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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Weekend Update with Stacey Campfield

I'm happy to report I had a good weekend. I was invited to debate some of my bills on the radio as well as on a college campus. I am always excited to talk with people and I especially enjoy discussing issues with people in or near my district.

I did encounter one problem at these debates, namely those I was debating did not have current or accurate copies of my bills. This made it difficult to discuss and debate, and was not fair to either my bill or to those in attendance trying to understand the debate.

For instance, at the college forum, the only information given to the group was an academic bill of rights copy that was dramatically different from the one that I am sponsoring. So in this case, many times I found myself answering questions that were not relevant to my bill.

I did learn a lesson though. In the future I will take multiple copies of my bill or supporting documents in order to hand out to those involved in the debate as well as for those attending. I strongly feel people should be able to see what their representative is sponsoring whether they believe the bill to be good, bad, or even if they're indifferent.

Politicians usually say anything at election time, but their voting record and bill sponsorship should give the voter a good idea of where their politician stands and who or what they stand for-regardless of the passage of bills.

When I first arrived in Nashville, one of the first things I wanted to do was put a list of my bills online and allow constituents the opportunity to see them travel through the system. Some say this is stupid idea for a legislator-critics say you are just handing your opponent opposition research without making them work for it.

My theory however is that if what I am doing is good, than I have nothing to fear. When I first arrived, I wanted to let my constituents know how to find my legislation just by pulling up my name on the legislature's website.

For legislators like myself, we have what is called “bill tracking.” We can pull it up on our computers. I was excited to learn of bill tracking and told many of my constituents about it and they were eager to learn more about our Tennessee government. When I inquired about how to inform my constituents how to use bill tracking, I was dealt a painful blow.

I learned that “bill tracking” can only be done from our own computers (although these computers are owned by the taxpayers of Tennessee). I called information systems and was that told that people used to be able to pull up information by sponsor but when the new computer system came in, the “people in power” said for them NOT to add this ability.

Now the only way to pull a bill up is by number. This seems reasonable with the exception that we have about 4,000 bills!

Most citizens trying to get through the day to day chore of working and caring for themselves and their families, don't have time wade through 4,000 bills looking for the ones that may interest them.

Most people don't know the bill numbers either for the bills being sponsored by their representatives. Bills aren't listed by category either. In many cases, even the sponsors themselves don't know their bill numbers.

This information should be opened up further. Bills should be listed by category. It doesn't have to be specific, but for instance, “health care.” If constituents were able to see the bills being sponsored about health care, they would be able to read them and then talk with their representative about them.

There needs to be more transparency. If a representative is sponsoring a bill constituents should be able to commend or admonish, based on their own personal opinions. If you see a bill you like, you should be able to let your representative know that he should work to pass the bill. (We just witnessed the input about a gun bill that just got killed. I know a few legislators that have a target on their chest---no pun intended-for their anti-second amendment vote last week. But the important point is that voters should know where their representative stands.)

Computers should make constituent access to information easier, not more frustrating.

On another note, radio talk show host Phil Valentine in Nashville did a story on this blog and the stir it is creating. Terry Frank's column this week in the Courier News in Anderson County also mentioned me and this blog site and the good that blogging in general is doing for transparency and accountability in government. Thank you Phil and Terry!

Blogging is becoming the new media, and you-the bloggers-- are in on the ground floor! Keep up the good work true believers!

17 comments:

  1. Not only should we regular people have access to your bill tracking, we also need access to the votes cast.

    For HB0887, I had to contact the Tennessee Firearms Association to get the votes on the motion to reconsider referring the bill back to subcommittee. There's no reason this stuff shouldn't automatically go on the website with the current bill tracking system online.

    As far as categorizing the bills, just use the part before the dash in the bill summary. Also, people on the TFA mailing list receive updates on firearms related bills & summaries regularly, allowing them to look-up bills by number.

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  2. I continue to be impressed with your willingness to inform your constituents of the legislative process. I cite your blog in a web site I manage at http://ncdcc.org.

    I think every elected politician should emulate your style. I continue to urge those I come in contact with to begin blogging and talk to the voters daily. Explain what you're trying to do and the obstacles you encounter.

    People want to help you with those problems. You'd be surprised, you're likely to get some good suggestions from us unwashed peasants out here.

    Keep it up!

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  3. Wow - I know you are trying to do good bro but I can't even imagine dealing with frustrations like you do day in and day out. I admire your courage to continue to strive towards a better Tennessee and I'm sure the people in your district appreciate it.

    It's lame that we have "leaders" who are so clearly only concerned with themselves, their pocketbooks, and getting reelected. My hope is that eventually more elected officials will be of your mold and not theirs.

    All the best....

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  4. I agree that it would be ideal if there could be a website where the public could research who intro'd what bills and how the votes were cast in both committee and regular session. It would be easy to do, why not?

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  5. I was not here but I was told it was all out WAR to get them to record committee votes last year .we are still working to get sub committee votes recorded. these are the killing zone for many good bills.They really dont want that info out there,it hurts re election runs.

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  6. thank you rep campfield........great report.......thank you very much..........dk

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  7. Dear Rep. Campfield,
    Please try your best to work on getting the subcommittee votes published. These really are the killing fields for bills that are not to the liking of leadership. It will be a real struggle because leadership likes the dark places where they can do their best to thwart the will of the people. You are courageous and I hope you have the will and stamina to continue the fight. You have lots of support out here in the ether.

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  8. Hey Stacey,

    Check this out.

    Turn your blog into a radio broadcasting station for free.

    Call your blog from any telephone, say whatever you want to say, push 1 to post.

    Whatever you just said is now posted automatically on you blog for all to hear.

    The Stacey Campfield Radio Show!

    http://www.audioblogger.com/

    Give 'em an earful.

    Show off your oratory skills.

    Shake up the establishment.

    Welcome to The Stacey Campfield Show.

    http://www.audioblogger.com/

    dk

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  9. Understanding the whys and wherefores of recorded votes is the key to understanding Mr. Naifeh's power. Mr. Naifeh's power is not in his ability to pass legislation nearly as much as it is the ability to kill legislation and control what legislation gets voted on by the whole floor. The beauty is he does it without blood on his or his cronies hands by having bills killed in the unrecorded land of sub committees.

    For anyone who has not been keeping up, Naifeh assigns all members of all the committees, appoints the chairs, then is responsible for assigning each bill to its "appropriate" committee. (He also assigns office space and hires the secretarial staff for representatives of both parties among other things.)

    Because of these tactics, I have to respectfully disagree with The Rep that voting record is a good indication of the kind of job your representative is doing. Naifeh protects his own by mitigating the need for them to go on record with votes for controversial issues.

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  10. Re: Weekend Update -- You know, Stacey, if I lean my head to the left, you do look a bit like Chevy Chase.

    You could intro all updates with: "Hello. I'm a state legislator, and you're not."

    Seriously, the Legislature's Web site needs work. I waded through all the bills and some of the resolutions posted on the site this session. The number is insane. If you wade through them all, you will be, too. So cut me a lot of slack.

    Your suggestions are good. And the public should be able to see roll call votes posted throughout the entire process with each bill.

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  11. Weekend Update with Stacey Campfield? It's gotta be better than those two idiots they have on SNL, now. Oh, how I long for the days of SNL not sucking. (WU really started going downhill when Colin Quinn took over for Norm McDonald.)

    Maybe I'm an idealist, but it seems pretty obvious to me that vote tallies should be posted on the net. Granted, we don't exactly have a Silicon Valley caliber field of candidates, but it would be possible to hire a couple web programmers to set up a nice system that reports this kinda stuff (or even puts it in txt logs for download). Yes, it would probably be another 60k a year for the two of them, but it seems justified. Is this an unreasonable recommendation?

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  12. By the way, if you want a totally FUBAR website, try the US Supreme Court page. It's amazing how much easier it is to navigate through the President's and Congress' websites than the Court's.

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  13. Volunteers needed to help get more legislators blogging for the people nationwide. Sign up here....

    http://lawmakers.blogspot.com/

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  14. Re: mike225

    We could divert some of the $400,000 annually spent on this website to support the legislature accountability program (and probably come out ahead.)

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  15. Um. Wow, that's a lame site. Crap, I could do something better than that for only 40k a year. Thanks for bringing that up, Espo :)

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  16. Another example of my April 11 post?

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  17. Funny how they can't find the resources to produce a meaningful legislative site or monitor TennCare costs by category yet they can find a way to fund a $400k political hack subsidy program.

    Face it. Politics is boring to the majority of people. 58% of users 18+ accessed the Inet in 2002. Now out of that estimate how many do you think went to a gov't or political site on their own versus ebay, e-music or the latest on Michael Jackson or American Idol? Everyone in Tenn. is happy playing the lottery.

    You could broadcast/publish everything that happened in the state legislature and 75% of the people wouldn't care. Of the remaining 25% less than half would actually take the 10 minutes to sit down and send an e-mail. Less than 5% would pick up the phone. Yet the pathetic apathetic are usually the first whiners when a stupid law is passed.

    You can't get any factual information from local TV other than the weather and some human interest "man bites dog story".

    Even the local rag we call the Knox News Sentinel is lacking when it comes to factual reporting. The hardcopy version has become nothing more the a weekly magazine for the local shopping malls. No discussion of upcoming legislation other than TennCare, TennCare, TennCare.

    Naifeh & company know this and depend on the media and J.Q. Citizen's lack of interest or IQ when it comes to legislation that really counts.

    I'm all for truly "open" government in the TN legislature. But that's not going to happen becasue Naifeh doesn't want to spend his time and resouces defending his manipulative tactics.

    Is there no redress for the open assembly circus that Naifeh pulled last week like ethics violation? Oh, yeah that's right, Tennessee has no ethics rules to speak of other than, don't get caught...

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