Texans are now officially locked out of the more interesting discussions at the Capitol. House members voted to exclude their caucus meetings from the state’s open meetings laws. State Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) defended the action, saying the caucuses “are a lot like making sausages and that’s something you don’t really want to watch anyway.” Really? We have teams of inspectors who watch closely every detail of the sausage-making process for safety purposes. But the people just supposed to trust Charlie and the boys?
No surpise Geren doesn’t want the public to scrutinize legislative meetings. In an equally unsurprising move, Geren is quoted by the Houston Chronicle as using my 4-year-old’s logic to justify the House’s decision, saying — essentially — but the senate does it!
And if the Senate was jumping off a bridge… Oh, never mind.
I am surprised that the state’s daily newspapers are okay with the move, with a spokesman saying that its fine to exclude the public because the open meetings laws apply to governmental bodies.
Apparently the newspaper association is unfamiliar with who legislators are and what they do in their meetings. Legislative caucus meetings aren’t (for most of them) a drinking game.
It is in caucus meetings where they, you know, caucus — meet and decide on policy. They affect people’s lives. Mr. Geren described it as ” it’s when we can holler at each other and y’all don’t need to be there when we do.” Really? The people of the state of Texas don’t need to know?
Of course not, there is no reason for lowly citizens to have the right to know how decisions are being made.
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas isn’t so naive as the daily newspapers. A lawyer there rightly is worried, quoted as saying, “”This procedure is fraught with opportunities for abuse … Despite what may be good intentions, it is a way in which lawmakers can keep from being held accountable for their actions.”