expedite matters "because there are thousands of procedural votes each session."
"I am comfortable that we have had a good record on record votes," said Whitmire, "but it has become an issue, and rightfully so, largely due to some of the decisions in the House." He noted that in the 1980s, each record vote cost approximately $100, so the then-House Speaker suspended many record votes.
The Senate will strengthen record votes on consent calendar legislation. Whitmire said now on every Senate Journal entry, it will show a member as voting "yea" on the consent issues but additional language will be added to show individuals who voted not only "nay," but also those "present and not voting."
Whitmire said every member of the Senate supports the record vote changes and they are now "in the rules and codified" to ensure that "substantive votes are recorded."
Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) said all members of the Senate want record votes to ensure their constituents know how they vote. "We want to make sure the process moves efficiently and smoothly," he said, "and have a duty and obligation to record our votes."