“Marginals”

That is what they were called. I considered myself a policy person, so had nothing to do with un-electing folks on the other side of the aisle, only helping those on our side with legislation.

Here are a few stories, simplest first. Our committee was huge, pre-computer, and a grab-bag. Veterans, Native Americans, cable TV, privacy, ethics (!), reapportionment, civil and human rights, discrimination due to actual or perceived sexual orientation, crime victim rights (Son of Sam), displaying the flag, fire and building codes and you name it, I got it.

I’ve always come up with my best solutions around 3:00 a.m. Here are a few.

One “marginal” legislator had a constituent who wanted to sell a plot of land. At the end of Session both parties agreed on land sales, but that didn’t stop the opposition from bogging it down in Committee. I had three rules on this. Call the top lawyer from the department and ask is this land for sale? Do you wish to sell it? And is the surveyor’s report correct. Yea all around, it goes on my agenda.

Come meeting day there was a fight. Don’t worry, I had my Diet Coke in my coffee cup. My chairman was not winning so I asked to step in and said to the opposition that I could explain the surveyor’s report. The chair yielded and I spent about fifteen seconds looking at the bill. Then I declared that it was “four pages.” Everyone laughed, we won on a party line vote. I broke the tiredness (especially mine) and tensions.

Another “marginal” came to me because a 12 year-old wanted to participate in Revolutionary War re-enactments with his father. The legislator was very upset that I could not do this immediately. I researched it thoroughly and the problem is that if the constituent’s son was allowed to spend weekends with dad on the “battlefield” he would be eligible to be conscripted into the National Guard and sent overseas, at war.

There was no way I was going to let this kiddo go to war. It took three weeks to pass this piece of legislation. I was stymied, the legislator was hounding me and complaining to my superiors. At 3:00 in the morning I had an idea. I got up and dressed and walked to the office. I re-wrote an entire section of the Uniform Code for Military Justice, for this boy.

I sat next to the legislator for floor debate. It passed. My office mate and I had gone to the toy store at lunch to get gifts for his kids. I bought a tin soldier and gave it to the legislator after passage of “his” bill.

Now, politics. I helped a “marginal” get elected and he stayed in his post for 30 years. Election night was crazy. Everyone was in the other room socializing and wondering about results. I was in back with the phone and chalk board (yes, the old days) alone.

A call came in for the candidate. His potential boss, and after I kindly asked who was calling I knew his name and title. I sent someone for the candidate and said to come immediately. I asked the caller if he wanted numbers from specific districts while he waited a moment. Instead he asked how I knew him. I said, sir, you don’t know me.

He asked my name and said “Of course, I’d recognize you anywhere, you have your Daddy’s eyes.” That’s a politician. When the newly-elected legislator got on the phone with his boss I shooed out the volunteer, left and shut the door. Five minutes later he addressed the crowd. He won! Dee

 

 

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