Erin and I arrived at the capitol on the 26th of March excited to see the House floor vote on one of our bills (HB5). As a relative novice of the legislative process I assumed (naively I now know) that we just might get to see some fiery debates about this controversial issue. Instead, things started out with over an hour of pomp and circumstance followed by a grueling nine hours (no we did not stay for all of it) during which a total of 117 amendments were proposed.
After about an hour of guest introductions and congratulations to the likes of the East Bernard High School football team who recently won the 2012 Division 2 state championship, Erin and I were starting to wonder if we had stumbled into the wrong room (the capitol is a bit of a labyrinth). When HB5 finally took the floor we thanked our lucky stars and again turned our attention to tracking HB5s bid for victory:
The first amendment, proposed by Representative Aycock outlined a number of semantic changes and procedural edits that we eventually got lost in. The next three amendments proceeded to amend each other, with Representatives Branch, Rodriguez and Villarreal offering the second amendment to amendment number 1 and Representative Fisher offering a substitute amendment for amendment number two. This went on until the 5th amendment proposed by Representative McClendon which amended a portion of the house committee report on HB5. Sadly the amending of amendments lasted longer than Erin and I and we sulkily made our way to class with very little idea of what HB 5 would look like by the end of the day.
So what DID happen?
HB5 finally passed with a vote of 145 to 2 on Wednesday the 27th after a long and arduous process the day before. Checking back at the end of the day on Tuesday Erin and I were aghast to see the stunning 117 amendments that were proposed. More frustrating than anything else was how difficult it was to untangle the implications of the many changes made to HB5 (not for lack of trying). Broadly speaking the passing of HB5 promises to reduce the number of standardized tests while increasing curriculum flexibility to allow students to pursue more individualized interests as they prepare for both collage and the workforce. And yet, despite our careful attention to this issue over an entire semester and our best efforts to bear witness to the passing of HB5 we remain frustrated and confused about the nuances of what HB5 really has to offer.
Next up, senate floor
PS For anyone looking to do a little light reading, please feel free to check out the transcript of the entire process