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What's Up Magazine

Unpredictability is the Name of the Game

Mar 26, 2012 06:10PM ● By Anonymous
We all innately know that no schedule is a sure thing when the Legislature is in Session. For more than 30 years, I have not made plans to go far from Annapolis during the 90 Day Session. Sometimes expected and unexpected issues will surface in a debate and determine the breadth and length that debate may take.

The Budget is the perfect example of the predictable. Just the other day, the House of Delegates was on the floor debating bills from 10:00am to 9:00pm with more than half of that time spent in debate on the State budget. This is not an unusual occurrence when the Budget is being debated, and we among the lobbying corps expect such lengthy days.

An example of the unpredictable flow happened a few weeks ago when we had planned a 5:30pm evening reception for the members of the Legislature on behalf of one of our clients. A lot of time, money, and expectations, had been invested in the event.

The marriage equality bill then gets reported out of committee the day before. When big bills such as this come up, leadership makes the decision as to when to allow debate on the floor. And so, when we got the word that the debate would occur that morning starting at 10:00am, we kept the reception on the books for that evening.

But much like a contractor renovating your place, nothing is set in stone. When the bill went to the floor at 10am the Speaker decided to hold off on debate and scheduled the House to come back in at 5:30pm.

Suddenly, 141 of 188 members of the General Assembly would not see our 60+ clients who were driving in from across the state. Believe me, they were not happy campers (nor were we).

With many calls and a lot of work, we were able to reschedule for the following week and reach our clients before they arrived in Annapolis. But it was not easy.

This is just one pixel in the larger picture of our year. Our work – and the legislative process - goes on year-round, but is escalated with a million emergencies during the 90 day session. And as you can see, the aftershocks of one move in parliamentary procedure can spread out near and far.

And the kicker in all of this? The House never moved to debate that night because one member got sick!