by Paige Reitz
It seems like every week, there’s something new. Last week, for instance, those of us in the LSG were ready for our first Saturday at work while the House met on the floor. They had a schedule of bills to go through on Saturday and we were set for our week to not end until Saturday afternoon. We had long schedules of bills to get through every day of the week, including a DSHS Sunset bill that had a lot of amendments, many of them anti-abortion that would have seriously curtailed women’s ability to choose. That bill got pulled from the floor, so the amendments thus far have not gone through.
Things changed for us on Thursday night. They were still on the floor until after ten, but they ended with an almost unanimous move to shift all of the Saturday bills to Friday so the representatives could have their weekend. Normally, this would be extremely welcome news for us in the LSG! This time, however, they had just added a bunch of bills to Saturday earlier that day and we hadn’t even gotten close to having all of our analyses done. At 10:30 Thursday night, when many of us had been at the office since 8 that morning, we learned we would be pulling an all-nighter. We went home in shifts to sleep; three of us left around 2:30; one around 3:30; and two of us at 8:30 when the three who had left at 2:30 had returned after a couple hours of sleep.
Somehow, some way, we got all of our bill analyses complete by 8:30 a.m. As usually happens, several of the bills that were heard ended up being postponed. It was definitely frustrating to be at the whim of the legislature, but those analyses are at least done now, for when they crop back up on the floor. Some of us still ended up working on Saturday, but not in the office. We worked on bill analyses for next week, trying to get a bit of a jump.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from this whole affair, it is that the legislators really, really do not want to work on Saturdays, and that it is absolutely possible for them to shift over 30 bills from Saturday to Friday to avoid it. If bills are scheduled for Saturday, it pays to try to get them done early, but it doesn’t always help. This is particularly true when they add bills to Saturday’s calendar the same day they decide to shift the whole calendar a day ahead. And finally, always, always have supplies on hand in case an all-nighter crops up unexpectedly. In this case, “supplies” means caffeine, and a comfy change of clothes. I know that, for me at least, caffeine is a staple when a late night changes to over 25 hours awake straight at the drop of a hat.
I’ve also learned just how far I can push myself. After this, every other job I have will seem reasonable in comparison, I’m pretty sure. Social work is such a diverse field and even with the long, nearly impossible hours and the demanding workload, I am so grateful I’ve had this opportunity. Even as I prepare to transition back into the clinical side of things post-graduation and post-session (for me, graduation comes about a month before the end of session), the 84th legislature has given me an insider’s view of what makes policy happen. It will help me advocate for my clients and work to change the system, even as I embark in clinical work. And who knows? I might come back into politics in 10 years or so, after I satiate my desire to work with teens in the mental health field for a while.