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New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 10, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas Page 8A HERALDZEITUNG June Recorded votes remain optional in Texas Legislature By Brand Griasom Associated Press Writer AUSTIN Despite a rules change that made it easier for lawmakers to document their the Texas Mouse cast just 10 more recorded votes during the 2005 legislative ses sion than in House lawmakers held 960 recorded votes in the session that ended May compared to 950 in the regular seasion two years according to clerks in the House journal Texas is one of only 10 states that do not require lawmakers to record their individual making it difficult to know where legislators We believe their constituents have the right to know how they voted on important Suzy executive direc tor of the government watch dog group Common Cause of Open government propo nents worry without laws requiring recorded the slight upward trend this year could quickly Opponents of mandatory recorded votes say tracking the thousands of ayes and nays lawmakers cast during the 140 day session would be time con they rules changes made this session ren der such laws Requiring recorded votes on every issue could bog down the said Sid vice chairman of the House State Affairs Com I believe everything that has substance should have a recorded but I dont know howyou determine Miller Texas lawmakers can regis ter their votes in three They can hold a voice in which lawmakers yell out or signal yes or no on a meas with no record of how each person In a division there is a brief show of how the majority but no final record of individual With a recorded each lawmakers vote is I louse members vote electron ically and senators do so by note or hand The 31member Senate gen erally takes significantly more recorded votes than the 150 member said Patsy Senate In the upper chamber cast recorded compared with in she A possible explanation for the larger number of Senate record ed votes is that senators are required to get a twothirds vote to bring any bill up for Before the legislative session began in open govern ment activists lobbied for law makers to start recording all individual Legislators received faint praise from open government groups when they changed House and Senate rules to make it easier to request a recorded The change allowed for one member to ask for a recorded instead of the old minimum of That was a very good first said but she noted the rule could easily be changed back in future ses Lawmakers set new rules at the outset of each At least nine bills to require recorded votes were but all Elliott D proposed a state con stitutional amendment to allow Texas voters to decide whether to force lawmakers to cast recorded The Senate approved a similar but both bills failed in the House State Affairs Committee led by David R Recent rules changes and administrative updates have increased public access to vot ing making it unneces sary to change the law or the constitution to require record ed Swinford The House also changed its rules regarding voice votes on final passage of a All law makers are recorded as a having voted yes unless they request that a no be entered in the House The votes and the legislative journals are now more readily available on the allow ing easier access to lawmakers voting I have a hard time figuring out why its such a big deal to put it in the constitution when its already being Swin ford The trend toward openness in the Legislature isnt likely to Swinford espe cially with the advent of the The person in the deepest dark place in China knows how I Swinford That ought to be SEE HOW THEY VOTED Go to the Texas Legislature Web Click oh the Vote Info link to enter a search engine for vot ing information to see record ed Its easiest to find out how lawmakers voted if a bill num ber is The site pro vides a search mechanism to track down the bill Searches can be conducted by topic of the by bill sponsor and by date of the action Enter the year of the leg islative session in which the bill was filed and the bill num ber into the Quick Search field on the Vote Info page which automatically provides a history of the action law makers took on the House and Senate voting actions are highlighted in yel and a click on the View House Vote or View Senate Vote links will lead directly to the page of the journal that lists how lawmakers Where lawmakers decide to give a reason for their the journal also contains that AACOG looking for volunteer ombudsmen SAN ANTONIO The Alamo Area Council of Gov ernments Alamo and Bexar Area Agencies on Aging are looking for caring individuals to become certified volun teer Ombudsmen are advo cates for elders The AACOG Alamo and Bexar Area Agencies on Aging Ombudsman Pro grams are composed prima rily of AACOG staff administers a specialized training pro certified by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability to teach volunteers how to advocate for the elderly in longterm Ombudsmen are frequent ly the only visitors or source of contact with the outside world for a nursing home or assisted living facilities resi The volunteers investigate and resolve complaints made on behalf of residents living in longterm care facil They also educate the public and facility staff on complaint neglect and abuse new laws gov erning and best practices used in improving the quality of life and care for the For information on the call AACOG at 210 3625226 210 3625223 Alamo or visit CLICK Visit our Web site Open government law could be toughened WASHINGTON AP A bill requiring that additional exemptions to open govern ment laws be spelled out pre cisely in new legislation won approval Thursday from a Senate Supporters said those who want to narrow the Freedom of information Act often insert vague language in complex bills as a way of con cealing efforts to scale back the open government Under the bill approved by voice vote in the Senate Judi ciary lawmakers would have to specifically refer to the FOIA when they are trying to add exemptions to a They would have to make clear that they are seeking an exception and what they are trying to make off If Congress is to establish a new exemption to it should do so in the open and in the light of said John Supporters of the law said it is difficult now to know when someone is pushing new exemptions because they often are in long and compli cated and the provisions are not clear until after pas In recent we have seen more of these types of exemptions tucked in legis and while some are every single one deserves said Patrick The Associated media groups and other FOIA supporters have urged Con gress to strengthen the open government They make the case that since the attacks of national security has become too common a rea son for withholding infor Media groups and lawmak ers also have complained that there is a growing tendency for FOIA requests to go unan swered for months or be or come back with large parts of documents blacked LET GO of your 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