Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Deadline Week

When I try to describe the experience of being in the Mississippi House of Representatives to someone, I often try to describe things like "Deadline Week." All House bills have to be acted upon by tomorrow night at 8 p.m., or they will be essentially "dead."

Often, people are so passionate and emotional about certain issues that it causes extended debate, multiple amendment offerings and seldom-used procedural moves to get one's way. This was seen today in two counts.

First, the voter ID debate carried on for five hours. Five hours. And because this issue has been debated for over ten years, I doubt anyone changed their mind from the moment they walked in the House chamber at 10 a.m. until we finally took a vote on final passage at 3 p.m. However- everyone has the right to speak on a bill, and most did.

Secondly, when we returned from lunch, one representative was upset at how a bill from his/her committee fell on the calendar, and a seldom-used tactic of having the clerk read the bill from start to finish was employed to prove a point. In the year that I've been here, I've never seen a request for the clerk to read a whole bill. That's the responsibility of the individual representatives. However- when someone wants to delay a proceeding, or simply prove a point, the maneuver definitely gets everyone's attention. Especially when the bill is 35 pages long, like one we handled tonight. However, after reading five bills, the representative must have gotten his/her point across, because they finally stopped making the request.

So, since we adjourned at 7:30 tonight, for 9 1/2 hours of working (minus the 1 1/2 hour we had for lunch from 3-4:30 p.m.), we handled a grand total of 10 bills- which leaves 60 for us to work on before tomorrow's 8 p.m. deadline. Obviously, we won't get to all of these, and many of them will die.

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