Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Sad Side of the Capitol

In addition to political, geographic and faith-based distinctions between folks at the Georgia State Capitol, those of us who spend the legislative session under the Gold Dome are also defined by which side of the Capitol we inhabit. The Mitchell Street side is where the corporate, rich, for-profit lobbyists spend their days. The MLK side –by the double elevators of course- is where my folks, the progressive nonprofit types hang.

I learned today from a republican legislator that the side of the Capitol where my allies and I spend our time is known as the “sad side of the hall.” Apparently we are known for standing in front of the monitors while watching what’s going on inside the chambers with big ol’ frowns on our faces. Hell, can you blame us? We spend our days watching perfectly good legislation tank and awful, hurtful legislation crossing the finish line faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I never felt like our side was sad at all- I love the people I’m surrounded by on a daily basis on that side of the building: women’s advocates, environmentalists, advocates for gun safety, immigrant rights folks, people who watch out for the well-being of children’s education, safety and healthcare. Essentially, the folks that share my own values and views.

These are the people who do not have teams of people keeping their eyes on their legislation, interns to fetch bills or beverages, or assistants back at their offices keeping their practice running while they are gone for 3 months. They spend hours upon thankless hours advocating for what is right but likely doesn’t have a chance in hell of getting anywhere under our current conservative regime. There is incredible solidarity on our side of the hallway; I’ve been lucky enough to make wonderful friends there.

Not sad at all, really.

Today was the 30th day of the Georgia legislative session- the notoriously long crossover day that is the deadline for bills to pass out of the House from which they originated from. At around 8pm after many hours of debate, the Speaker announced that they would break for dinner for 30 minutes. Shelley and I quickly run out of the building to find some sustenance to help us make it through the final hours.

Much to our dismay, the one place that is open within a block of the Capitol closed at 8. As we watched the guy lock the door I could here the sad, mocking music in my head “wa, wa, waaaaah”. So we schlep another few blocks to awful Atlanta Underground and wait too long for too expensive too greasy sandwiches that we have to get to-go and then run back up the hill to the Capitol. At least we got cocktails in to-go cups too. A girl’s gotta take care of herself in these difficult times you know.

We get back to our side of the hall which now seems quite dark. Our comrades are splayed about on metal folding chairs dragged underneath the monitor so we can rest our tired feet. Everyone looks exhausted and yes, a little pathetic.

From where we settle down to eat our crappy dinner, we can see through the center of the Capitol on The Other Side. And then we hear music. And see musicians. And dancers.

The Other Side has an effing bluegrass band playing for entertainment and there are children dancing in circles for the amusement of lobbyists- to keep their spirits up, you know. How lovely for them.

Upon further exploration, we also determine that there are boxes from the Varsity filled with hot dogs, hamburgers and fries being passed out to all the folks standing around. You can almost see a golden orb circling the dude in the paper Varsity hat who stands on top of the mound of bright red and white boxes, tossing them out like Santa Clause sharing gifts. Ice is clinking in cocktails. Angels are singing for god’s sake. Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating- but its my blog so suck it.

On my side of the hallway, people are eating chocolate-covered raisins that the sweet House aide who pities us passed out, referring to them as “fruit”. And I reflect on our ridiculous journey to get food and make it back in time to make sure that our bills don't get hijacked by sneaky legislators. Oh, yes. I see it now. We ARE sad!

Jeez, yet again a Republican tells me accurately what my reality is – before I even know it to be true- during this m-effing Georgia legislative session.

I could speak from my heart and say something sappy that would wrap up this blog nicely. Something along the lines that I would take chocolate-covered raisins, metal chairs, and Shelley, Sandy and Alice a million times over free food and politics for profit.

But I think I’d rather remind folks that Rep James Mills thinks there’s a country called Irania. And that half the people up here use the words “fiscal” and “physical” interchangeably. And that they want to pass laws to allow them to bring their guns to church. And ban birth control pills for all women.

Yeah, I’m happy by the double elevators.


Reem Tara said...

awesome awesome awesome. except for chocolate covered raisins. YIKES.

Sara Ashes said...

what's even worse is that they were DARK chocolate covered raisins. There was absolutely no good reason to eat them.

Reem Tara said...

sick, dudes. sick. by the way, you made me want a hot dog desperately. the kind you get outside the aquarium from that little cart. in chicago.

Lori said...

My latest blog entry is dedicated to you. It has nothing to do with this post and everything to do with Jan 28.

Anonymous said...

Oh man. That's just...frustrating.

Keep up the ass-kicking, Sara.

tubesy said...

Awww... I miss being over there. Even though I probably contributed to the sad nickname when I (totally professionally) burst into tears and started yelling at Eagle Forum people for taking my picture one late (heartbreaking) night. I definitely got made fun of by Mr. Youngest Republican Douchebag Assemblyman the next day.

I remember when they used to turn out the lights on our side. And in them thar days the cap was still run by dems (or just becoming republican...)

Oy! Keep up the good work, sister.

syb said...

keep up the long hard work.
i spent my first day as a part-time lobbyist on Monday - in Albany for the Family Planning Advocates conference.

And then there was a press conference that afternoon, given by the man who introduced the bill we were lobbying for, the man who was supposed to speak to our group that morning but got "called away" at the last minute, the man whom I applauded many times that morning as David Paterson and Sheldon Silver and Amy Goodman spoke his praises.

Yeah. Spitzer. Monday. UGH.

At least it was somewhat exciting being in the halls of the Legislative Office Building while all the shit was hitting every fan. But the Assembly did not convene as planned that afternoon, and who knows how long it will be until these bills will get the proper attention again.

Effing politics. But you know that already - and I applaud your writings & efforts - and everyone's efforts on the 'sad' side.

Sara Ashes said...

syb, was the press conference you're referring to the one where Spitzer introduced legislation to declare abortion a fundamental right for women? I read about that! Boy the timing sure was unfortunate, huh? The goal of the legislation was certainly laudable. I actually sent the article Ir read to one of my lobbyist sisters here in georgia with a note about how unbelievable it is that two states in the same country can be so different from each other.

Sara Ashes said...

tubsey! we miss you in Georgia! And I had no idea that they truned the lights off on our side- no wonder its so dark! hilarious!