Let me begin by saying that this was my first legislative session. I’ve lived in New Mexico for over 6 years now but 5 of those were lived in Clovis, far from the workings of our state’s government. When I moved to Santa Fe last summer and began my work as communications manager for Conservation Voters New Mexico, I was quickly warned about the session. My co-workers attempted to prepare me for the unending hours spent waiting in committee hearings for conservation bills to come up, and finding solace by stepping out the door at any point during the day (or night.)
No matter how much they tried, very little of what was said could have prepared me for the reality of the session. The session alternates between equally intense and mundane moments. You are constantly surrounded by strangers (sometimes in close quarters) and for heaven’s sake, don’t touch the staircase rail(GERMS)! It is not a comfortable situation. Everyone is in the building because they have strong opinions about a varying number of measures. Disagreements can and do break out anywhere.
The one thing that helped me cope best with the session is something my coworker Molly reminded me of about halfway through. We’re all just people. No matter what party, ideology, gender or title someone carries – they are just another human being. In the Roundhouse, (most of) these are people who work-hard-for the good of all New Mexicans. I know it sounds cliché, but it is true deep down. Their intentions are good (most of the time.) Each time I would get angry about something someone said or a vote someone took, I was reminded that they are just a person who is standing up for their beliefs. The other thing that I realized is that the session, as in life, is all in the details. Of course, the end result of the session is important (visit www.CVNM.org to see the results of all our hard work this session!) But the details are what I will remember. Such as:
- Barbara’s (Senator Cisco McSorley’s secretary) unwavering smile and warm welcome every time I walked in to Senator McSorley’s office to hang my coat or just sit down in a quiet space for a minute. She was always willing to answer questions or just chat for a moment; even though I’m sure she had plenty of her own work to do. Thanks Barbara and Senator McSorley!
- During a Senate Conservation Committee hearing on a fracking ban bill, activists broke out into a rendition of an Amy Winehouse song, adapting the words to say, “You want to kill the planet, we say, no, no, no.” I was surprised and it didn’t appeare to be received terribly well by the committee members.
- The Rotunda at the Roundhouse is always buzzing with life. One day, a high school mariachi band played and the singer blew me away. She looked like she was no older than 16, but her voice was so strong and clear that it sounded like it belonged to someone much older.
- On the last full day of session (just before St. Patrick’s Day), Representative Bill McCamley put on some goofy, bright green, shamrock-trimmed glasses, turned to Representative Emily Kane and said “You need to take this more seriously!”
- Senator McSorley discussing a bill on Friday, the last full day of the session: “Only God and the gentleman from Valencia County know how long we’re going to be here.” I think he might have been referring to the same person.
The last floor calendars have been printed; the last bang of the gavel has rung through the chambers. It’s over. I know I couldn’t have done it without the support of my coworkers Leanne, Molly, Allison, Thomas and Sandy who each provided me with moments of laughter, comfort, perspective, and direction which made the session survivable. I hope you had a good support system for the last 60 days. You needed it.
(Remember to visit our website www.CVNM.org to find out what happened with the 80 bills on our Legislative Agenda!)