The Senate is full of traditions, as I have mentioned to you before, but this past Monday I encountered one of the traditions in a personal way. The new group of Senators are called the “freshmen” and, unbeknownst to me, there is a tradition reserved for the first person in the freshman class to present a bill on the floor of the Senate. So I stood up Monday to present a very simple bill from our Education Committee. It was an innocuous bill to change some minor wording, nothing anyone would oppose. But I was the first new Senator to bring a bill forward. When the votes started, the first person voted “No”. That was a surprise. Then the second person voted “No”. That was odd…but when the third one voted “No”, I realized what was going on…this was my initiation! The voting continued, as I sat and chuckled, almost all “No” votes, with just a handful of “Ayes” so as not to be too obvious–but it was. When the voting was finished, there was a short pause, then Sen. Keough stood and asked, “Mr. President, how was my vote recorded?” The Lieutenant Governor, who presides over the Senate, said “you voted No, Senator”. Then Sen. Keough responded, “Mr. President, I’ve reconsidered and I’d like to change my vote to Aye.”
So, one by one, the Senators stood up, were recognized by the chair, and changed their No votes to Aye. Some of them were quick and simple changes, and some were more dramatic. One Senator said, “After further deep and intensive research, Mr. President, I’ve decided to change my vote to Aye”. And the most hilarious was, “Mr. President, I’ve had a baptism by fire and have seen the light…please change my vote to Aye!”
It was all in good fun, and a bit unusual for the staid Senate, but it was a memorable experience, especially because serious work is taking place at a furious pace behind the scenes. Stay tuned.
PS–Just so you know, the hazing tradition is the same in the House, except they have instant, electronic voting that shows up on a big board. So, when votes are cast for the new freshman’s bill, the board lights up all red, for “No”…then there’s a pause, and then everyone changes their votes and the board lights up all green! The Senate does everything by voice vote.