Recently, I took two of my girls and their friends for a day paging at the Indiana State Capitol. I’d done this once before, and I enjoyed it both times.
The building you see above is where we spent most of the day, but it’s not where we began it or where we parked. Across the street is a government building, and the two are connected with underground tunnels (Circle City Mall is also connected via underground tunnel). These tunnels were pretty neat, and I was grateful for them since it was a freezing cold day, even though I did three times my normal amount of walking (according to my insurance-mandated pedometer). My steps were also jacked up by the need to return to the parking meter I had to return to feed THREE TIMES, but that’s a tale for another time.
I enjoyed a brief tour of the building for parents, and then I enjoyed wandering around some on my own. The tolerance of the American people never ceases to amaze me: there was a large display of “the holy Quran of Allah” in the ground floor area which was impossible to miss. I’m wondering how many “Holy Bible of Jesus Christ” displays there are over in government buildings in Iraq and Iran?
The building is really beautiful, and it was scary hearing how several times in the last century, there was talk of tearing it down. I hope that never happens, because a building put up today would never look nearly as grand.
I have to say that watching was pretty interesting, if also pretty incomprehensible to me. Indiana’s lawmakers work only a few weeks per year, in contrast to many states’ legislatures which run year-round. From a taxpayer’s perspective, I’m really grateful ours are on a part-time basis (my general feel is that the less our leaders meet, the less trouble they’ll cause us “common people”).
From the brief amount I heard, I think that there are days like this, where the legislators meet formally, and other days called caucus days where the two party’s members meet “behind closed doors” for the real nitty-gritty of how they’re going to vote, etc. This was a formal day, and I found it way different from what I’d expect.
The lieutenant governor (“lg”) presided, and a reader read just a bit of a bill reallyfast: senatebill176masstransitindi Boom! The gavel would bang and then lg asked if there were any amendments or discussion. A few times there were, but even that was odd. One senator would head up to the podium, and most of the other senators didn’t even seem to be listening. Several walked around, going over to other members and apparently sharing jokes or small-talk.
Then, lg would ask for “yays” and “nays.” This was just done by voice, although once one member called for an actual vote (these are done with electronic buttons on each senator’s desk). Immediately, the results were posted on an overhead screen — each senator’s name and how he/she voted.
From just my brief time observing, I could pigeonhole a few senators, even though I don’t know them by name. One guy always seemed to give the lone “nay” to every vote — trouble-making malcontent? One lady wanted to give a little talk on a whole bunch of bills, although most everything she supported went down to “nay” votes. Another guy always seemed to go up just to say he really liked this senator or agreed with this vote, etc — time-waster? Suck-up?
And soon, we left and began our drive home.
If your child is a Hoosier in grades 6-12, sign up him or her for a day of paging at the Indiana House or Senate. It’s a day of learning I bet you’ll both enjoy.