The Georgia legislature ends this year’s session tonight as members of congress pass/deny bills into the wee hours. I tagged along to the capitol with an ACLU lawyer to peek in on the fun. Sounds boring right? It was the most interesting experience I had in a while.
The Judicial and Legislative branches always struck me as intimidating noble professions being as they are the part of the building blocks of US democracy. I’ve been to a few court of appeals and state supreme court trials and indeed they lived up to the image in my mind. Somber judges in black robes walking in as we rise, gavel strikes, we sit. Very serious business.
The State legislature? Not so much…. I guess I pictured representatives in dark suits sitting somberly reading over the bills and asking questions. Okay. Most of them wore suits and they did ask questions but that’s about the extent of it sticking to the script I mentally dictated. Someone is speaking, no one is listening. The speaker of the house would bang his gavel and yell “If you can’t be quiet and listen then I’ll ask our guests to leave and I mean it! bang bang” It was a strange feeling as I felt the teacher in me apalled at the misbehavior before me! I seriously offer to you Speaker of the House some excellent behavior management techniques like counting to ten, turning the lights off, ten minute time out. Surely some of these can help.
It was weird to see. The speaker asked people to vote on an informal question with a show of hands and some members stood up and raised their hands, some slouched and wiggled a finger, I even saw one stand up and raise both his hands! Around 11am the speaker asked if there were any questions about a bill at issue and three people got up to ask what time lunch was and were quite miffed that a lunch time was not formally in the schedule. I saw people surfing the web. Seriously. There were odd intermissions such as “Nelly” who stayed up all night making jam for the members of the house “y’all doing a good job reprseantives” she drawled as she walked down the aisles with a basket of jam placing a jar on each representatives desk? Is nappy time next?
All in all it was quite an experience not one I expected at all and something I encourage anyone who has a few hours to spare to go and see. They are affecting our lives. Perhaps not in outrageous ways but incrementally bill by bill. And they really really really care what you think and feel about the issues. Just one person coming in and asking to talk to a member of Congress could change how that member will vote. Lots of outrageous stuff happens…. I asked a lawyer there how can this happen? How could they be allowed to do X, Y, Z??? And she said its in the paper but people dont react, their constituents dont hold them accountable- and that’s just sad.
Sorry if this topic seemed kind of sort of boring but it was an eye opening experience.