Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Just Like Back To School

The Washington State Legislative session kicked off on Monday.  This is my 23rd year as a lobbyist in Olympia.  The political process is mirror on society in many ways -- but the first week always reminds me of going back to school.   In Washington the Legislature convenes every year on the second Monday in January and goes for either 105 or 60 consecutive days, depending on the year.  During the interim time there are occasional meetings of legislators and committees, and you run into your colleagues here and there, just like you did your school chums in the summer.   Yes, it's very much like school -- everyone gets together and works closely and intently for a few months, living side by side, sharing lunch and dinner, and social time, and then vanishes, and come next year we do it all over again. 

I've worked with many of these folks, both lobbying colleagues and elected officials throughout my years here.  We've grown older together, and we've seen a lot of water under the bridge.   We are a close-knit group in many ways, just like you get in school while school is going on.  We work long hours on projects, eat at the cafeteria, share a drink after work, sometimes party, and friends are made and lost.  Legislators and lobbyists, all working in a compact environment in a small town, and then all leaving abruptly when it's over.  Yep, it's just like school. 

It's always good to see familiar faces when you come back after the interim -- the legislative equivalent of summer break.   "What's new?"  "Where did you go this summer?"  "How's the wife/partner kids?".  "Boy oh boy did you see so-and-so, he/she has gotten so fat/sick/thin/bald."   "Did you know so-and-so is having an affair with...?"    Just like in school, there's cliques and groups and fraternities of the legislative session -- power lobbyists with major big clients, freshmen legislators learning how to legislate and where things are, pro-business folks, social service folks,  labor, Republicans, Democrats, Senators, Representatives, Cougars, Huskies...

And there's always building and structural changes just like between school years.  Buildings get remodeled, offices move, elected officials lose elections and new ones come in, lobbyists change clients.  The first week you kinda have to find your way around all over again -- more so this year with a massive remodel of the House members office building.   All of us are wandering around like it's a new building and no one knows where anything is.   Its strange to come in to a building after 20 years and see a wall or a hall that wasn't there before.

Each session is different, yet each session is also the same.   Issues come and issues go, people come and go.  The capitol building stays here watching over things and the process stays mostly the same.   Yep.  It's just like school, and this is the first week of "back to school."   It's day 3 -- 57 more to go!


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