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Learn to Be Still

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By Stephen, on June 17, 2011

In the early morning it can be pretty quiet around here.  Walking to my office, the echo of my shoes on the hard floor follows me down the hallway.  The air is cool and crisp, contrasting the growing heat outside. It’s calm, almost serene.

It doesn’t last long.

With committee meetings starting as early as eight and session often beginning around ten, it can be hard to find a quiet moment.  Legislators walk in and out of the House chambers as they conduct their own businesses when they’re not voting.

House Chamber from the Gallery

Lobbyists line the halls hoping to grab a stray legislator or two as they run about.  Staff pass back and forth from the Speaker’s Office to the chambers, always at a quick clip.  And since my office doubles as the House conference room, meetings and phone calls become a constant background to my day.

During these past few weeks, the most frenetic I have seen at the Legislature, a few lines of an old Eagles song keep running through my mind.  Written by Don Henley and Stan Lynch (the original drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Learn to Be Still was one of the band’s first releases when they got back together in 1994 and is one of my favorites.  The first few lines are these:

“It’s just another day in paradise

As you stumble to your bed.

You’d give anything to silence

Those voices ringing in your head.

You thought you could find happiness

Just over that green hill.

You thought you would be satisfied

But you never will.

Learn to be still.”

The point comes across in that last line.  As crazy as things sometimes get, sometimes you need to stop everything and just be still.

It’s a lesson that some in the House are learning the hard way.  Late last night, in what was meant to be the final session before adjournment, legislators were working through the calendar and looking to finish up by midnight.  That is, until a three-page supplemental calendar was released around 11pm.

You can find the full description of what happened (with audio) here, but suffice to say that there was an unexpected objection to continuing with the calendar.  Amid concerns over the late hour and cries for much needed rest after three straight weeks of 16-hour days, the House decided to stop early without finishing the calendar.

A former executive at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCooper, Speaker Tillis, who sets the agenda, is no stranger to late nights and long hours.  Even still, some time for reflection can be a very useful thing.

In an interview after the incident, heard here, Speaker Tillis noted “You can get so caught up in the pace that you don’t take time to step back.  I’ve stepped back and in my judgment we need to take a second pass at it.”

So instead of adjourning last night, they will continue session today with the hopes of wrapping up sometime tomorrow, at what some are hoping is a less intense pace.  But with 36 bills on the calendar for today and the potential for a few supplemental calendars always looming, the House won’t stay still for long.

You just keep on runnin’.

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