Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blue sheets, The Hopper, NIMBY and astro-turf

You'll hear all kinds of jargon in the House and Senate that sounds strange at first. Here's some of the more interesting phrases and acronyms you might come across.

"Blue sheet this, then drop it in the Hopper" – A blue sheet is the paper lawmakers sign to co-sponsor a piece of legislation before it's officially introduced, or "dropped." You drop it into a box (the Hopper) at the Code Reviser's office.

Caucus – One of the most used words at the capitol. Caucus can mean group (noun) or to meet (verb). There are now five caucuses: the House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and now the Majority Coalition Caucus, made up of the Republicans plus two defecting Democrats. "Going to caucus" means meeting in a sub-group like that, though you also have committee caucuses. There are also more informal caucuses based on geography (the Coastal Caucus) or interests (the Education Caucus).

NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) – Refers to groups or citizens who argue against a thing coming to their backyard. They say sure, we need a new prison, landfill, factory or electricity plant to make society work – just build it somewhere else.

Exec – For some historic reason that nobody remembers, this is the term that means "vote on a bill in committee." Committees will have work sessions to learn about bills, public hearings to take testimony for and against, then executive sessions to actually debate and vote on bills.

Chief Clerk – While this sounds like the supervisor of the typing pool, it's actually the top administrative job in the House of Representatives and not the person you ask to make photocopies. The boss in the Senate has a similar title that's just as misleading: Secretary of the Senate is not really a secretary at all.

Second Reading – The time a bill can be amended during floor debate in the House.

RCW's – The Revised Code of Washington, which is just a fancy way of saying "state laws."

Third Reading and Final Passage – The final debate and vote on a bill in the House.

WAC's – The Washington Administrative Code, a fancy way of saying "regulations." State agencies will write WACs to implement state laws.

Astro-turf – A faux grass-roots movement that isn't coming from average citizens standing up and speaking out, but from a stakeholder group spending money to look like they have grass-roots support.

The Eighth Order of Business – A big deal in the House, where you make a procedural motion on the floor that opens the door to all sorts of possible shenanigans. If people say, "The House is going to the Eighth Order!" then there's probably some kind of procedural fight happening. 

Intent section – The introduction section of legislation where lawmakers try to spell out what they're trying to do and why. Judges do look at the intent section of laws, along with committee testimony and debate on the floor of the House and Senate, if there's some kind of controversy about what lawmakers intended to do. State agencies also look at the intent section when drafting WACs to make a law work.

Two quotes and a vote – A pretty standard story about a semi-important bill, where there's a quote from the pro side, a quote from the con side and the vote total in the House or Senate.

The Eleventh Order – This is nothing like going to the Eighth Order -- instead of causing a panic, telling people the House went to the Eleventh Order will cause celebration, because people who've been working until midnight can now go home. It means the House is done for the day and the Speaker Pro Tem will make a few announcements before adjourning.

Drank the Kool-Aid – A true believer of a political cause.

Two corner meeting – Leaders from the majority caucus in the House meeting with the majority leaders from the Senate.

Press houses – Two ancient buildings on the capitol campus, home of the reporters who cover the House, Senate and governor full time.

Three corner meeting – House and Senate leaders plus the governor.

Presser – Nickname for a press conference or other media event.

BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) – The next step in Nimbyism, where instead of saying "Build that somewhere else, as long as it's not near me," they say, "Build those things far, far away from any place humans live, preferably in the wilds of Idaho."

Four corner meeting – All four caucuses (House D's, House R's, Senate D's and Senate R's) without the governor.

Tick-tock – A news story told in chronological order.

Five corner meeting – All four of caucuses plus the governor.

Weekender – A long story a capitol press corps reporter writes for the Sunday papers.

NOPE (Not On Planet Earth) – Advocates don't want things built, period.