"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Remember Rasputin?

Today I witnessed murder on the grand scale. It reminded me of nothing so much as the notorious murder of Rasputin.

Just when I'm convinced that I've seen everything in the House of Representatives, something different and bizarre will occur. Keeps it interesting!

Today in the House, with a lot of debate and considerable bipartisan angst, we killed a Constitutional Amendment, aka CACR 34, aka our Governor's pet project.

We poisoned it, we shot it, shot it again, and yet again, just to make sure. We stabbed it. We drowned it. At long last, we buried it. Then we dug it up and beat it with a stick and buried it again, even deeper.

Needless to say, it wasn't a quick process. As murders go, this one was of long duration--lasting from approximately 11 am to 4:30 pm. One of the more surreal aspects came when the Speaker ceded her place to the Deputy Speaker, so she could participate in the debate--urging passage. The efforts to pass, and to defeat this CACR brought about some curious alliances. A lot of political capital was spent--in futility, as it turned out--to convince a bipartisan supermajority that this was a worthy cause.

We did have a break for the biennial "class photos", indoor and outdoor versions. For the former, everyone stood squished up together in Representatives Hall while the photographer perched precariously on a veryveryvery high ladder behind the Speaker's podium. For the latter, we stood squished up together on the front steps of the State House. Then we had our lunch recess, until 2:45 at which time we resumed the business of murder.

Here's how the roll call voting went:

Finance Committee amendment to CACR 34:
140 Yea 222 Nay

1st floor amendment:
30 Yea 320 Nay

Lay on the Table:
171 Yea 168 Nay
(tabling a Constitutional Amendment requires supermajority)

2nd floor amendment:
124 Yea 213 Nay

3rd floor amendment:
107 Yea 228 Nay

Indefinitely postpone:
129 Yea 210 Nay

Ought to Pass (unamended)
97 Yea 238 Nay
(supermajority of 237 Yeas needed to pass)

Print debate in Permanent Journal:
65 Yea 269 Nay
(tree-saving measure!)

There were also some voice votes mixed in there, too. I remember one for Reconsideration (it failed)--that's the dig up the dead body, beat it with a stick, and bury it again maneuvre.

I was a Nay all the way. For various reasons. So I'm glad the thing is dead. I do feel badly for those who were so desperate to see it pass. And yet...I can't believe they didn't see which way the wind was blowing before we even arrived at the State House this morning.

We did manage to act on other legislation today--don't ask me what. Late in the day, the gentlemen were allowed to remove their coats. The shades were drawn and the lights were dimmed to keep the chamber cool. The Sergeant-at-Arms and her staff supplied us with bottled water. My seat mate kept falling asleep...when it was time for an electronic roll call or division vote, I would nudge him and say, "We're voting now!" But we didn't finish all the bills on our calendar so this week we'll be legislating another day because we're down to the wire on the deadline to act on all Senate bills.

What I liked best about today...when walking in and out of the State House, being envelopped by the scent of the massive lilacs growing on either side of the entrance, in all possible colours--white, deep purple, rosy purple, pale purple.

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