Texas has led the way in transparency and open-government, from our open meetings and records laws to recent victories in posting expenditures in real-time. Texans enjoy unprecedented sunlight in knowing how tax dollars are used and elected officials act. But now some lawmakers want to turn back the clock by hiding their voting record from the public.
The issue is the speakership of the Texas House, a constitutional position with enormous governing power but unelected by the people. For several years, the current speaker — Tom Craddick (R-Midland) — has been, or has been made into, an issue in some House races.
Both men claim they want to prevent “retribution” for voting against a speaker. In more than 150 years — and six years with the current speaker — no one has lost their life with their vote, no families have disappeared. Maybe not get a plum committee assignment? Perhaps, but that’s part of the process, of being on the losing end of a vote.
As with any vote in the people’s House, each legislator weighs their philosophic beliefs with the costs/benefits to their political career and constituency. And then voters get to decide which votes truly matter.
We expect people in public office to have the courage of their convictions.
Worse, hiding this one vote cannot portend good things for Texans. It establishes precedent that is unthinkable. Why not also hide their vote on the budget? On education reform? If legislators won’t tell us who they vote for speaker — a position they say is so critical — will they also not want us to see who contributes to their campaigns or what legislation they file?
Taxpayers shouldn’t stand for these shenanigans. Texas House business shouldn’t be done in secret.