Monday, February 14, 2005

Mr. Primrose Goes to Cheyenne

I spent the better part of the morning at a coffee shop downtown, getting some homework done and chewing on the past week's events. As soon as I got back to my hall at around 12:30, a fellow RA grabbed me. He's an education major too. He asked me what I was doing that afternoon, and told me the following story:

There is currently a bill in committee in the Wyoming state senate which pertains to teacher salary increases. The bill passed the house unanimously, but is facing stiff resistance from some members of the subcommittee, one of whom is the representative from my fellow RA's district. This RA's mom is a teacher and had organized a small group of teachers (and one attorney) to come to Cheyenne to talk to this senator, lobbying him simply to let the bill go to the floor – knowing full well he's going to vote against it should that happen. But at least the debate would be given the larger audience instead of being quietly suffocated in committee.

So my fellow RA asked if I could come along as an informal representative of pre-service teachers' interests. This kind of opportunity doesn't come along very often, I reasoned, and fired off an email to my instructor explaining that I would be absent. Off to Cheyenne.

Standing there in the capital, outside the senate doors, I realized how easily I had become a lobbyist; a member of the vilified special interests. Generally I'm against unions and a good bit of the information we got about this bill came from the Wyoming Education Association, so I was a little skeptical. But this seemed reasonable and important. More to the point, it will have a direct impact on my life in another year or so.

The meeting was actually anti-climactic. We let the teachers and the attorney do most of the talking to a state senator who seemed annoyed and a little nervous. I won't go into too many details, but suffice it so say some language in the bill suggests the Attorney General needs to supply an opinion about the bill's constitutionality. Should the bill be deemed constitutional, we may stand a chance of seeing the bill debated in the senate. If that happens, I'll probably try to make it over to Cheyenne to watch the debate live.

After the meeting we had dinner in downtown Cheyenne and just got back a little while ago. It was a pretty long afternoon but I learned a ton and was genuinely interested in watching government at work.

And here I thought the legislative procedure was boring.


Blogger Leta said...

To vastly paraphrase "1776" - A lobbyist is always for the public good in the first person, such as "our lobbyist." It is only in the third person - "their lobbyist" - that a lobbyist becomes venal.

Good luck!

8:20 AM  

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