On Friday, I was in the House chamber. About half of the lawmakers’ seats were empty when the House convened. Typically on Friday, both chambers don’t do much work. They come in, convene and leave within an hour.
But what I was most struck with — besides the empty seats — was when the big electronic board that records votes showed P for present by each member’s name. The official vote to determine if a quorum was present was 118-0, yet only about half of the 122 members were in the chamber.
In the roughly five years I have been covering the Legislature, I have noticed a common practice of lawmakers voting for other members not there. I assume this has been a practice for a long time, but, in my mind, it’s one of those things that gives me pause.
If a lawmaker isn’t there, should he or she be credited with being present or casting a vote?
When it comes to most jobs, we can’t get someone else to punch our time clock or sign a time sheet to say we are there when we really aren’t.