YDATL Blog NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Member View - Erin O'Neil on Crossover Day
Crossover Day brings out the best/worst in people at the Capitol- it’s swarming with lobbyists and legislators, there’s constant change and activity, and given the red state attitude of Georgia, more than enough ammunition to keep you fired up all day (and evening) long. Even when people don’t agree, the passionate and determined nature of the activists who inhabit the golden dome makes for great debate and a whole lot of political drama. Georgia’s whole legislative process is interesting just for the sheer novelty factor. It could just be my Northeastern Elitism roots, but being raised in an environment that promoted international politics never prepared me for people honestly thinking “Confederate History Month” or “Loaded Weapons in Cars/On Corporate Property” were good ideas.
After Payday Lending and Private Cities, those of us who lobbied late afternoon/evening on Tuesday figured it would be a fairly uneventful night. The PeachCare bill was irritating (the AJC has a great editorial on the ongoing Republican mantra of “money is worth more than people” doctrine here), as were certain legislators who refused to come talk to us despite a barrage of requests, but we’d gotten the Payday Lending bill and made significant progress with other issues. As a side note, you really can write whatever you want on those notes they send into the Senate/House chamber, which is good to know when certain people are shirking their duties as lawmakers and refusing to talk to you.
Then came the “surprise” amendment to HB 599. Around 5, we heard it directly from several lobbyists- Republicans were trying last minute to amend HB599, a great bill on adoptions in Georgia, with a little verbiage to ban all of gay adoptions in Georgia. Just a small change to an otherwise great piece of legislation, right? And of course, it’s not sneaky at all to try and slip a little piece of intolerant language in a few hours before Crossover ends. Right. Naturally, they got their discrimination inclined asses kicked.
Around 6:20p, there was a recess so that the Rules Committee could decide whether or not HB599 would be up for an evening vote. The amendment was expected to be proposed from the floor. Immediately, the late shift YD’s got organized, went over key talking points, and got to work. Sadly, Ms. Beasley-Teague did not grace us with her presence. Rob Teilhet stopped by briefly to taunt us with stories of a room filled with free food “just for House members”, but Cathy W. and Shelley kept us on target. We got a huge stack of note cards and systematically went through our little white books (think a “black book” with photos/tiny bios of legislators), checking off people one by one until we were sure we had the “no” vote in the bag. The majority of people we had to target were republicans, who were surprisingly civil and respectful to us. Most listened to what we had to say and agreed to either “kill” the amendment or to table it, if based solely only on the factor that there had been absolutely no debate or research done on the discrimination-oriented amendment earlier.
It was 8:45p before we stopped to rest- a few YDAtl-er’s were pretty hardcore and stayed even later in the evening, making sure the creepy ultrasound bill didn’t make it to the floor. That’s the bill that makes ultrasounds mandatory within the first trimester to discourage abortions, which makes a lot of sense given the whole Republican aversion to actually feeding/educating babies once they’re born. But I digress.
Crossover Day was invigorating, and allowed all of us to have first hand experience influencing legislation. Direct contact with people is still the most effective form of communication in this technophile era; e-mails and phone calls help, but actually going there and speaking to someone face to face makes a big impression. A big thanks to Emily for introducing the right people so we were able to get so much done! Tasso also was extremely helpful in giving info. Everyone who took time off work or went all the way from a long day in the office to the Golden Dome for some old fashioned up-front debate, you rock. There’s nothing better than going home at the end of the day and realizing you made a difference. And now I’ll stop getting Oprah on all of you and go back to my Cheney/Rove/Rumsfeld/Bush horsemen of the Apocalypse collage. Or wondering why a grown man would want people to refer to him as “Scooter”. Ciao.