Visiting the Senate


Today is a day to visit the senate. What used to be a longer walk around the glaring white marble of the rotunda, is a short walk between the brown granite and pioneer murals. Still I understand that Senators don’t visit the House that often these days. You don’t see them in our halls.
    The Senate has 35 members. We have 70. It might be said that they have a tad more experience since many served here before being elected to the Senate. I do not believe any current House members served in the Senate. The Senate is certainly more balanced in idealogy with both moderates and conservatives in Majority Republican leadership. Here now our Republican leadership in the House is all very conservative. It has created tensions and interesting dynamics with the Senate and occasionally with the Governor’s office.
    I consider it a rite of passage to have long ago first been grilled by certain members of Senate leadership. It is something which, when I was a citizen visiting the legislature, intimidated and frightened me. As a lobbyist in 2004, working on health care, consumer protection and poverty issues, those visits, though few, were a necessary trail. The longer the conversation or grilling lasted, the better off I knew I was. If silence fell too early in the conversation or you took "no" for an answer, you knew your bill was toast or you knew that the bill you were trying to kill was going to pass.
    Today those long, intense, demanding conversations are some of the more intellectually stimulating and important discussions I have. They are an essential, powerful part of the legislative process.  They let us test ideas and legislation, develop arguments, face potential opposition and humble ourselves.
    I lean back here in my big black chair on the floor of the House and know that this is an odd, foreign world, the legislature. Perhaps the realm of trial law comes close, yet not, because there is more chaos here, far more wonderfully random reminders of the complexities of the world. We are not trained for this. The 105 of us are elected. These are the early days of this year’s bills, the point at which they are still organic and slightly fluid. The lives and experiences of real people start to turn into words on paper now, and to keep that text connected to those who will be impacted takes no small amount of will. The potential to turn policy into a game of political expedience is always there. Always to be tested. I hope always to be resisted.