This is the letter from Burt Solomons to Terry Keel, with copies to all members and members-elect. It is sent as a memo: Date: December 5, 2008 To: Mr. Terry Keel, Parliamentarian, Texas House From: Rep. Burt Solomons cc: Members and Members-Elect of the 81st Texas Legislature Re: Call for Parliamentarian to Resign Prior to First Day of 81st Session It is clear to me that the House Rules should always empower the “body” (or what is often termed the “will of the House”) and those Rules reflect that whomever is the Speaker actually works for an on behalf of the membership. The membership are, and must be, the Speaker’s Board of Directors. Furthermore, the House Rules should not ever become a complex set of protective measures for the Speaker, but rather should always remain simply as “our” Rules in how we conduct business and the process for passing legislation; and, not as an “us” versus “them” set of procedural nonsense. Even with what occurred at the end of the 80th Session, our current House Rules, along with most precedent, do not need a great deal of “clarification” or complex revision if a Speaker is subject to being elected by a secret ballot process at the beginning of each session. [emphasis added] Also, as a 14-year member who has served under 4 priour parliamentarians, it is quite clear to me that the membership of the Texas House must have faith in their parliamentarian that the interpretations and application of our Rules are, and will be, made with neutrality and in the best interests of the membership as a body, and not with divided loyalties, perceived or otherwise. Therefore, even though we have known each other a long time and have worked together on many pieces of legislation when you were a state representative, it is with regret that I must respectfully call for you to step down as Parliamentarian prior to the first day of the 81st Session and not [emphasis original] as a Temporary Officer in the capacity of Parliamentarian on the first day of the session. It is my conclusion that a majority of my House colleagues are not confident that your advice and parliamentary interpretations will be unbiased, and you will continue on a parth of tortured interpretations and rulings designed solely to protect the current Speaker and frustrate the House parliamentary process. From your statements and advice since the beginning of your service as parliamentarian at the end of the 80th Session, it has become apparent to my House colleagues and myself that you are working for the current Speaker and not the body. * * * * The most important thing in this letter, aside from the call for Keel’s resignation, is Solomons’ evident support for a secret ballot. Charlie Geren’s secret ballot amendment was the proxy vote for speaker in the 80th Legislature and the same issue is likely to be the pivotal vote in the 81st. Two years ago, I agreed with those who favored an open ballot. In principle, I believe that all votes should be record votes. If I were writing the House Rules, I would not allow division votes. But the situation is different today than it was two years ago. Speaker Craddick has claimed absolute power. Under those circumstances, where the balance of power between speaker and members has shifted so dramatically to the former, a secret ballot is appropriate. The speaker has protected himself from retaliation by the body for his excesses. The members ought to be able to protect themselves from retaliation by the speaker.
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