Dick Garcia called and said, “We’re going to Tallahassee.” Not entirely surprised, I said, “Sure, Dick, are we going to hire a lobbyist?” “Fuck no”, Dick said, “We’re going to be the lobbyists!”
Dick worked for one of the largest mall developers in the country and the zoning approval for its next regional mall had expired. As the attorney for the mall developer, I advised Dick that we needed to amend the zoning law so that we could get an extension.
I protested, “Dick, we’re not professional lobbyists and you know that’s a good ole’ boy system up there…they’ll have us for lunch.” Dick, in his usual no nonsense way of talking, said, “Bullshit! You forget Dave, I still have some juice around the state…for God’s sake, I was mayor for 8 years! I know everybody.”
And true to his word, everyone was happy to see Dick as we made the rounds with dozens of senators and representatives; they all promised to support our bill. But we hit a road block with Senator Buddy Williams (pronounced “Bud-ah” in southern drawl). The Senator had been elected from the Panhandle for the past thirty years and he ruled the roost. Nothing happened in Tallahassee without Senator Buddy approving it.
But Dick and I couldn’t even get an appointment with him. Ever confident, Dick said, “We’ll just go down to his office and wait for him. I’m sure he’ll see us.” So we sat in the plush leather chairs in the waiting area of the Senator’s office. After an hour or so, staring at the mahogany paneling, the Senator walked in with his aides.
The Senator was a tall, imposing figure. He walked toward Dick and stopped about six inches away, towering over him. He did not offer his hand: “Hello ‘Mistah’ Mayor, I heard you were in town. As I recall, ‘ya’ll’ didn’t make a contribution to my last campaign!” The Senator, spun around, walked into his office and shut the door, without saying another word.
A surprised Dick said, “Well…screw him; we still have plenty people to support our bill.” But, we knew we were in trouble, since the Senator had the power to keep our bill from getting to the floor of the Senate, it would never come up for a vote. Sure enough, as the legislative session progressed, our bill was never brought up. Even the powerful senator who sponsored our bill couldn’t get it heard.
Since we weren't professional lobbyists, we got some advice from friends who knew how the game was played and we quickly learned that there was more than one way to deal with the Senator. So, in the last hours of the last day of the session, a helpful senator added a “rider” to another bill that was about to “sail through”, an expression used by legislative insiders to refer to a bill which is popular and will likely pass. That rider was our little bill, which was approved unanimously!
I wrote this for the Yeah Write #82 Weekly Writing Challenge.
For those readers who are familiar with the legislative process, you will note that I omitted references to the identical process which must be followed in the House of Representatives; however, since we encountered no significant obstacles there, referring to this process would not have added interest value to the story.
Your comments are appreciated.