Monday, November 19, 2007

New York is no Nebraska

Last week, I spoke at a gathering of state legislators from around the country about post-election audits.

Before I spoke, I had lunch with a bunch of legislators and staff from various Statehouses (including, from what I remember, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Louisiana). Nebraska Senator Bill Avery told a story about how one of his legislature's committees had recently voted on a bill he'd introduced. Just before the vote, the Committee chair had said "I hate this stupid bill, " and it was promptly defeated by a 9-1 vote (with Senator Avery being the one "yes" vote).

"Wait," I said, "your Committee chair held a vote on a bill that he hated?"

Yes, of course, it was required, the Senator replied.

"And did you have a hearing on the bill beforehand?"

Again, of course -- it was required.

The others at the table looked at me as if I was a fool. I had to explain I was from New York -- where hearings and votes are bascially held at the discretion of a Committee Chair (and her chamber's leader). Of course, I already knew New York did things differently. But it was nonetheless striking to see so many from statehouses in other parts of the country assume that votes and hearings on bills would happen in any state legislative body, as a matter of course.

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