Texas lawmakers punch the clock

The Texas Legislative Council had a hanging chad problem of its own. But the issue was time keeping, not votes.

The council used a punch clock, which posed some of the same problems as a punch card voting machine. Sometimes the punches created the time clock version of hanging chads, making it difficult to discern the exact time of an employee's arrival or departure, said Bill Rogers, a programmer with the council.

Timekeepers transposed the time clock information onto a paper timesheet for the appropriate people to sign.

Many of the council's 400 employees don't work a typical 9-to-5 schedule. Messengers and guides work three- or four-hour shifts. 'That was causing problems,' Rogers said. And figuring out overtime was even more cumbersome, he said.

The council recently abandoned its punch clock for HourTrack 2000 software from Time America Inc. of Tempe, Ariz. The software is installed on the council's Windows 2003 server.

HourTrack 2000 has proven to be much more accurate than the punch clock, Rogers said. The software has a whole suite of other features, such as payroll and human resources tools, but the council uses it primarily as a time clock.

'You could plug in your salary and figure out benefits and other things, but we don't do that. That's handled by the state,' Rogers said.

Rogers also said he monitors the HourTrack system daily. The old paper-based time-keeping system was monitored less frequently. Eliminating the paper timesheets also has reduced errors.

'If somebody forgets to punch out, we can put it into the system the next day,' Rogers said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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