On Tuesday January 10th, after a restless night of sleep, I woke up at 4:30 AM to get ready for my first day as a legislative intern. I had little idea of what to expect and even less of an idea about how state government functions. I was greeted warmly by Theckla in Senator Onder’s office. Theckla runs the office like a well-oiled machine. She handles committee packet prep, constituent responses, lobbyists, and the Senator and his staff’s schedules. She knows who and where almost everyone is at all times.
I got situated at my desk and spent most of the morning observing the different types of people coming in and out of the office hoping to pass Theckla, the gatekeeper, to speak with the Senator or his staff. It was impressive watching her navigate such a high volume of people with firm confidence and warm tact. After an early Ways and Means committee hearing, the Senator spent most of the morning meeting with various lobbyists and other legislators in his office behind closed doors. If he were to step out into the welcome area, he would never get a chance to study up on bills he would hear in committee later or speak with the important stakeholders of the bills he sponsored.
I went to observe the senate in session in the afternoon. I had seen the senate floor before on the first day I visited in November. It had 34 desks organized in a half crescent moon shape facing the president pro-temps large desk. Session is open to the public who can view it from above in the gallery that is somewhat reminiscent of a stadium or colosseum. The Senators rarely remain seated during session. Two Senators could be in a somewhat heated debate about radioactive waste in St. Louis County while everyone else is up talking to each other, on their phones or iPads, or out taking brief meetings. Apparently, this is commonplace. To me it seemed bizarre.
About the bills
Every session they “read” (basically state the number and title and then motion to not read it out loud) a handful of the hundreds of filed bills and then they get placed into various committees. If the bill makes it out of committee, it will then get debated on in session, but it is too early for any bills to have made it that far since they only hear 2-8 (ish) bills per committee meeting weekly. I wonder why there are possibly so many bills that do such small or medial things in my opinion. Thankfully, Theckla clarified that most bills are tweaks on current bills and many of them do not get signed into law in the end.
About the “boys club”
I titled this post “the boys club” after spending the day soaking in as much information as I could and I came to a few conclusions:
- If I ever have children and want to show them where they can see women in power, I certainly won’t take them to Jefferson City (and most definitely not to the Governor’s Mansion where all the wives of Governors have their portraits on the walls).
- If I ever run for elected office, I will be aware of how the female Senators are regarded (not super well). I will try to play at the old(er), white, man’s game in such a way that it will hopefully lead to it being just a game that really anyone can play (game=influence and respect).
- Fun fact: The Missouri Senate is made up of 34 Senators, 6 of which are female. Only 2 of the 6 female Senators are Republican.
- Another Fun fact: 3 of the 6 female Senators sit on the Seniors, Families, and Children Committee, but none sit on the Small Business and Industry Committee.