Legislators' LingoJan 29, 2008
I knew that a freshman delegate in committee this morning was coming of age. The delegate had already learned "Legislators' Lingo." I don't mean parliamentary stuff that's part of the job. The delegate, as all delegates and senators must do, was introducing a bill to a certain committee. The delegate introduced the bill with the magic words heard by all legislators on 99 percent of their bills:
"Mr. Chairman, all this bill does is . . . ."
Which is the sister of:
"Mr. Chairman, this bill simply does . . . ."
Which leads me to ask: If all these bills are just so simple and don't do much, do we really need all of them?
Okay. I might be a bit hard on them. No harm intended. It's hard not to have a little fun at their expense when you hear the same thing over and over again in endless committee meeting after endless committee meeting. Some of the bills truly do nothing (contrary to a legislator's concealed intentions, but don't do what he or she secretly hoped to do, is found out anyway, and the bill gets tabled); some do a lot, usually harm (such as raising a tax or fee, and the "simply" line brings laughter or cringes as the case may be); while others really do have impact, and everyone knows it, but the legislator wants to soft pedal it. Some truly do very little, and are technical in nature to help a locality do something a quirk in the law prevents them from doing as it is currently written.
Then there are he feel good resolutions, the ones legislators bring up to suck up to constituents, such as a high school band from the district that won a competition. Nothing wrong with that, right? The General Assembly passes dozens of them each year. This is it at least 120. Check out the list here. Last night at our Annual Legislative Reception and Richmond Briefing, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) happened to mention that he limits his resolutions for people who truly merit it, such as a policeman or soldier from his district who died in the line of duty. Why? It just so happens each resolution recognizing a cheerleading or state fishing champ costs taxpayers $1,000 a pop.
But that's legislative lingo for "small change."