Friday, January 4, 2008

Year in Review, Part 10

Stressful Days at the Capitol

As the legislative session was coming to a close in May, we were increasingly busy at the Capitol, reading bills (dozens of them, hundreds of pages thick!) every day, taking care of children so that their mothers could speak with their legislators, fighting every day to keep our midwifery provision that had passed from being stripped out in a subsequent bill.

Christy multi-tasking: Feeding Sammy his bottle, and scanning a bill for "bad amendments"

The last week was so very tense, as our bill lay safely on the Governor's desk waiting to be signed, and every day the opposition did their best to pass an amendment in another bill that would strip our midwifery provision out of the bill on his desk.

Every day the newspapers carried ugly stories about how the bill had passed (most of the senators weren't paying attention or reading the bill and did not realize that midwifery had been amended into a huge health/health insurance bill until after they had passed it).

Every day we wanted to explain to people what had really happened, but we couldn't tell the whole story for many sensitive reasons. To this day, we haven't even been able to tell our supporters the whole story, as the midwifery law is now tied up in the courts... and heading to the Missouri Supreme Court.

A crew of volunteers, mostly homebirth mothers, scanning bills in the Capitol cafeteria.
"Folks, we have to get through this 300 page bill in the next fifteen minutes and know if it's clean, because the senators are asking if it is safe to vote for..."
So, we pushed our lunch aside, tore off a chunk of pages for each person and started reading....

During that last week, those of us cloistered in an office reading bills furiously from morning to night (trying to catch all of the bad amendments the opposition was trying to insert) were under so much pressure not to miss anything or mess up when declaring a bill "clean" so that our supporters would know they were "safe" to vote on the bill currently being debated on the floor. Part of the time hordes of reporters would come by the office with their microphones, cameras, and notepads and press in, asking pointed questions, shoving microphones in front of us, asking to speak to particular people who they thought might have a juicy quote for them... Then we'd read the newspaper coverage and groan over the negative spin put on what we said, and call our supporters and ask them to respond to the flurry of blogging going on about the midwifery provision...
Tensely, we asked some of the volunteers to take the babies and children outside who were there for the day, and others of us had discussions about our maddening position.

What were we to do? What was the next right thing? Maybe all this work would be for naught and the opposition would find a way to sabotage us anyway.... Would the Governor even sign the bill? He was being pressured from many directions to veto it.
Some people cried, some people yelled, and some people buried themselves in the work there was to do! It was a long, miserable week.

Joanna is entertaining both herself and another volunteer's little girl by sliding down the
front steps of the Capitol!

I have read through 20 bills in the last hour! What an accomplishment!

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