“Your ability to articulate exceeds my capacity to understand.”
– House Speaker Tom Murphy
The state legislative session begins anew this week, reminding me of the first time I set foot in the Georgia Capitol. In high school we took a field trip during the legislative session and I was mightily impressed.
I had never been in a building that big. I had never seen so much marble. All the lawmakers looked important. And I still remember stepping onto floors covered with red carpet so thick it was like walking on crimson pillows.
Ten years later, armed with a reporter notebook and a credential from this newspaper, I was sitting in the press gallery at the back of the House chamber with the political panorama spread out before me. It was like my first Braves game in the press box of Atlanta Stadium.
“This is great,” I commented with a bit too much awe to the veteran reporter seated beside me.
“Not really,” he said beneath his breath. “Most of these guys should be arrested.”
(Eventually some of them were.)
Still, I had that moment when I thought I was watching democracy unfold before my eyes. It didn’t take long to become disenchanted, but that’s the way it is with so many things that start out marvels and end up muddles. It remains the best system we’ve got; it’s just that lawmaking often lacks the sense most of us believe the Lord endows to rocks.
This is best explained with a time-tested gauge: “How Lawmakers Solve the Problem of Riding a Dead Horse.”
1. Change riders.
2. Buy a bigger whip.
3. Appoint a committee to study the horse.
4. Visit other cities/states/countries to see how they ride dead horses.
5. Lower standards so dead horses can be included.
6. Reclassify the dead horse as “living-impaired.”
7. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
8. Harness several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Provide additional funding/training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
10. Conduct a productivity study to see whether a lighter rider would help the dead horse.
11. Declare that, because the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and contributes more to the bottom line than live horses.
12. Rewrite the performance requirements for all horses.
13. And promote the dead horse to a supervisory or elected position.
You know, I might have grown up since I first visited a state capitol, but I can honestly say that lawmaking continues to amaze me.