Friday, August 13, 2010

Next year’s lawmakers: Fast and furious

While the summer heat thrives and winter seems a light-year away, it may appear a tad early to look ahead at how much activity is anticipated at statehouses and Congress for the 2011 calendar year.

But for people like myself who track state issues there is no time to waste when it comes to keeping up with legislative happenings. And with 83 percent of elected officials on ballots this November, the activity at capitals across the country will likely be fast and furious with a lot of new lawmakers anxious to make an early mark during their tenure.

According to StateNet, there will be a nearly 50 percent increase from 2010 to 2011 in the number of bills introduced at state capitals and Congress. In all, 147,800 bills are anticipated next year everywhere from Providence to Phoenix.

Once the New Year starts, two states are expected to be churning out far and away more bills than any other state. You’ve likely heard that everything is bigger in Texas. The 12,400 bills that are expected in Austin next year seem to prove that statement. But even the Lone Star state appears to be no match for the Empire State. New York lawmakers are expected to offer a whopping 16,000 bills.

Amazingly, the two states are pegged to offer nearly 20 percent of all anticipated bill introductions throughout the nation AND Congress.

Even more interestingly, New York lawmakers will be busy throughout the year while Texas is slated to cram all of their work into less than five months. That is more than 2,700 bills each month in Austin – or 675 per week.

The per-week average in Texas is more than the total number of bills that are expected to be offered during the regular sessions in four states (Alaska, Delaware, South Dakota and Wyoming.)

As was the case a year ago when I wrote a blog about how many bills are expected to be offered in states, it is no real surprise that states with heavy populations have a tendency to produce the biggest stacks of legislation while generously populated states typically have shorter piles.

Other notables:

Hawaii is estimated to offer 4,500 bills – the same number of bills that Arizona, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin are collectively expected to offer.

Puerto Rico is expected to consider more bills than any state except Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Texas. The U.S. territory is estimated to offer 6,000 bills.

While in session for only six weeks, Virginia lawmakers are expected to roll out a whopping 2,600 bills – or 433 bills a week. On the other hand, Wyoming lawmakers are estimated to introduce 500 bills during their seven-week session – or 71 bills a week.

At the U.S. Capitol, 9,100 bills are expected to be introduced in 2011. That is nearly double the 4,850 bills anticipated for 2010.

There really shouldn’t be any surprise that StateNet is predicting a nearly 50 percent increase in bill introductions from a year ago. There are expected to be a lot of fresh agendas at capitals.

And with so many governors on ballots across the country – 37 seats total – with four of every five state lawmakers and 88 percent of Congress, the agendas could reflect different attitudes on a lot of issues. That should be reason enough to make sure to cast a ballot this November.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My britches aren’t made of sugar

There’s been some interesting talk going on around the trucking industry about what is an endearing greeting and what is sexual innuendo.

It all started when two truck stop employees won a lawsuit against their employer because of a claim that they were sexually harassed by customers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I’m a little bit thicker skinned to this subject than a lot of women. For starters I grew up in the South and, secondly, I’ve worked in male-dominated professions.

Dealing with people calling me “sugar” and “hon” is something I’ve begrudgingly gotten used to. I have been called everything from “missy” to “baby cakes.”

That doesn’t mean that I’m particularly fond of it. Even if you get a laugh, that doesn’t mean anything. It was fake and half-hearted because women like me were raised to not tell you off at first meeting. We – with our properness – have learned to laugh it off and walk away, and sometimes wash it off at the end of the day because it was so wrong.

With that said, I’m pretty sure I can help the well-meaning individuals bridge a gap that exists in society.

In general it’s not OK to address complete strangers or people who are not close friends by any sort of nickname.

Take for example a recent trip of mine to the local grocery store. There was a young checkout clerk who was obviously trying to be super nice to the customers.

After she addressed the older gentleman in front of me as “hon” for about the fourth time, I caught the subtle eye roll. He’d had enough.

As I stepped up to the counter, she called me “sweetie,” “dear” and “lovely lady” in about a 45-second span.

It should be noted that I had just run into the store after working in my yard. After a few hours in the blistering heat, I have to be honest – I was hot, sweaty and about the furthest thing from a “lovely lady” in terms of both mood and appearance.

So not only was she giving me insulin shock from the sappy sweet pet names, she was an outright liar.

After my daughter and I were outside the store, I pointed out to her that there’s a definite line between trying to be sweet and polite and being so heavy-handed with it that it’s obnoxious.

In general I told her, good manners and downright nicknames that imply character, appearance, smell or personality are very different creatures. Anything that refers to sweet pies, a dumplin’ or britches are just readymade for a groan.

There’s nothing wrong with “ma’am” and “sir,” especially if the person is of like age or older than you. Otherwise, the tried and true term “you” can be used. The generic, “good afternoon,” will serve you well. “Have a good day,” and “thank you” are staples in a polite conversation.

It’s sad because politeness is such a rarity in this day and age. So, if you’re trying to pay a compliment, just don’t confuse a dorky, cheesy, creepy or half-baked attempt at being cute for being polite.

But, then again, this is the advice from a woman whose mother still calls me “Minerva Jane.”