Yesterday was our Convening Day in the Legislature. It was also the day of a severe winter storm, bringing inches of snow, sleet, and ice. Nice! Because we're mandated by our State Constitution to convene the Legislative session on the first Wednesday of the year, we didn't get a snow day. (Not that we ever do, actually. But this time it wasn't even an option.) We voted some Rules changes and set our deadlines for the session and that was all. One of our votes slightly altered the name of my committee (now Fish, Game & Marine Resources) and another one. Until this became official the special licence plates for the Chair & Vice Chair couldn't be made, so I don't have my new one yet.
We took our oaths of office back in December, on Organization Day. Today was Inauguration Day, when just the Governor and Executive Councilors take their oaths.
Today I personally inaugurated my new parking space. Not only do I apparently occupy the best seat in Reps Hall, I did pretty well in the assigned parking space sweepstakes as well. I'm not in the highly coveted covered garage, I was given an on-street parking space (meaning I'll need my snow brush handy in the winter months). But I really made out in the location, location, location sense.
As for the Inauguration, it's a highly ceremonial occasion with lots of pomp and circumstance and dignitaries, most of whom are escorted in and formally announced by our Sergeant-at-Arms. Just getting everyone into the chamber and in their seats takes the better part of an hour!
Oh, and the media show up, too.
On to the ceremonies of the day....
The colour guard entering Representatives Hall. In my previous post, I mention my view from my new seat--this is what I see when I look to the right--the 3 tall windows, Main Street, and a tree. (Not visible in the picture due to the glare.)
After an invocation and National Anthem, the Chief Justice administers the oath to the Governor.
Duly sworn in, the Governor then administered the oath to the 5 Executive Councilors.
We had a spine-tingling rendition of "God Bless America" from a firefighter, followed by a performance from the Makem and Spain Brothers.
I was jazzed when not one, but two mandolins were played in Reps Hall! The big one (far left) is an octave mandolin, and the regular one (singer in white shirt) is an A-style, f-hole mandolin. (I also play an A-style but mine's an oval hole.)
In his Inaugural Address the Governor was very positive about our achievements and attributes as a state, and our collective response (survival) during the Ice Storm. Mostly he focussed on the impact of the economy and our need to whack $150 million or so from the budget before July 1st. By law we must have a balanced budget. Simultaneously we must build a biennial budget that, due to revenue losses, looks to be underfunded by hundreds of millions. And we run a very lean and thrifty operation...so we have the comfort, slight though it might be, of knowing we're in much better shape fiscally than states facing deficits far bigger than ours.
After adjournment there was a reception for legislators and the citizens of the state in the Executive Council chamber. By the time I arrived there was no line in the receiving line, and nobody behind me. So I had a little face time with the Governor and First Lady and the Speaker and the Chief Justice and the Senate President and 3 of the 5 Executive Councilors.
An a capella group from Dartmouth provided musical entertainment.
Then came the 2nd part of my day, a meeting of Diocesan Council. Our agenda was taken up with anticipated budget shortfall and necessary budget cuts...the Bishop's remarks sounded a lot like a replay of the Governor's remarks. The Diocese finds itself in the same situation as the State, only the budget (and the deficit) has fewer zeros. And we're just as committed to a balanced budget for '09.
I've spent the past five years of my life on re-imagining, visioning, planning, implementing, building up, and overseeing the very diocesan programs that we are now in the process of whittling away. Hard choices--heartbreaking ones. We console ourselves that good discernment and discussion will emerge from all this, but we certainly don't deny the pain of it.
After the repetitively dismal financial forecasts all day long from various sources, I was feeling rather gloomy during my homeward drive. Partly I think it was exhaustion--lingering effects of The Bug and the fact that until last night I hadn't been sleeping very well.
It also helped that the Chap had brought home a fresh pizza, which we loaded with all our favourite fresh ingredients. A couple of slices and a bottle of Hornsby's hard cider cheered me up no end.