Organization

No, I am not organizing my closets, but rather it is organizational day today at the marble palace for my Senator. I have often wondered why the legislature meets on the first Tuesday in January prior to the beginning of a new legislative session…. so I asked him. My Senator explained to me that they convene at this time to officially elect their leadership. Simple enough. Never mind that the first day of the official legislative session begins on Monday, February 7th! Roughly one month later!

On that first day when the opening bell rings, the members will report to their respective chamber for a roll call. Just like in school, except they actually get paid for showing up…to the tune of thousands of $$$$ a day in my great state. I bet you didn’t know that each member who lives more than 50 miles from the capitol also gets paid a per diem for his/her travels and lodging each way. Nice, huh.

Anyway, after roll call on the opening day, the members usually caucus briefly, then head over to the House side where the Governor gives his (in this case, her) state of the state address. Following their remarks, the members might have a committee meeting or a caucus meeting depending on what is happening (i.e. what scandal is breaking) at the time and the first day of session comes to a close.

So, back to this organizational day. Here is what typically happens. The bell rings, roll is taken, the members officially cast their votes for leadership positions (such as Speaker of the House, or President Pro Temp of the Senate), a few introductions are made and they call it a day. Costing the taxpayers roughly how much again?

Now, don’t you think it would make more sense to save those tax payer dollars by convening on the first day of the actual session to do all of that? I mean, they could call roll, caucus, elect their leaders, meet jointly to listen to the Governor and put in a full days worth. Just saying.

The only thing standing in the way of my more efficient way to spend your taxpayer dollars is the Oklahoma Constitution. Evidently, the state constitution mandates that the Legislature convene on the first Tuesday of the year in what will be a new legislative session. I am sure there is a mighty fine explanation for this somewhere. I hope there is because I think I may have provided you with a much more streamlined approach for conducting the state’s business.

Okay, stepping down off my soapbox… So, today my Senator will be casting his vote for President Pro Temp of the Senate and I will be walking the halls of the Longworth Building in Washington D.C. Our Congressman is being sworn in up there and I’ll be watching it live.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and run into my new friend, John.

We’ll see.

Last Call


Back in December I wrote about the Bill filing deadline for the upcoming session and how it was the last time you could sign up to run a piece of legislation. Then, my Senator informed me that it was not the final deadline, but simply the first of many and one where you were just reserving your spot. Sort of like a reservation at a restaurant, when you walk in during rush hour, you want your table to be ready. Only this time you are reserving the Bill number, or the “Title of Law”, so you can fill in the blanks at a later date. OK, not a very good analogy, but you get the idea.

Last Thursday was the deadline for the “fill in the blanks” part of the legislating process. Rather, in official terms, the soft deadline for the language part of the Bill, or an opportunity to turn in a rough draft of your proposed legislation, so to speak. TODAY! is the final deadline for the language that will be put into these Bills. Last Call!

Note to self, this language will also be available for the public to read on Friday, January 16th. I am not sure where you can actually find it, but I will ask my Senator and report back.

At this point, there are roughly 3,000 pieces of legislation that have and will be “filed” and will now be assigned to various House and Senate committees. The committee chairman will evaluate each piece of proposed legislation handed over to them and decide which ones deserve a hearing. That is an awful lot of power in a few hands and an awful lot of politicking that is about to take place.

Here is how the process has worked in previous years. When a Bill was sent to a particular committee, if the author was a “D” (Democrat), the Bill would usually receive a hearing. That is because the D’s were in charge. If the author happened to be an “R” (Republican) legislator, then that particular piece of legislation usually wound up in the Senate graveyard. Why, you ask? Because the R’s were in the minority. Simple enough.

Now that the tables are turned and the R’s are in charge, my Senator is hopeful his team will act with more wisdom than politics, doing what is in the best interest of our great state, not their political party. We’ll see.

So, today we celebrate the last call for the language portion of the some 3,000 pieces of legislation that have been filed for the upcoming legislative session. I can hear the sound of those keyboards and coffee makers right now!

Political Terminology

It is a new day in Oklahoma politics, especially at our state capitol where the Republicans have taken control of the state senate for the first time in our 101 year history.  Recently, my senator returned from a caucus meeting at the capitol where they discussed ‘caucus stuff’.  Please note that a security clearance must be required to learn what they talked about because they certainly won’t tell you the details of what went on in that room.  I have this image of a bunch of men with their sleeves rolled up, sitting around smoking cigars.  Kind of like the t.v. series Madmen, except they are not drinking whiskey at 10:00 a.m. down at the capitol – at least not yet.

The political terminology used down at the capitol can be rather amusing – especially if you have absolutely no idea what the words mean.  Here are a few of my favorites:
Sine Die – Indefinitely ( They use this word signifying the last day of the legislative session.  So, I assume that means they plan to adjourn indefinitely.)
President Pro Tempore – The Senator who presides over the Senate in the absence of the Vice President.  One can safely assume that the ‘Pro Tem’ is always presiding because the Vice President rarely makes it to Oklahoma.
Whip – A member of the legislative body, charged by his party with enforcing discipline and insuring attendance.  As in Whip in, or to keep together, as members of a political party.  (How about whipping it up a little bit Senators!)
And, then my favorite:  PEW, Post Election Withdrawl Syndrome- an ailment from which I am currently suffering.