Bittersweet

It really doesn’t feel like twelve years have passed since my Senator first ran for public office. Back in 2002, we were not political people.  I mean, I had worked in politics long before we got married, but that seemed like a lifetime ago at the point when Cliff decided to throw his hat into the political ring.

In January of 2002, I was a stay at home mom of two toddlers and Cliff was a small businessman who had been on his own for a few years.

Talk about a scary shock…leaving a big company to go at it alone. Fortunately, we were either too young or too naive to care but determined to work hard and find our own way in the world.

That would be us circa 1995. Oh my goodness, the bangs…

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After seven years as a self-employed commercial real estate broker, Cliff had grown increasingly  frustrated with all of the rules, regulations and hefty taxes on small business that were coming out of our State Capitol. Mind you, he was no stranger to hard work, but he saw so many instances that prohibited economic growth and development and were an impediment to success. Night after night I remember him complaining about how the legislators making the laws affecting small business were political professionals with no business experience. And, I would tell him time and time again to quit complaining and go do something about it. Ha, right!?

So, he did. Throw his hat in the ring, win and serve three full terms in the Oklahoma State Senate!

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However, because of a twelve year term limit for legislators, Cliff’s time as a State Senator is up today. Yep, all done and it is bittersweet.

I am extremely proud of his tenure in that office. Cliff defied lots of political odds and stereotypes and quietly worked behind the scenes for the greater good. And, if I have heard it once I have heard it time and again,  they “just don’t make politicians like him.”  Well, that is true and probably because he’s not really a “politician.” Just a good man trying to make a positive difference. Or, as he likes to say, “keeping the bad laws from happening.”

In honor of my Senator and his twelve years of public service, I thought I would write about some of the good, the bad and the ugly from his time representing the people of Senate District 40. So, here goes!

The good.  

There was a lot of good!

Man, did we get to know some seriously awesome people! There were the lovely and gracious people we met while campaigning on their door steps and in the district….The individuals and constituents who came to the Capitol throughout the years and the kids who cycled through as pages and students who are now adults. Gulp. So, so many wonderful people. Our lives have certainly been enriched by their very acquaintance and I am most grateful.

Here are a few photos I found on my computer in no particular order..

Special friends in the district.

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Friends and campaign volunteers. These two met during the 2002 campaign and are still together.  Gotta love those campaign romances!!

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Would not have survived a single campaign without my right arm, Whitney!  Love this girl. She’s now married with three kids of her own.  I am old.

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Here’s the Senator speaking Cherokee with the Heisman winner like its no big deal!

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These young men are now in college.

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For some reason, this pic with Miss Oklahoma and Miss America always makes me smile!

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Who doesn’t love a parade, right?!  Even in the rain!

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Anyone who volunteered on that 2002 campaign knew Jim…

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And, Sharon…my heart is full of happy memories thinking about the wonderful people from that first campaign. We were blessed with a little army of awesome that year!

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Cliff looks so “official” in this next one, but what makes it really special is the gentleman sitting behind him. Senator Myers and Cliff were both “Freshman” Senators together and seat mates on the floor. He passed away a few years ago. Good man, lovely wife, beautiful family. Just another example of the special people we have met on this journey.

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Which leads me to the lobbyists, politicos and the savvy men and women who work for the politicos. These people are animals I tell you, but always fun to be around. I would add that you often hear the stories about back stabbing and political posturing that goes on in politics, and don’t get me wrong, I could write a book about all that. It happens. But, there are also some truly smart, savvy and super loyal people in this business as well.  I cherish our friendship with these men and women and have learned so much from them…

First friend in the Oklahoma State Senate…

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The Governor…elected in the same 2002 election cycle. He was also pledge brothers at OU with the best man in our wedding.  Small world!

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Fellow Senate Wives….

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And, Senate colleagues…..

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Love this one from our annual tradition of inviting Legislators over for dinner during session.  Clearly, this was a fun one!

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Safe to say they get along nicely…most of the time!

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And, a favorite member from the House who went on to bigger and better things. The Senator regrets not wearing a tie that night! I regret not being in that photo!  Such a sweetheart!
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Quasi serious Senate leadership pic…

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A swearing in ceremony.

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These two…

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I am at a loss for words.

Vice Chairman and Chair of the Senate Energy Committee. Good things happened for the Oklahoma Energy Industry on their watch. There are probably lots of fun captions for this photo, but none suitable for print!

Friends in the Federal delegation who were always a good source of support, advice and institutional knowledge…

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If you are from Oklahoma…this next one is just cool for historical purposes, regardless of your political party. And, it was taken at a fundraiser we held in our home.  Double cool.

Before the Shellacking

A few notable highlights along the way…

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Love the look on Cliff’s face in this one!

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Oh my goodness. Kathy.  Where to begin…

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Kathy has been Cliff’s right arm and my sister wife (Ha!) at the Capitol for a while and she is family.  I love this woman for so many reasons and always will.  She is just salt of the earth and she has Cliff’s back.  Believe me, you need someone watching your back down at that marble palace!

We have also had some really great opportunities during this time that I cherish. Cliff attended a handful of legislative conferences and the kids and I tagged along. For me, as a mom, this was probably one of the highlights.

Williamsburg and Charlottsville, Virginia

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Chicago

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Puerto Rico

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Hawaii

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Memphis

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Pretty neat stuff. I hope they learned something!

The Bad
Campaigns and opponents. Yep, we had a few of those.

2002  A six way primary election, a run off election and a general election. I’m exhausted simply remembering that inaugural foray into politics.

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2006  A general election with a self funded and fairly well known opponent.

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2010  The best kind of opponent. She dropped out before her name went on the ballot re-electing my senator before the primary. Couldn’t have dreamed that one up any better!

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All of that is just the nature of the beast and I will write a book about it some day.

The Ugly

There wasn’t a whole lot of ugly…but what there was …well, it is still fairly raw and I think I will just save it for my book.  Lets just say it involves some slashed tires, cut cable, punctured radiators and threats against our family.  Sounds like a scary movie, right?

So, there you have it. Twelve awesome years in a nutshell!

I think our son (pictured below in 2002) summed it up best yesterday when he sent a sweet text to his dad knowing that today would be bittersweet. He said, “ For the last 12 years I’ve been proud to say to people that my dad was a state senator and a successful and loved one at that…You actually did work for the community and made a change.  Now, it’s on to the next job.  Whatever you do dad, you’ll excel at it because you do great things and people love you.  Just remember that whatever you do, make sure you are doing what you love.”

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Out of the mouths of babes.

Needless to say, nostalgia is hovering over our house today.  I am eternally thankful for countless opportunities, lessons and friendships that Cliff’s public service has provided.  We have all learned so much from so many.  But, most of all, today, I am simply proud of my man and excited for what the future holds.

Bringing it up to speed

Can’t believe it’s been almost six months to the day since I have posted here but it certainly wasn’t for lack of something to say.  Quite the opposite actually.  So much has happened since March that I thought I would do a brief re-cap to catch myself up to speed. Ha.

Our daughter wrapped up her first season playing club volleyball.  What a great experience and so many new friendships made along the way. I have to admit, Volleyball moms are cool.

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The Senator finished serving his third and final term in the Oklahoma State Senate. So much to say about that.

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Somewhere amidst the chaos, I managed to attend a Conference in Colorado celebrating moms.

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Some dear friends in this group!
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I agreed to chair a fundraiser with my best friend because I didn’t have enough going on…

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Our son graduated from high school in May.

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And, our daughter picked up a few awards at her 8th grade graduation.

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The Senator ran for a state wide office and lost.  Much more to say about that too.

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Then, we went to the beach.

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And Belize.

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Our son went off to college.

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Our daughter is now in high school.

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It has been a wild and crazy six months but the dog survived, so that’s something!

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Family

Today was my Mother-in-Law’s 88th Birthday, and to think I nearly missed it because I have been in Dallas all weekend for a Volleyball tournament is just…well, completely and totally unacceptable! Seriously, she is THE best and I am grateful.  Not only because she birthed the love of my life, but also because she has been the most loving, generous and doting mother, grandmother and mother-in-law to our little family.  And, we just love her to pieces!

One of my favorite photos of these two.

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I think it was taken in 2010…but honestly, they both look the same so lets just pretend it was taken today, on her birthday!  I wrote a post about her a few years ago. Nothing has changed except I am so very grateful for every day she is a part of our lives.  Happiest of Birthdays LaLa! We love you to the moon and back!

Presidential Trivia

Thought this little trivia quiz the kids and I made up a few years ago was worth a re-post today on President’s Day…..just for fun and a little perspective.  Enjoy!


1. In American History, only four presidents have been elected while they were serving as vice president. Can you name them?

The Answer: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and George H.W. Bush.  Note:  The Senator’s son informed me that Harry Truman was actually serving as Vice President when he succeeded FDR who died less than three months into his fourth term. Cool.

2. Which President served non-consecutive terms?

The Answer:  Grover Cleveland was elected in 1884 and 1892, but was beaten by Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Clearly, an interesting time in our history!

3. Which President was the “Bachelor President”?

The Answer: James Buchanan. Alone among American presidents, he never married. Hmmm, not gonna go there, but here is a portrait of our 15th President.  You decide. He was also expelled from college so I’m thinking there’s a good story here.


4. How many presidents were sons of presidents?

The Answer:  Two.  John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush

5. Why was the White House painted white?

The Answer: The president’s house was painted white to cover the scorch marks left by its burning in 1814 by British troops.

6. Who was the only president who had been Speaker of the House of Representatives?

The Answer: The 11th president, James K. Polk

7. How many served both as Secretary of State and president?

The Answer: There were six: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren and James Buchanan. Obviously, in our early history, this cabinet post was considered a stepping stone to the presidency.

8. Who was the first president to travel outside the continental United States while in office?

The Answer: Woodrow Wilson became the first globe-trotting chief executive when he led the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

9. Who was the youngest man to become president?

The Answer: Theodore Roosevelt was 42 when he assumed the presidency after McKinley’s assassination in 1901.

10. Five presidents in our history were never elected president. Which presidents achieved the presidency only by succession?

The Answer: John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur and Gerald Ford.

 
Oh – extra credit if you can name the president in the photo up top…..

Let the Games Begin!

Today marks the first day of the Legislative Session, but, last night a handful of my Senator’s colleagues got together to watch the Super Bowl.

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It was really fun to be a fly on their wall and hear about the various political races taking shape and some of the legislation in front of them.

If these guys are any indication, it is safe to conclude that Central Oklahoma and Owasso are very well represented!

Let the Games Begin!

The Speaker’s Ball, a Re-Cap

Last night was the Speaker’s Ball and the unofficial kick off to the legislative session! Man, was it fun!

I seem to write about this event every year because it has the feel of a back to school night.  Okay, maybe not a back to school night, but possibly that high school reunion where you have lost twenty pounds and are feeling good about it! But, what would I know about that!  Seriously though, the mood in the room really is full of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming session, everyone is dressed up and happy to be there!

The very first time my Senator and I attended this event,  I think he was one of two Republicans in the room. I was the other one, but only because the other side had been in control of both legislative bodies and the Governor’s mansion for decades. No surprise, considering this was before term limits had kicked in and prior to the Republican revolution in our state!  Technically, we weren’t very red.  All of the members present had been serving with each other for a very long time and knew each other very well.  Talk about being the new kids on the block! Even though many of my Senator’s colleagues were shocked we wanted to attend, and the other side thought we were nuts, it really was fun!  Fun as in there were no speeches, no political rhetoric, just a good band, bar and enough food and fellowship to go around. Plus, we made some new friends too.

The Senator and I continued to attend this event, and as the political demographics changed so did the party’s theme and venue.  There have been some festive years…

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and some different variations on festive….one Ball held a charity auction which was a nice twist, another had the feel of a high school prom which was different but interesting!

Then, there was a weird year, before my iPhone was handy to snag a photo darn it!  At that notable Ball, the Speaker gave a political speech at great length on a stage surrounded by GO GO dancers.  I kid you not!

One might think he had had too much to drink when he started talking about being frugal and stealing towels and soap from hotel rooms, except it was a dry event.  In fact, he spoke for so long that most of the crowd sauntered upstairs during his speech to “party” with the fire fighters who were in town for a convention!

Another year had a Las Vegas feel with moving statues that spewed water into a fountain, theater lighting and a buffet, combined with political speeches, long lines and no where to sit. But, who needs to sit when you’re in Vegas!

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I remember hearing comments from political veterans of this event on how the times, they were a changing!

And, that was certainly true last year!  What an about face! Aside from this being the most beautiful party I may have ever been to in terms of decorations…

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and flowers…

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oh, and the fun friends…

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The crowd was even treated to a mini concert by Diana Ross!  I wrote about that lovely event over here.

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What a once in a life time to be up close and personal with an American icon!

This year was no different!  Same Speaker, same incredible flowers…

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And, lots of fun friends…

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Oh, there was also a ton of networking taking place and a lot of dialogue about legislation and the upcoming session and, I imagine there was lots of talk about the 2014 election cycle…especially since the Speaker is running for the US Senate!

And, it wouldn’t have been complete without a celebrity – this year it was Gulianna Rancic, a breast cancer survivor who spoke as a tribute to the Speaker’s wife, also a breast cancer survivor. Oh, almost forgot to mention the Las Vegas style entertainment with Cirque Inversion.  No photos or video to share due to the fact my jaw was on the floor watching them do their “thing!”

One “thing” does remain consistent for me about this Oklahoma tradition and that’s the festive atmosphere! Regardless of who the Speaker is or the political party in charge, you are seeing friends from across the state who you haven’t seen in a long time and people you share a special bond of public service with. And, for that,  I feel truly blessed.

Throwing it back to 1974!

Because it’s “Throwback Thursday” and because this is one of my all-time favorite photos with one of my all-time favorite people…

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A remnant of the first political campaign I ever worked on, this was taken when I was seven. I rode a bicycle. I put campaign signs in every yard on our street, whether my neighbors had asked for one or not.

I carried a broom with a Boren sign attached and swept the capitol steps of corruption.

He called me his tricycle campaigner….nevermind I had shed the training wheels by then! I just enjoyed biking and brooming for a candidate I believed in.

I even brought my 4th grade class to the State Capitol and we took a photo with him in the Blue Room.  My mother remembers my teacher, Mrs. Nelson, was shocked I volunteered this as an option when the field trip to the local fire department was cancelled at the last minute. Pays to have friends in high places!

As for the photo…it was taken while he was moving into the Governor’s office at the State Capitol.  I am pretty sure that desk has never been as clean…or, the walls of his office that empty…or, that Oklahoma has ever had a public official leave such a positive and lasting impact on our state…or, that I will ever, ever wear a snoopy outfit again… ever!

House of Cards

I have always said good people hardly ever run for public office, and why would they, considering all of the scrutiny, partisan politics and personal attacks that are endured by a candidate or office holder on a daily basis? Well, unless you are Barack Obama and immune to any form of criticism!

That said, even though politics is a blood sport, when an elected official resigns from office prematurely, it unleashes another type of beast! A recent example is currently unfolding in my state with the resignation of one of our US Senators…

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We were so fortunate to have a citizen legislator, well a medical doctor, representing us in Washington for the past ten years. (Pictured above, third from the left.) If you have no idea who he is, just google Dr. No! You might however, be familiar with his annual book of waste called the Wastebook! It contains pages and pages explaining some of the really stupid stuff your tax dollars are funding! I am going to miss this and hope he continues to publish it from the sidelines. Such an honorable man whose service to our state and nation will be terribly missed!

But, that was not really my point.  My point being, that a really good guy, a citizen legislator, is leaving his elected position early and the deck is shuffling for the Oklahoma delegation.  The politicos are either lining up to run for the vacated seat or calculating who will run for it, and the one which would open up as a result of that one, and the next one and so on. Just crazy! Meanwhile, the campaign consultants are working 24/7 trying to solidify their next client(s) and the lobbyists are surveying the playing field.  House of Cards, Season Three…so not kidding! 

Maybe someone new will surface and really shuffle the deck…. a teacher, a preacher, another doctor, or better yet, a small businessman…sure would shake it up and keep it interesting!

We’ll see. Jury’s still out on that one, but it sure is fun to watch from the sidelines!

And, they’re off!

Starting to get crazy around here again as session is looming!

Last week, my Senator had some colleagues over to our house for an event. They stayed until 11:00 pm talking in my kitchen, which makes for one tired momma!

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I’m glad they like each other though because I think it makes their job down at the capitol a tad more user friendly. Maybe.

Thankful

Roughly 12 years ago Cliff and I decided we would send out Thanksgiving cards instead of the traditional Christmas cards to our family and friends.  Not sure why, really, other than Cliff had always loved Thanksgiving, claiming it was his “real” favorite holiday… and it just made sense. We had so very much to be thankful for that year.

Besides, I had already splurged on some professional family photos and most likely, in a moment of feeling totally organized, the idea of a Thanksgiving card was appealing, for more reasons than one!

We used this family photo…..

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Which would prove to come in super handy that next year when Cliff decided to run for political office….

A few years later,  I asked a friend of mine to design something fun and creative and different and edgy, because I’m that kind of gal- and because she was in the stationary business and just simply awesome in more ways than one.   We came up with this:

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The idea of asking each person what they were thankful for to include on our card sounded different, personal but so very appropriate and fun.  I have vivid memories of asking Ford (age 7) while he was playing in the bath what he was thankful for.  I think I just assumed he would say the action figures that were currently forcing each other to walk the plank via the tub faucet.  But, instead – he surprised me with this little nugget: ” The Pilgrims! Because they found America and if they didn’t, we might live in England.”  Okay – we can go with that.

Next came our 4 year old daughter who paraded into the action dressed in a princess costume.  Before I finished asking her what she was thankful for, she shouted her response: “God and Jesus and Santa.”  Love that girl.

The Senator and I said basically the same things, sentiments that reflected our feelings of nostalgia and perhaps age, Faith, Family, Friends, Health, Happiness…  It’s all good, right?

I loved this particular Thanksgiving card especially because of the photo we used.  It was one we had taken at the State Capitol, shortly after the Senator’s first session that year.  I remember feeling so thankful that he was able to participate in our legislative process.  I still am.

This next year will be his last year to serve in the Senate due to term limits…did I mention, I am thankful for those too?  I have a loooong list of things I am thankful for, but really, it’s all covered in that first Thanksgiving card – which is just great because I am not that organized this year and we will be expressing our gratitude to family and friends via the traditional Christmas card… if I’m lucky!

Wishing you and your family a happy Thanksgiving!

Day 3

state-flag-oklahomaYesterday was Day 2 of Special Session….Today is Day 3.  Yes, I am counting!

I’m also just pretending the Senator is on vacation this week because that is pretty much what it’s like when he’s at the Capitol for session. Gone. Gone. Gone.

But, I digress.  This week during special session Day 1 & 2 (Tuesday and Wednesday) were spent on procedural business like the first and second reading of the bills.  Today, Day 3 is the third reading which means these pieces of legislation have gone through the committee process and the time to offer amendments has expired… at 3:00 pm yesterday to be exact.  Confused yet? Cause I am. I’m also thinking that moved much faster than normal. Again…just saying…

Hence, the fireworks, if there are to be any -will soon be underway as the debate process begins.   And, that is where I think it gets fun, hearing some of the debate over pieces of legislation. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that is said on the floor!  However, in this particular session it seems these bills are a slam dunk to sail through…In fact, there’s a rumor going around about how they could be done tomorrow!  Now, that would be grand.  And, a grand savings for the taxpayers considering each day of this special session comes with a price tag of $30K.

Now, that is the real story I think.  The cost.

Logrolling into Special Session

DSC_0736My man is back at the Capitol this week!

The Governor of my state has called for a special session of the Legislature which is not exactly the norm around these parts.  In fact, I think my Senator has only experienced one special session in the almost twelve years he has served?  I remember that one having to do with budgetary issues….

This time it’s because the State Supreme Court overturned a 2009 lawsuit reform bill.  The court said it was unconstitutional on the basis of “logrolling.” Seriously, who knew there was a political term for such a thing or that it was even in our state’s constitution? When I think of logrolling, images of Paul Bunyon come to mind….But, in this case the term means a bunch of bills (bills having to do with lawsuit reform) were “rolled” into one piece of legislation….or something like that.

Anyway, the Governor and legislative leaders felt they could reconvene and pass the pieces of legislation that were log-rolled – individually.  I’m sure the rush to get this done has to do with the fact these laws have been on the books since 2009, and to just pretend they were never there…well, that would affect numerous people and businesses who have been operating under them.  You get the picture! So, the legislature is logrolling it into a special session this week to rectify the situation.

No doubt this will be interesting.  The lawsuit reform bill in question was passed with a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion and a Republican controlled legislature. And while the bill had bi-partisan support, it did not come easy.  Advocates for and against the bill took to the airways attempting to garner the people’s support for their side….which is a nice way of saying… it got dirty!

Considering the dynamics are a little different this time around with Republicans in control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, it’ll be fun to see how this all shakes down!

Just watching from the sidelines today….