Legislative Reflections I
So, my first year in the legislature is done - or just about. Some people here say that serving in the legislature is like being “on call” for 24/7 for six months a year. In some ways that’s true, though that’s not so bad. It certainly filled the time.
Yet, others ask me “What was it like?”
No answer really suffices, but these two are worth a bit of reflection.
1. It’s like a graduate degree every single day.
2. It’s like a graduate degree every single day with forays into “The Heart of Darkness.”
That needs a bit of explanation. The work of learning the protocols, the traditions, and the expressions is something you just have to experience. There is no real manual - you just learn by dong.
And you learn by doing when submitting bills. There is no “learning house” for bills, no stated set of party agenda items that mandate bill creation. Everyone who knows the situation or has experience knows what bills need to be submitted. The well-connected legislator works with others to submit bills which can get support from either side of the aisle. But that is also learning by doing, and I won’t forget the advice that it’s acceptable to submit bills like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Of the 1200 some odd bills this term, only some 200 passed, and not all of them made it by the Chief Executive’s fluid veto pen.
And then there is the “Heart of Darkness” part. I thought or presumed that we all worked in good faith, that the interests of the people of Maine were the most important consideration. But there is always an interpretation on what those things that are good for us mean, and there are always alternative pathways to get there. Despite all this, I shall never forget the night of June 30, as the legislature propelled itself toward shutdown. I shall never forget as the leadership of the opposing party spoke about an “alternative budget” that would solve the budget shutdown - and - then claimed that the “new” budget was ready - only then to say it would be ready in 24-36 hours. All of this was legal in parliamentary procedural terms; however, it was the lowest form of political maneuvering that I had ever seen. The state of Maine went into default. I will not forget this political ploy for a great long time.