The end of another legislative session is near, and the debates are getting hotter and heavier. If you have been up on “The Hill” at all this session you might have wondered how to make sense of what is being said on the floor of the House and Senate.
The oratory, speechifying and pontificating that goes on during a legislative debate can be bewildering to even veteran observers, and so you can understand how the first time visitor to the House or Senate chambers can be bemused and confused.
With that in mind, and in the interest of making plain some of the phrases uttered by the people we elect to send to the Capitol to either protect our rights, or restrict them, what follows is a glossary of terms which might be helpful in understanding the debate on your next visit to the Legislature.
You will often hear members say, “This is a simple bill.” This means that the bill is not simple, hardly anyone has read it, and those who have aren’t sure what is in it, and you will have to trust the presenter on this one.
“I don’t want to belabor the point,” is a statement which precedes a point that is about to be belabored.
“There is no fiscal note on this bill.” This means we don’t know how much this sucker is going to cost, or who is going to pay for it, but we should pass it anyway and let the Senate kill it.
“My remarks will be brief.” When you hear this phrase, go to the coffee shop, the bathroom, take a nap or write a letter to an old friend knowing that when you come back the speaker will be still talking.
“I wasn’t going to get up on this bill,” usually means, “I wasn’t going to get up on this bill until I heard the idiotic statements from the previous speakers, and it’s obvious they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
“I’ve had a lot of mail on this one.” This means the speaker had two letters urging a no vote and one urging a yes vote, so the speaker is going to go with the majority.
“This tax is unfair.” This means the speaker might end up having to pay this tax, and we all know that the only fair tax is the one the other guy has to pay.
“This is a housekeeping bill.” This statement means, “A vote for this bill will have a lot to do with keeping us all in the House.” This also applies when heard Senate debates.
You will also hear a lot of submitting during legislative debates. “I submit,” is a term often heard being used by lawyers on TV shows in arguments before juries, and has been adopted by many legislators. They think it makes them sound like they know what the hell they’re talking about.
Then there’s the phrase, “It is incumbent upon us,” usually uttered by an incumbent, and is followed by some statement urging a course of action the incumbency dictates.
Now then, some legislators can be really creative, so don’t be surprised if on your next trip to the legislature you hear one of them using many of these phrases in a single speech on the House or Senate floor, such as, “Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I will not belabor the point, but I submit that it is incumbent upon us to act responsibly and vote for this simple housekeeping bill, especially if we are remain incumbents, which I further submit it is incumbent upon us to remain.”
Now you know what they really mean.