By Freedom Newspapers
Should Texans know how their legislators vote on all major items? The answer should be obvious. How else would Texas residents know whether legislators are properly representing their interests?
But some people surely will be surprised to find that Texas lawmakers don’t record all votes, and they like it that way.
Six bills have been filed this session that would require keeping a record of all major votes on legislation.
Such bills have been filed before, and their number might suggest widespread support. Unfortunately, such filings have often proved to be little more than posturing by lawmakers who want to score points by offering bills they know don’t stand a chance of passing.
Legislation can be passed on voice vote, and often that’s enough for most lawmakers. The practice allows lawmakers to hide their votes from those who might take issue with the stances they took. In fact, some legislators have expressed their aversion to giving political opponents ammunition that might be used against them during their next re-election campaign.
To be sure, lawmakers can request their votes be recorded, and many do on key issues if they believe the votes will impress their constituents. Members can even request that any vote be recorded, but a majority in the chamber must approve the request, and at times the motion to record key votes is turned down — by voice vote, of course.
Some opponents say that recording votes will take too much time and slow down the legislative process. Judging from all the bad laws that have been enacted in haste, a slowdown might not be such a bad idea.
The truth, however, is that votes are recorded as soon as a lawmaker pushes a button on his or her desk; tallies are created and all members’ votes are displayed on the front wall of each chamber.
Still, one of the six bills offers a compromise that’s intended to allay any fears of procedural logjams. The bill would mandate roll-call votes only on amendments and on the final versions of legislation.
Opponents of the bills who sit in the House of Representatives have made the point that the House enacted similar measures as parts of the rules they adopted at the beginning of this session. While that is true, it’s also true that the measure would have to be renewed every time a new legislative session began. What’s more, votes on major issues are often preceded by motions to suspend the rules in some way or another, and that can include suspending roll-call votes.
It seems odd that the people we elect to represent us would fight so hard to keep their votes secret.
They obviously recognize that recording every major vote would give their constituents a more complete picture of how well the lawmakers represent those constituents’ interests. Opposition to having all their votes recorded can raise concerns that they might know that they aren’t adequately representing the voting majority of their districts.
Might they have other reasons for seeking office than to work for the people of their districts?
Representing their districts should be considered a privilege, and lawmakers should be proud to do so. They should be proud to show how they voted on every major issue, and willing to defend those votes if challenged.