Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thoughts from the LOB

Right now I'm sitting in a hearing room at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, waiting for my turn to testify on 4 bills on healthcare, including 3 which effect school nurses.
It's a very interesting process.  Someone from our office needs to be here early in the day to draw a number in a "lottery." I've done it myself. In fact, this year I've been on a roll in drawing low numbers. But this morning someone else drew my number for me.

The room is large, with seats lining 3 sides, 2 rows deep.  The seats are spring loaded, like seats in a ballpark, and if someone stands without holding the seat, it quickly pops up with a large "pop," that can startle one if they are not ready for it.  It's usually someone new to the room and they are embarrassed by it.
The senators and representatives sit on the sides of two long oblong arcing tables, open in the middle.  At one end of the oblong sits the two chairpersons and at the other end is the person testifying. around the two sides of the oblong sit the rest of the committee, nameplates in front of them. Legislators come and go thought-out the process, off to take phone calls, testify in other committee rooms, speak to staff and other legislators, grab lunch, etc.  This sometimes presents a strange look to the room with one chairperson at one end of the room, very few other legislators, and the person testifying at the other end. 
It would be like sitting at the end of a 50 foot dinning room table, your partner at the other end, and no one on the sides.
I always feel like we should pull up a chair closer to the legislators, but I've not yet suggested it.

The actual testifying isn't that complicated or hard. You get 3 minutes and you can read your testimony, speak form notes, or just wing it and once you've done it a few times it gets more comfortable. Then the legislators get to ask you questions. Sometimes they do, often they don't.
Sometimes the committees will start early in the day and go late into the night.  There is no cut off as far as number of people who can testify.
While I'm in this room, Jan is in another room testifying on the state budget.  We've been up here a lot the past 3 weeks, as have so many of our members, testifying on teacher issues, healthcare, the budget, and state employee contracts.

Why do it?
Because it puts a face, and it puts a story, to what otherwise is a lot of legal words on a white paper.  It helps legislators understand how each bill, each budget, each contract, effect real people.

Well, my turn is about to come up so I'll sign off now but I encourage others to experience this for themselves.  It's a unique opportunity to take part in our democratic process.

Written 3/2/16 from the Legislative Office Building, Hartford, CT

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