by Cathryn Taub
Well, we have officially survived what we affectionately call “Hell Week” in the Legislative Study Group; although it was really more like three weeks. We laughed, we cried, we got it done. We now understand what former alums were talking about when they warned us about how exhausting and involved the program could, and would, get. I cannot say it was the most intense workload I have ever experienced, but it has been a long time since I have had to pull 20-24 hour days for a prolonged period of time. Only getting a company off the ground, from scratch, has been more difficult. I definitely envy the younger LSGers, getting older does have some drawbacks. It’s funny, looking back, how stressed out we were during our first bill, HB 11, that had about 50 amendments. Working our way through those amendments was an all-nighter, and we were still just getting our feet wet. Now, 50 bills, while no cakewalk, is not the daunting task it once was. It’s amazing how far we have come in two months; which is when the workload began to ramp up.
I must admit, the last week for hearing new bills was very frustrating. Calendars met at least twice a day, and continuously provided us with more “presents” for the upcoming schedule. We grudgingly added the new bills to the ever expanding list, and kept on writing. We had a running list for every day that bills were being heard, and would add pages to the bottom of each list (day) as they were announced in Calendar committee. These lists reached pretty ridiculous lengths, with several lists being taller than Tara, one of our LSGers, and one list being taller than myself (I am just under six foot). To say that we occasionally had a few choice words for the members of the Calendars committee would be an understatement.
While the workload itself was our version of Everest, most people will never see all of the work we put in. The art of “chubbing” was once again successfully implemented by the Democrats. Chubbing, as we learned, is the prolonged debate over legislation to run out the clock. It’s one of the tools lawmakers — particularly those in the minority party — use late in a session to block bills they oppose, but don’t have the votes to defeat. Since the House can’t filibuster (only the Senate), it must be a concerted effort by many to draw down the clock. The House must hear bills in order, so they cannot skip to bills deemed important that are further down on the list. What this meant for us, however, is that many of the bill analyses we wrote were never to be seen. As the midnight deadline on Thursday for hearing bills originating in the House struck, and the House turned back into a pumpkin, they were still only on the calendar that had been set for Monday. All of the effort we put in, writing analyses for the bills on the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday calendars, is now destined to reside in the recycle bin. All that work for naught.