AUSTIN - A number of citizens expressed alarm after viewing a video clip showing state representatives engaged in the practice of "ghost voting" during the 2007 session of the Legislature.
Ghost voting is when a member casts an electronic vote for one or more colleagues who happen to be outside of the House chamber when a vote is called by the chair.
State Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, said April 4 that among House members, it's about 2 to 1 in favor of his suggestion to do away with the practice.
"But the public is about 99 percent in favor," he added.
A solution would be to install 10 or 12 remote voting stations that work by fingerprint identification, Goolsby said. Those stations would be in addition to a fingerprint voting machine to be installed at each member's desk.
Goolsby also suggested installing loudspeakers in the foyers and restrooms outside of the House chamber and lengthening the amount of time allotted for each vote would help, too.
There is a legislative interim charge for the matter to be studied.
A House rule amending the voting procedure could be up for consideration when the next regular session of the Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, 2009.
AG launches anti-ID theft site
Texans have a new way to prevent or minimize the damage from identity theft by using a Web site published by the Texas Attorney General's Office.
Www.texasfightsidtheft.gov features a "victim's kit" with a step-by-step checklist of what to do when you know or suspect that your personal information has been stolen or used without authorization.
Attorney General Greg Abbott spoke about the site at an April 3 news conference.
"Victims whose credit is ruined or whose bank accounts are emptied because their personal information has been compromised must take immediate steps to repair the damage," Abbott said.
"Our new Web site contains helpful tools to help identity theft victims and Texans hoping to prevent identity theft."
Prisons chief testifies at hearing
The Senate Criminal Justice committee met April 2.
Ron Livingston, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, testified that prison reforms mandated by the Legislature are on schedule.
He said prison health care costs have been cut by using federal programs that provide money for prescriptions and by shifting to an electronic record keeping system.
Also, bedridden, comatose or terminal inmates that pose no threat to society are considered for early parole, he said.
On April 3, the committee discussed the troubled Texas Youth Commission.
Committee chair Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, pointed out the shortage of guards and suggested streamlining the agency.
Senator denies she is running
It looked like the 2010 race for governor started in the closing days of March, when the Corpus Christi Caller-Times published a story that a U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison aide said the senator was running for governor.
But Hutchison, whose Senate term expires in 2012, denied that she had decided to run.
UT names interim chancellor
The University of Texas System Board of Regents appointed Kenneth Shine as interim chancellor for the UT System. He will step in May 1.
Shine, 73, has been serving as executive vice chancellor for health affairs for the UT System.
He follows Chancellor Mark Yudof, who recently was named chancellor of the University of California System.
Panel to study effects of new tax
In May, many Texas businesses will for the first time pay the revised state franchise tax. This is the tax intended to help offset the cost of residential property tax relief.
A committee of tax experts, business people and lawmakers will analyze effects of this new tax on businesses and the Texas economy. The committee will report its findings to the Texas Legislature, which convenes in January.
Comptroller Susan Combs, chair of the committee, has nominated two tax experts and 14 taxpayer members.
Lawmakers appointed to serve on the committee are state Sens. Steve Ogden, R-College Station, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and state Reps. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Myra Crownover, R-Fort Worth.