Well, gee-willikers, I always thought that one of the primary jobs of a state legislator was representing your constituents back home when an important vote came up in the Capitol.
Call me old-fashioned, I guess.
And, to tell you the truth, I always thought that when we learned that one of our representatives in Sacramento had said “yea” or “nay” to a piece of legislation, that vote was a clear reflection of their position on the issue.
Call me naïve, too.
The Associated Press reported last week that members of the state Assembly changed their votes or added votes to the record after the fact 5,000 times in this year's legislative session. That's right – 5,000 times – and there are only 80 members of the Assembly.
How prevalent is this practice? The AP reported that Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill added his vote to legislation that had already passed or failed 47 times this year and changed his vote twice, but he didn't consider that a lot.
"I try not to make it a practice," he said. "I don't think you want to play too many games up there. You should pretty much be making decisions before you get to the floor."
I guess that's not “too many games.” Some legislators did it more than 100 times.
This is not new, but the AP's work to create a database on votes covering 1,100 pieces of legislation helps put the practice into perspective. Every single member of the Assembly changed or added votes this year.
To them, it's routine. Lawmakers in the Assembly are allowed to change or add votes after the fate of a bill has been decided, as long as it does not change the outcome of the original vote of the full Assembly. (The state Senate allows such changes only by the Democratic and Republican leaders in that house.)
California is one of at least 10 state legislative bodies nationwide in which some lawmakers can amend their votes.