Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I wanna know

The folks at Tennessee Tax Revolt go to bat, again, for me and I'm thankful. This time they're calling for votes to be recorded honestly and made available to citizens and for we mere citizens to have access to bill information that lobbyist have.

Voice votes: Their press release tells everyone what those of us who visit the hill on a regular basis have known for a long time there is very little accountability in how these legislators vote in their committees. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard a call for votes heard some vague mumbling and then the chair declare what the vote was. My children and husband are frequently frustrated by what they have characterized as my "extraordinary" hearing. However, something happens when I'm sitting in those committee rooms and my super-hearing is nearly non-existent when it comes to discerning those ayes and noes. If we're really serious about changing the ethical culture in the legislature we've got to start with something as easy as roll call votes that are published.

I also think TTR's call for that information to be done within 2 hours is more than reasonable.

Bill tracking: And TTR goes on to call for citizens to have access to information that lobbyists have available to them. I guess money does buy access. This is just shameful. No lobbyist ought to have information available to them that taxpaying citizens don't have.

And I'll go a couple further than TTR.

I was amazed one day to learn that the committee hearings aren't always tape recorded! Ever since then I've brought my own hand held that has served quite well as I work at accurately recalling and relaying information to citizens across the state. And so...

I want Speaker Wilder to insist on video streaming of the Senate. I'm tired of 'the senate being the senate'. We only get audio now...while it's better than nothing it could easily be so much more helpful.

I want video streaming of every committee meeting, legislative session, and press conference by legislators, the governor and other agency heads.

I'd even go for a link to the security cameras in the hall so I can know who's schmoozing and flesh-pressing whom.

I want those name badges to be pinned to the chests of lobbyists and staff so that they're always in plain view. Last year they were hung from lanyards that were regularly turned backward and so not available to read. That means I had no idea who was bending the ear of the person entrusted with the care of our state.

I want legislators to have name badges also. Those little pins with the 3 stars are nice enough but it really doesn't tell me anything at all. The whole point is we have the right to know who is doing business down there.

It wouldn't be a bad idea if the legislature actually provided some information in their lobby about where to find what and how to impact the system and give the very folks who are paying for it all some opportunity to find what they need. I think a small kiosk would serve nicely. Maybe we could create a corp of volunteers ala candy-stripers to lend citizens a hand.

It's time, ladies and gentlemen of Tennessee's government, to put up or shut up. Either you're serious about being accountable or you're not.

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