Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Senator

 
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!

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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.

32 comments:

  1. It's amazing the power some individual wield! I guess we are always learning the art of finesse and you figured this one out with a little help from your "friends". I found this very crisp and interesting. I know so little about the inside workings of politics!

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    1. Thank you Gina. Yes, the power that some people have in those positions is incredible. It's a rough business and I barely scratched the surface. As we learned in law school, "There are two things you do not want to see being made: laws and sausage!"

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  2. This was very well written. Your dialogue was incredibly well done and contributed so much to a sense of knowing you and Dick.

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    1. Thank you so much Angela. I really try to make the dialog real. I did remember what the Senator said, verbatim.

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  3. Man, I hate politics! Thanks for the inside peek though. Sounds like you did a great job!

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  4. Ahh, the inner workings of the Senate. Glad you found your way in!

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  5. Oh the nasty business of politics. At least you worked to your advantage. Very interesting inside scoop!

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    1. Yeah, this was an eye opener for sure. Thanks Kim.

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  6. Definitely an interesting look at politics and very appropriate this time of year!

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    1. Thank you Michelle. I was worried that this would be too wonky (is that a word?) but it seems to have some broader interest. Thanks for the reassurance.

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  7. That was such a jerk move from the senator.

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  8. I hate politicians who only support the people who paid them.

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  9. Oooh, I *love* a good behind the scenes story. I'm too old to be surprised that politicians don't support bills at least in part due to their merits, but it still surprises me!

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    1. Yes, that describes my feelings exactly. I've been through this too much to be surprised but I'm still amazed that it happens. Thank you DoseofReality. Great blog name for this subject matter!

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  10. Interesting read. Dick sounds like quite the character. This piece also does a great job of illustrating why lay people get so irritated with the political process. In between the egos of the Senator Bud-ah's and the need for insider only knowledge at times it seems as if the relative merits of the content of the bill are almost irrelevant. Nice post!

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    1. Exactly. The mall rarely came up in the conversation. Thank you for noticing that Larks.

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  11. What a great, well-told story. It would have freaked me out, as I don't think I could have operated in those circles. I love hearing about it, though, because it's a world I know little about.

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    1. It was very stressful, knowing you have such little control. But fun too, when we figured out how to solve the problem! Thanks Kianwi.

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  12. How fascinating -- and Bud-ah sounds like a rotten orange. Boo.

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    1. Thanks Boo. Yep, There are some rotten people. Thankfully, it's just a few.

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  13. Fascinating. Florida sounds like CHicago, except we don't have the cute accents. Great story.

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    1. Thank you Outlawmama. Fortunately, everybody is not like that.

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  14. Great story, I think. I mean that, I think, in a good way for your storytelling. You highlight the corruption so well that it makes me cringe - a testament to your writing. A clean, well-lighted place - that's your writing. Well done.

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    1. Thank you so much Stephanie. I take your comments as a high compliment as I really like your stuff and because I try to make my stories flow clearly and logically so that the reader isn't conscious of any effort.

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  15. The dialect is spot on, being a former southerner I recognize the players. Also, a well told story about how things "really" get done.

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    1. Thanks Bill. Yeah, the dialect was fun and if the Senator had said more to us, I would have gladly reported it.

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