The statehouse was empty when I made my way through the snow and dark to the doors this morning. Several times this week I've been dead tired but not able to sleep. This week is the deadline for us to finalize and turn in our legislation. I find myself drafting new language and working out problems in half sleep.
Most the day, the floor of the Senate tends to be sparsely populated. We will call a "Bless you!" across the room when someone sneezes, call out a good morning or good bye.
Even when we are in session with all 35 of us at our desks on the floor, the place is roomy. The ceiling is tall and as much less space as there is compared to the old Capitol building, we still rattle around pretty well.
We are, just this week, starting to really hear and debate bills. Yesterday actual debate started around educational neglect and a bill that was supposed to prevent people from saying their kids were being home schooled when no schooling was really going on. Rather than making sure they were providing educational content, the legislation instead created an exemption from the existing neglect laws for anyone who said they were home schooling their kids.
I was home schooled for a while. Many parents do a great job. A one point though the wrangler on our ranch was our teacher. I'm pretty sure my sister and I and the two LDS boys who often made up our "school" were a bit much of a hand full for her. We were lucky. We loved to write. I loved science and could still drill my dad for information on physics and biology.
Some kids are kept home with parents because they are being isolated intentionally. The bill would have made it law that, if their parents said they were being home schooled, that would be good enough. This is not about standardized testing or nosy government. Under this legislation no one could ever call them educationally neglected, even if they were never taught to read or given paper and pencil to work with.
It is so noticeable here in this old courtroom, now a Senate chamber, the feel of the debate is strikingly different from that in the bustling and chaotic House chambers across the hall. In every one of the last three days when things even started getting heated, leadership would call the body at ease and a little huddle of Democratic and Republican leaders, bill sponsors and others would gather. When they would disburse again, they'd have a plan for trying to work things out, amending the legislation or pulling it back to committee. In the House we would often battle for hours over things like this, there with the cameras on and a good portion of the 70 members standing up to their microphones red raced, colorful and lively.