Friday, March 31, 2006

Field trip for Aisha

The Georgia legislature ends this year's session tonight as members of congress pass/deny bills into the wee hours. I tagged along to the capitol with an ACLU lawyer to peek in on the fun. Sounds boring right? It was the most interesting experience I had in a while.

The Judicial and Legislative branches always struck me as intimidating noble professions being as they are the part of the building blocks of US democracy. I’ve been to a few court of appeals and state supreme court trials and indeed they lived up to the image in my mind. Somber judges in black robes walking in as we rise, gavel strikes, we sit. Very serious business.

The State legislature? Not so much.... I guess I pictured representatives in dark suits sitting somberly reading over the bills and asking questions. Okay. Most of them wore suits and they did ask questions but that’s about the extent of it sticking to the script I mentally dictated. Someone is speaking, no one is listening. The speaker of the house would bang his gavel and yell “If you can’t be quiet and listen then I’ll ask our guests to leave and I mean it! bang bang” It was a strange feeling as I felt the teacher in me apalled at the misbehavior before me! I seriously offer to you Speaker of the House some excellent behavior management techniques like counting to ten, turning the lights off, ten minute time out. Surely some of these can help.

It was weird to see. The speaker asked people to vote on an informal question with a show of hands and some members stood up and raised their hands, some slouched and wiggled a finger, I even saw one stand up and raise both his hands! Around 11am the speaker asked if there were any questions about a bill at issue and three people got up to ask what time lunch was and were quite miffed that a lunch time was not formally in the schedule. I saw people surfing the web. Seriously. There were odd intermissions such as “Nelly” who stayed up all night making jam for the members of the house “y'all doing a good job reprseantives” she drawled as she walked down the aisles with a basket of jam placing a jar on each representatives desk? Is nappy time next?

All in all it was quite an experience not one I expected at all and something I encourage anyone who has a few hours to spare to go and see. They are affecting our lives. Perhaps not in outrageous ways but incrementally bill by bill. And they really really really care what you think and feel about the issues. Just one person coming in and asking to talk to a member of Congress could change how that member will vote. Lots of outrageous stuff happens.... I asked a lawyer there how can this happen? How could they be allowed to do X, Y, Z??? And she said its in the paper but people dont react, their constituents dont hold them accountable- and that's just sad.

Sorry if this topic seemed kind of sort of boring but it was an eye opening experience.

21 comments:

Enyur said...

Heck no woman this was INTERESTING!!! I myself work for the Government (developing public policy). Anyway, I've been to the legislative assembly or cabinet and I thought the same as you before I went there. Apparently, people people walk around to get a bite to eat, surf the net, chat with other Ministers (which I thought was rude), but yeah, it's a pretty interesting atmosphere, although sometimes the discussions can get a bit heated. For that, they have Iced Tea! lol!

By the way, I've noticed I've been the first to comment on your last couple of blogs!! *Yay* and no, I don't camp out at your blog, waiting for you to post, although I do check it quite frequently :o) lol!

Enyur said...

Hey, I just noticed something....you almost always post at 12:00 AM (is that set by default or just routine?) As always, just curious!

Southern Masala said...

Aisha, GA parliament is an um, interesting place, to say the least. I did some lobbying there last semester over the immigration stuff, a lot of Emory students worked really hard to make sure exceptions for children and pregnant women were placed in the bills so that they wouldn't be denied public health services. (I'm not taking any credit for that, that was these amazing girls from the public health and med schools, they were so passionate and committed and had about a thousand meetings and lobbyings and protests that I couldn't go to all of them!) Have you ever watched the British parliament? Talk about hilarious. I love how they all talk trash to each other in such a polite way. "Let the Honorable Speaker note that Mr. Dowing is a giant jacka**." Cracks me up. Irish Parliament is even better. People cussing each other out with an Irish accent is great entertainment. If our Congress were that hilarious I would watch C-Span all the time.

Southern Masala said...

ok i realize i just called GA state legislature, parliament, was thinking ahead to what I wanted to say about British parliament. I'm really not that dumb!

Aisha said...

Enyur it sounds like you have my dream job! I would love to work for the gov't heping develop public policy. Mash'allah good for you!!! :) Oh and about the posts at 12, lol, I dont know if you noticed but when you compose and save it will keep it all the way to when you first composed it and sometimes I will start a post and not post it till later when I have time to finish it. So I have to alter the time myself but then I'm not sure what time it is or too tired to make it exact so I just make it 12am :)

Southern, British parliament always cracks me up!!! (Yes I think the fact that we find such things entertaining is sort of troubling but today the ACLU lawyer said her tivo which recommends other shows based on the shows she should watch said that Tivo automatically records C-SPAN for her, lol)... seriously though as I sat in the gallery watching I just can't stop thinking, "I COULD TOTALLY DO THIS"... you know? LIke I look at judges and can't imagine doing what they do... but the legis? Yeah I could do that :)
BTW- since you were there last year lobbying do you remember the representative Alica, she's african american woman and very outspoken. She is so outspoken and gets in so much trouble. I feel bad for her though b/c people all stop listening when she goes up!

Enyur said...

Lol! Yeah, but sometimes I question myself why I got myself into this, but when I think about the difference I'm making the lives of the public, it puts a smile on my face and gives me the drive to continue working.

re: the 12 am thingy, Curious George is no longer curious lol!

Aamina said...

I'm boycotting your blog because you didn't call me yesterday!

mezba said...

You should have been at the Toronto City Council today when they debated the transit budget.

Councillor Francis Nunziata (a lady): With all due respect Council Moscoe, you have been in your office too much. You should walk the streets to see how it is.

Councillor Moscoe (a guy): With all due respect, I think I will leave walking the streets to you. (calling her a streetwalker/hooker).

As usual the women's groups were all over Moscoe.

Top notch entertainment, our city council.

Minka said...

Wow, i didnt know you could actually go and watch them at work, so to speak. That is something I would do, if I had a private jet;)

Aisha said...

Enyur aw thats nice that you're helping people?

Aamina sorry :( I thought you were calling me!

Mezba, WOW he called a fellow member a street walker. JEEZ. Yes, Mezba it **is** top notch entertainment!!! People think its boring but its not!!

Minka- yes you can, if you come in a private jet let me know I'll go with you, lol :) Btw- what is the form of government in Iceland? Is it more Parliamant style or the US way.

Subhana said...

We have a parliament in Denmark, and I think Iceland does to. Quite surprising that you can just march up to the Congress and talk to one of the members. Cool. In Denmark you probably need some huge agenda to discuss not to mention an appointment to get to meet any members of the parliament. Sucks.

Zak said...

I doubt any parliament compares with the taiwanese and punjab assembly in Pakistan..they have a history of chair throwing and stuff..very interesting post Aisha I did enjoy reading it and no it didn't bore (at least not me)..I suspect if you were to do a survey of most legislatures you'd find some members don't read bills being drafted..they either follow the party line or simply leave it to staff to look it up. Mind you while passing laws that influence peoples lives may sound dramatic..but how often does that really happen?

Aisha said...

Subhana you can't do that in Parliamantary type of govt? (walk up and talk to the members?) Here you can walk in write a note to the person you want to talk to and a page sends a note to them and if they can they come out and talk to you, which normally they eagerly come out.

Zak, thanks for finding it interesting, did you watch farenheit 911? One of the congressfolk said "Son we dont read all the bills" or something to that effect. But even yesterday it was CRAZY b/c a bill was put before the house and right before they voted the speaker said "any questions befoer we vote" and a rep stood up and said "can anyone tell em what its about" NO ONE KNEW... Not one person could answer the Q of even what the TOPIC was...(the sponsor of th bill wasn't there) Very scary to see how its done.

mystic-soul said...

Politician and diapers should get change frequently and for the same reason !!

Interestingly I read a report somewhere, no congressman read patriotic act fully, just the synopsis prepared by staff.

Every election, you get right to choose a better sh*t.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

no, i think it was very interesting.. that kind of stuff really intrigues me!! good reading! wish i could tag along to!!

Just me said...

Au contraire my friend.

If u had indeed wanted boring - come to Singapore cabinet meets.

*looks around for In case of any government agents*

momyblogR said...

I wouldn't say it was boring at all...quite interesting actually and something that I could see myself doing.

HOWEVER, I am a "bird-brain" when it comes to ALL things political, so I'm not sure what I would get out of it, lol.

Mia said...

LOl@nappy time next. I loved this post. Interesting to see our tax dollars in action. If you ask me Nelly should be making jam for us not them. There have been times when I've had to go to court and watch the proceedings. Girl you just don't know. There have been times when I've either had to hold back from smacking someone or leave due to an incoming fit of laugher. You just got to love large numbers of people in a room.

Aisha said...

Mystic yes I heard that about the patriot act, a congressman said it with his own mouth on the 9/11 movie of Michael Moore.

Amzu its worth a trip one day :)

Simply Rosie, what kind of system do they ahve there?

Momyblogr, it was interesting you should go and check it out one day. I couldnt stop thinking when I was there that when I have kids I'll bring them here b/c they'll see that in the US ANYTHING is possible. If some of these folks could be representing our state anything was possible, lol :)

Mia, Really, you've found ninnies at court? I havent been to a district court hearing I wonder how those are, lol. Yeah large number of people in one place = mob mentality. Ah well.

Baji said...

Ohhhhh, I love politics. Doesn't sound boring to me at all! I miss my community organizing days and taking a group of people to the state house or a city council meeting.

Tee said...

LOL - This seems so weird! I like the part about Nelly and the jam, because I'm simple like that. Hee hee...

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