My blog neighbor—18-year veteran of the Oklahoma House of Representatives—is finishing up her last session today. Her term ends in November. And she’s in a reflective mood that reveals a side of public service most of us don’t see:
Today is the last day that I will drive to the capitol, park my car and walk into the building to go to the House floor to vote on the people’s business. Today is the last day that I will walk on that floor as an active voting member of the House with the privilege and the weight of speaking for tens of thousands of people resting on my shoulders.
I may have already made my last speech. Probably so. But then again, I may find something today that I want to debate. I don’t plan these things, so I don’t know for sure.
There is an energy on the House floor when it is in session that is hard to describe. You walk through those doors and there’s a hum of people working, talking. It has an urgency, even when they’re joking around, that you don’t find anywhere else. Their nerved up emotions hit you almost like a charge of electricity.
I’m so accustomed to this that I don’t feel it anymore. I remember it from when I was new.
On busy days, the rotunda outside the House is so full of lobbyists that it’s difficult to get out of the House to the rest of the building. It’s like weaving through a crowd at Wal Mart on Black Friday. If you’re a House member, lobbyists will interrupt your progress repeatedly to say “Hello Representative,” or some such. People who want to talk to you about this bill or that will stop you as you walk out.
Sitting on the House floor is a bit like being a fish in the proverbial barrel. We’re at the bottom of a huge room, with galleries surrounding us on all four sides. The press is in their own gallery at the top of all the others where they can look down onto us and peer into our laps. They can see what we’re reading and what we’re doing.
That’s why I sit at the back of the room. With my seniority, I can sit where I want. I choose the last seat, the one right next to the door, because the press has to turn their cameras downward in a deliberate fashion to get me. I don’t like being on camera for hours at a time….
…I have rules about what I do in office. Two of the most important are: I don’t kill people. And I won’t help you kill people.
Thank you, Representative Hamilton, for your service to the good people of your state.