Today, I learned a lesson in waiting. When at the Capitol, don't sit in the office. There's so much to hear and do. The reason I waited was because 3.5 the House Economic Development committee met only after the House adjourned. However, I quickly ventured to the House and sat and listened. From my Legislative Policy class, I learned that in the beginnings of the country's history, people would go to Congress as entertainment. This was partly because there was nothing else to pass the time back then, but it was also because people found it interesting to sit and listen to people debate about issues they feel strongly about. Sitting there in the House, I felt the similar combination of boredom and fascination I'm sure people felt hundreds of years ago.
What a long day! Four hours in the Senate and the entire time, they were discussing only one bill. I had reported from the House before, but today was my first day in the Senate. The difference between the two was fascinating. The House is large, impersonal and hard to keep track of what is going on. I felt like I was constantly trying to figure out who was talking and what they were talking about.
The Senate was entirely different. It is everything the House is not. With only 34 members, the Senate is personal and easy going. Jokes and stories were mingled with serious policy debate. You could tell the Senators really knew each other well and understood each others positions, no matter the political party.
Another note of interest is the clear lack of technology used in the Senate compared to the House. The House has a large LED screen displaying information and each representative has his or her own laptop on their desk. However, the Senate was strikingly different. No monitor and no laptops. Every amendment was passed around on paper and Senators had large binders on their desks. I found that this helped them stay focused on the policy debate and not on their emails.
I'm glad I got the opportunity to report from the Senate, as my days here at MDN are winding down and the end is near.
Last week, after a rather poor blog post that delved a bit too deep into my own opinion, Phill sat me aside and gave me some valuable insight on the true meaning of journalism. While writing the blog, I got carried away with what I wrote and how I felt. The gist of what he told me was that it’s ok to have opinions but don’t proclaim them to the world with gusto if you’re working for a news organization…especially one that covers politics.
Phill is someone I highly regard and honestly look up to as a journalism mentor. He constantly impresses me with not only his journalism skills, but also his mastery computer technology and programming. So when he gives you advice…you stop and listen.
This week I heard the story of two Jackson County residents who were clearly upset about the gerrymandering going on in their home county. They argued that a finger was being stuck in the county for the 6th District, which would essentially separate much of the Republican voters from the county. In essence, this would create the urban core of Kansas City securely Democrat and uncompetitive.
They said that many of their fellow neighbors are upset that this line is being drawn to politically exclude them from the rest of their county. The couple went on to say that the politicians didn't want to listen and the local media didn't want to tell their story.
The tragedy of innocents dying through natural disasters or political upheavals is a terrible thing for any country to bear. However, in this day and age, with video and information technology that allows the entire world to see, it becomes more than a problem for just one country or one region of the world. It is an issue that the world as a whole must deal with. Of course, unifying 190+ countries with wildly varying interests is no easy task. I believe that to deal with future mega-crises like those we have recently witnessed, the world community must continue to try and work together as best as possible to help those in need.
This was my first week writing a print story here at the statehouse. It was no big deal, since I wrote for my high school newspaper for several years. In all honesty, it was a nice change of pace from the usual radio reporting around here. It covered a subject I think that all Missourians are affected by in some way: minimum wage. A state senator brought before a committee a bill that would call for 2012 elections on whether or not to peg the state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage.
This would have serious repercussions for those who recieve minimum wage, as the federal wage historically increases slower than the state's wage. Some lawmakers, including the sponsor of the bill and the chairman of the committee, feel that keeping the minimum wage to the lowest possible denominator would attract businesses over the long run. However, the fear is that many people who depend on it, including college students, seniors, and those recently laid off work would recieve the short end of the stick. However, I believe its good that it calls for being brought in front of the people of the state. In the end, they know what is best for them and what kind of legislation they want to see on such a crucial and important issue.
The argument was that Missourians could save money if they have access to insurance plans from out of the state. However, the real problem is how to deal with the almost 28 million dollars in lost revenue from insurance premium taxes that leave the state if the bill were to pass. This is a dicey proposition for lawmakers, as they must weigh the benefits of individual Missourians with the benefit to the state as a whole. This raises an interesting question - whats more important, the citizen or the state? This is one question I am sure state lawmakers will try and figure out in the weeks and months ahead.
This bill comes off the heels of the recent passing of Proposition B, which increased regulations on those who raise puppies for sale. Many of the state's rural and agricultural committee widely revile the new law. They say that it was passed only with out-of-state backing and duped urban voters who know little about rural economics.
For the story, I met Representative Ed Schieffer of Troy and he was one of the friendliest people I have met so far in Jefferson City. As an "urban" resident myself (St. Louis), he gave me a fuller picture of the other side of this issue and the effects that it has on rural citizens. This story allowed me to understand that even though an issue might not affect you directly as a reporter, it certainly affects many in the community who depend on your stories and reporting.