Sine DieFeb 27, 2009
The end of session is upon us. Session is unlike anything I know. It is intense, hard, extremely long (even in "short sessions") has gruelling hours, and you get by almost only on adrenaline. But it is immensely fun (with a good share of laughs) and rewarding — rewarding in that you know you are fighting the good fight for the right causes and rewarding in the relationships you build with all types of people from across the Commonwealth, whether liberal or conservative. It's the ultimate — and original and real — network. For example, who would have thought Delegate David Englin (D-45, Alexandria) and I could share a laugh in a sub-committee, sitting on patron's row of all places (committee room front rows reserved for bill patrons), about how I helped defeat one of his bills? We may criticize him here, but at least now we spell his name right (it's David, not Dave).
This truly has been the session of odd alliances and strange bedfellows. We even worked with or had constructive talks with Delegates Englin and Adam Ebbin (D-49, Alexandria) on matters where we have mutual concern, such as human trafficking.
Traditionally, this is the night of the Sine Die party ("sine die" being the Latin phrase used to conclude a parliamentary session). It's held at a local microbrewery, where delegates, senators, their staffs, lobbyists, reporters and other assorted types (no doubt some bloggers may sneak in) congregate for a session-ending night of fellowship. Yes, they still have a day left, and some years they've been in session during the party only to get out in time to make the last part of it. Breaking news, though: The House just adjourned and I expect great attendance in just a few hours.
Sine Die is a great way to get to know all involved in the legislative process away from the battle ground of the GAB and capitol, a culmination of the weekly Thursday Night Caucus get-togethers. Making friends, even with those with whom you are philosophically opposed, pays dividends down the line.
Two sessions back I was having a great time at Sine Die when our president surprised me and showed up. All was great and we even got a normally quiet senator to open up and share some humor. It was getting late and I was looking forward to a long-overdue sleep-in. Then a delegate engaged us and, after a great discussion, he asked for some last-second help on a bill. The boss volunteered me to come down to Saturday's final session. Other than that it was already 11:00 at that point and knowing I had to be up at 6:00, it was a blast.
Session does allow you to develop relationships in a non-business circumstances and normally they're worthwhile — except when one senator reamed me out with false accusations of running negative ads against him. (We don't run ads. We're not a PAC and we're not allowed.) Still, I've met lobbyists, legislative assistants and others who have told me they admire what we do, and wish they could speak up but, as with the for-profit lobbyists, they have no dogs in our hunts. Knowing they are there, though, is reassuring and helpful in its own way.
Tonight is for fun, trading stories, learning some inside scoop. The next weeks will be for decompressing and reorganizing, and self examining. In time, we'll prepare for next session. That's then. This is now. For now . . .