The Open House Project from The Sunlight Foundation

Unbelievable: Texas House, Quit Snitching

September 30th, 2007 by John Wonderlich · 1 Comment

This is pretty amazing:

Despite passing rules that forbid mulitple voting, it appears that the practice is standard in the Texas state legislature, to the point of absurdity.

To me, this is an excellent demonstration of the difficulty legislative bodies have in policing themselves. The problem comes in the wording of different kinds of rules. Referring a practice to an ethics committee or other internal policing body sets up an incentive structure that results in detente; why would members investigate each other, when they can all leave each other alone? This is the legislative version of “quit snitching“.

Some rules affect legislative procedure, having actual procedural consequences (a motion for ___ will only be in order if ____ conditions are met), creating an opening for partisan obstruction, which can serve as a real motivator. Referral to an interior committee for discretionary punishment has far less effective consequence.

What enforcement mechanism might root out corruption when the incentive to self-police is so nakedly impotent? That’s a difficult question, since the independence of the legislative branch is a necessary precondition for objective decision-making. (See the speech or debate clause.) You’d think that electoral pressure would encourage at least the appearance of oversight.

Tags: OpenHouse

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