During the House budget debate last month, I couldn’t help but notice how many times the word “transparency” came out of the mouths of colleagues speaking from the well. (I didn’t keep score but I think more Democrats than Republicans actually mentioned the word. Note: Wes Wolfe , rewind the tapes and let us know, please)
I’ve said all along that transparency and accountability shouldn’t be and isn’t a partisan issue and last month during the budget, it wasn’t…or so, I think.
Before we get into all that, there seems to be a dust-up lately over “who was transparent before transparent was cool” between two statewide constitutional officers – Lt. Governor Andre Bauer and State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom.
The guys can stop feuding right now. We all know it was Al Gore. You know, the guy who invented the internet. Even Leonardo DiCaprio knows it!
Forget for a moment how Representative Haley and I (along with other courageous members who signed onto the “on the record voting” legislation) were taking heat ( and shots ) all summer long just to get to the point we did last month during the budget. No need to go there.
The fact that folks are stumbling over themselves now for more open-government is reason enough to know it was (and continues) to be the right thing to do! We heard several reasons why we didn’t need the bill (excuses)such as the cost and time it would take to do roll call votes in the House. Really? Most folks didn’t even see this nugget months ago showing how we “found” ways to save money with roll calls this year and most folks might not have noticed we rolled through the budget in the House last week in 3 days. Next excuse, please?
Oh, that’s right! We don’t need a stinkin’ law because our internally-governed House Rule is good enough. That’s right. I forgot that excuse still lurks out there.
The House Rule change we passed in December (which doesn’t go as far as the bill that is still sitting in committee) does (and did) allow members the opportunity during Buget Week (and other times) for more accountability and transparency on their votes. For starters, if we passed a section by unanimous consent this year, that means we all voted for it. Previously on “voice votes” there would be wiggle-room for folks to say “I voted no” when they went back home to answer to their voters. This year, for the first time, we voted on-the-record on every section of the budget. This year, for the first time, we didn’t need 9 members to support a roll-call. (In one section we had 2 people vote no.)
We’ve seen additional success too with roll-call voting this year and I suspect next session (cough, cough…when every House member is up for re-election) we’ll probably see some more thoughtful considerations given to bills. Maybe next year, we’ll see EVERYONE embrace a subject that was so taboo last summer but is all the rage now.
Until it’s the law of our state though, there’s no telling what things get passed that actually end up with unintended consequences for our state.