New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 10, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas
_ of your Stomach Problems
Are you a woman experiencing any of these symptoms?
• Early fullness while eating
• Post-meal fullness
You may have a digestive condition called DYSPEPSIA, which may occur during or after eating. Our physicians are conducting a research study for DYSPEPSIA with the investigational use of an already approved medication and invite you to take part, lf you qualify you will receive all study examinations and study medication.
For more information, please call:
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Hill Country Medical Associates 774 Landa Drive • New Braunfels, TX 78130
Recorded votes remain optional in Texas Legislature
By Brandi Grissom
Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN — Despite a rules change that made it easier for lawmakers to document their decisions, the Texas i louse cast just IO more recorded votes during the 2005 legislative session than in 2003.
House lawmakers held 960 recorded votes in the session that ended May 30, compared to 950 in the regular session two years ago, according to clerics in the House journal office.
Texas is one of only IO states that do not require lawmakers to record their individual votes, making it difficult to know where legislators stand.
“We believe their constituents have the right to know how they voted on important issues,” said SuzyWtxxlford, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Texas.
Open government proponents worry without laws requiring recorded votes, the slight upward trend this year could quickly end.
Opponents of mandatory recorded votes say tracking the thousands of “ayes" and “nays” lawmakers cast during the 140-day session would be time consuming. Plus, they say, rules changes made this session render such laws unnecessary.
Requiring recorded votes on every issue could "bog down the system," said Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, vice chairman of the House State Affairs Committee.
"I believe everything that has substance should have a
recorded vote, but I don’t know how you detennine that," Miller said.
Texas lawmakers can register their votes in three ways.
TTiey can hold a “voice vote,” in which lawmakers yell out or signal “yes” or “no” on a measure, with no record of how each person voted. In a “division vote,” there is a brief show of how the majority stands, but no final record of individual votes.
With a recorded vote, each lawmaker’s vote is registered— I louse members vote electronically and senators do so by voice, note or hand signal.
The 31 -member Senate generally takes significantly more recorded votes than the 150-member House, said Patsy Spaw, Senate secretary. In 2005, the upper chamber cast 4,157 recorded votes, compared with 3,449 in 2003, she said.
A possible explanation for the larger number of Senate recorded votes is that senators are required to get a two-thirds vote to bring any bill up for debate.
Before the legislative session began in January, open government activists lobbied for lawmakers to start recording all individual votes.
Legislators received faint praise from open government groups when they changed House and Senate rules to make it easier to request a recorded vote. The change allowed for one member to ask for a recorded vote, instead of the old minimum of three.
“That was a very good first step,” said Woodford, but she noted the nile could easily be
changed back in future sessions. Lawmakers set new rules at the outset of each session.
At least nine bills to require recorded votes were filed, but all failed. Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, proposed a state constitutional amendment to allow Texas voters to decide whether to force lawmakers to cast recorded votes. The Senate approved a similar measure, but both bills failed in the House State Affairs Committee led by Rep. David Swinford, R-Amarillo.
Recent rules changes and administrative updates have increased public access to voting records, making it unnecessary to change the law or the constitution to require recorded votes, Swinford said.
The House also changed its rules regarding voice votes on final passage of a bill. All lawmakers are recorded as a having voted “yes” unless they request that a “no” be entered in the House journal.
The votes and the legislative journals are now more readily available on the Internet, allowing easier access to lawmakers’ voting records.
“I have a hard time figuring out why it’s such a big deal to put it in the constitution when it’s already being done," Swinford said.
The trend toward openness in the Legislature isn t likely to backtrack, Swinford said, especially with the advent of the Internet.
"The person in the deepest dark place in China knows flow I vote,” Swinford said. “That ought to be enough.”
SEE HOW THEY VOTED
■ Go to the Texas Legislature Web site, www.capitol.state. tx. us/
■ Click on the Vote Info link to enter a search engine for voting information to see recorded votes.
■ It's easiest to find out how lawmakers voted if a bill number is available. The site provides a search mechanism to track down the bill number. Searches can be conducted by topic of the legislation, by bill sponsor and by date of the action taken.
■ Enter the year of the legislative session in which the bill was filed and the bill number into the Quick Search field on the Vote Info page (http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ tlo/legislation/voteinfo.htm), which automatically provides a history of the action lawmakers took on the bill.
■ House and Senate voting actions are highlighted in yellow, 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 voted. Where lawmakers decide to give a reason for their vote, the journal also contains that information.
AACOG looking for volunteer ombudsmen
SAN ANTONIO — The Alamo Area Council of Government’s Alamo and Bexar Area Agencies on Aging are looking for caring individuals to become certified volunteer ombudsmen.
Ombudsmen are advocates for elders’ rights.
The AACOG Alamo and Bexar Area Agencies on Aging Ombudsman Programs are composed primarily of volunteers.
AACOG staff administers a specialized training program, certified by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, to teach volunteers how to advocate for the elderly in long-term care.
Ombudsmen are frequent
ly the only visitors or source of contact with the outside world for a nursing home or assisted living facilities resident.
The volunteers investigate and resolve complaints made on behalf of residents living in long-term care facilities.
They also educate the public and facility staff on complaint filing, neglect and abuse issues, new laws governing facilities, and best practices used in improving the quality of life and care for the elderly.
For information on the program, call AACOG at (210) 362-5226 (Bexar), (210) 362-5223 (Alamo Region), or visit www.aacog.com/aging.
Visit our Web site
Open government law could be toughened
WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill requiring that additional exemptions to open government laws be spelled out precisely in new legislation won approval T hursday from a Senate committee.
Supporters said those who want to narrow the Freedom of Information Act often insert vague language in complex hills as a way of concealing efforts to scale back the open government law.
Under the hill approved by voice vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, lawmakers would have to specifically refer to the POLA when they are trying to add exemptions to a bill.
They would have to make clear that they are seeking an exception and what they are trying to make off limits.
“If Congress is to establish a new exemption to LOIA, it should do so in the open and in the light of day,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Supporters of the law said it is difficult now to know when someone is pushing new exemptions because they often are in long and complicated hills, and the provisions are not clear until after passage.
“In recent years, we have seen more of these types of exemptions tucked in legislation, and while some are appropriate, every single one deserves scrutiny," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The Associated Press, media groups and other LOIA supporters have urged Congress to strengthen the open government law.
They make the case that since the attacks of Sept. ll, 2001, “national security” has become too common a rea
son for withholding infor- for LOIA requests to go unan-
mation. swered for months or years,
Media groups and lawmak- he rejected, or come back
ers also have complained that with large parts of documents
there is a growing tendency blacked out.
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