reports from a local parent monitoring public education in New Orleans

How we do things in Louisiana – the bad way

I wish we would just get over it.

“Who’s pushing the buttons? Legislators voting in others’ absence, Legislators Pressing Each Other’s Buttons

By Caroline Moses
Posted: June 25, 2008 06:06 PM

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – You might still be angry about the pay raise legislators gave themselves and another circumstance we’ve come across may irk you, too. 9NEWS has learned some legislators voted on two, three, or even four machines at a time during this session because other legislators were not in the chamber. Some of them were not even in the state.

We saw Representative Barbara Norton of Shreveport pushing not one, not two, but three machines on one vote. Then, she directs Representative Rickey Hardy of Lafayette to catch another one she can’t quite reach. This practice of pushing other legislators’ buttons is not new. “They used to do it with golf clubs and a putter and things like that. Now, they have more sophisticated clubs to push the buttons,” says Barry Erwin with the Council for a Better Louisiana.

However, if a member is outside the Capitol building, it is against House rules. “I don’t think anyway can defend having a legislator not in the building, not at work, may be not even in the state or city, having people vote for their machines,” says Erwin. Representative Reed Henderson of Chalmette called in to WWL-Radio from his car on Friday. He was on his way back home while legislators were still in session and somehow, his votes kept coming in, without him there. Henderson is not the only one who does this. We have confirmed that at least one legislator was not even in the state when his buttons were pressed and pressed and pressed.

“There is an expectation that your legislator is going to be there casting votes for you if you’re a citizen. If votes cast and legislators not there, kind of like defrauding public in a lot of ways,” Erwin says. The House rules state that if a member is not present at the Capitol, they are supposed to have the clerk turn off their machine, so no one else votes on it. Yet, it’s completely up to the legislator whether or not they choose to do that. “The point is you should be there. You should be listening to the debate and you should understand what’s going on and you should be pushing your own buttons,” says Erwin.

Maybe if seeing all this pushes your buttons, legislators will stop stretching their sticks beyond the rules. If a particularly important vote is about to take place, legislators can call for a quorum vote or a lock-out. That’s when they are specifically told to vote only their machine. Otherwise, there are no real consequences if a legislator pushes multiple buttons. Tell us what you think about the multiple voting that goes on. ”

Kudos to WAFB Channel 9 of Baton Rouge for investigative political journalism!!!
Keep it up, ya’ll! We love it.

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