“Members of the Senate, the election is over, it is time to put aside the contentious nature of the campaign. We need to gather ourselves and work together”. While I put these words in quotations, it may not be exact, but was close to what the Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said on the floor last Tuesday during our organizational session. It is easier said than done, but our system works best when both major parties work together. We spent our time getting computer training on state systems, getting organized for committee assignments (each legislator gets two – one that meets 3 days a week-the “A”, the other meets 2 days each week, aka the “B”committee). I was placed on the short-lived Committee on Committees to get everyone organized and review their wish list. It reminded me of what it must be like for a high school Principal who cannot give everyone the class they want when they want it. There were some bitter disappointments, but we did the best we could. I ended up on both my first choices: Industry, Business and Labor for the A committee – I was on it last session and it has a huge variety of topics coming in. This time, I asked for a different B committee – Natural Resources. As my Republican counterpart said to me, “Everyone wants to be on Nat. Res., which is increasingly where the action is”.
We also figured out where we sit as well as parking spaces. These are matters which boil down strictly to seniority. Everyone stands at the back of the Senate chamber, the president of the Senate reads off the name of the person who has served the longest and they go to their preferred desk on the floor. Most seem to like the back row for easy exits that are tough to notice; I decided to keep my front row spot… Lots of legislators are kind of worried about speaking on the floor this session because now for the first time, all sessions will be streamed and video and audio will be recorded and kept for public access. Some are wary of that fishbowl, but it will be the same for everyone.
Like the spouses with spending problems, where one might set the budget and then the other ignores it, the Governor gave us his budget and now we the Legislature will see what lands where. It will be a fast and furious 79 to 80 days (80 is the limit).