05 December 2008
There Really Is A Lobby!
And I stood in it for a long time yesterday.
Three colleagues and I went to our state capitol to lobby some senators on behalf of a bill (H 4162) that mandates an ‘anti-bullying’ policy in every public and charter school.
I was there as part of the leadership of a local LGBT supportive clergy network, as sexuality (perceived or presumed or actual) is a frequent reason for bullying. But this aspect was part of what was holding it up.
I believe it was Twain who said there were two things you should never watch being made, law and sausage. The latter is grisly, the former is tedious and dispiriting. We talked with four senators in the hurly burly of the actual lobby. They gave us five minutes or so, the key senator even less as he was the one most reluctant to see our point of view.
Then we waited for the committee meeting following the general session of the senate. From the gallery we watched as the drone of business, much of it delayed and pent up over the two years of the current legislative session, went by in a blur of repetition and formality. Whatever majesty one has about government is ground away quite quickly despite the imposing room in which they sit.
Eventually, an hour later than planned, the committee met and we trudged over to see if the bill would come out of committee where it has been for many months. If it did not come out now it would die and the process would have to start over – meaning another two years.
We were not alone. A professional lobbyist was there, she was also our advisor during most of the day, and the father of the boy for whom the law is named (who took his own life after being harassed). Though it was not on the agenda, lo and behold they took it up.
The good news, it was sent to the floor. The bad news, language that pointed to a state education model policy, was removed. The reason was that it would tie the hands of administrators in making judgments, and school officials really do have a lot of rules already. But it was the model policy that named various ‘classes’ of kids who are bullied – racial and ethnic of course, along with religion, disability, gender and (this was the sticking point I think) sexuality.
So we helped get the bill out to the floor, but far from the form in which it was passed by the house and farther yet from its original form. We got a first down, not a touch down.
Hot soup was waiting for me at home. Vegetarian soup. I had enough sausage for one day.