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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House tracks hot air with new debate clock



Debate timer clock 2House Rules Chairman Bill Galvano is practically giddy about his chamber’s latest piece of technology: a clock. “This is an historic moment,’’ he said as the House’s giant video monitor flashed a picture of a grid that listed how much time each side had for debate.

The members of the House sounded a big groan.

“It keeps track of lost time,’’ Galvano promised. The idea is to use the computerized clock and its elaborate display to keep track of the time elapsed for debate. For the last year, the House has begun what it calls “structured debate” giving time limits to speakers on big issues just like Congress. The new clock will allow them to keep track without constantly having to recalibrate it as members yield time to others.

“It’s less about limiting time than getting people engaged – getting more salient points discussed on the floor,’’ Galvano explained before unveiling the clock. “Years past we’d have a lone speaker on the floor, and everybody would be in the lounge or having lunch. This allows for more give and take.’’

Next week, for example, the debate over the House budget will be allotted 130 minutes per side, he said. The time will be kept by Galvano, R-Bradenton, and the Democrats' floor manager, Rep. Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek.

House Speaker Larry Cretul asked: “Now do we have any serious questions?"

Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, responded: “If we don’t stop on red, will a camera take our picture?” The obvious reference to the red light camera proposal for moving traffic elicited more groans.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:24am]


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