Friday, May 01, 2015

'Let's sign up on and for things'

Last week at the Texas capitol, Grits witnessed a scene so funny I've retold it a dozen times since then and may as well share it with you, gentle readers.

I was near some of the electronic kiosks where people who want to sign up to testify, support, or oppose bills in the House must fill out forms on touch screens to record their registration. (The Senate still has you fill out paper cards; the House has gone electronic.) A couple of young gals walked up the corridor with the full tats, piercings, leather, dark makeup, spiked hair, 21st century punk ensemble one might expect to see at the club late Saturday night. So far, so good, it's their capitol, too.

One of them appeared to be leading around the other, giving a mini-tour, clearly having some knowledge of the place from a different layer of her life than she shared with her companion. Stopping at the kiosk, she explained their function then declared in an inspired tone, "Hey, let's sign up on and for things!" And so, they each manned a kiosk and began intently poking the touch screens, reading random captions to one another and giggling, registering "on" or "for" each one.

I've laughed on and off at that scene for more than a week. Makes me grin every time I think about it.

The genius of that ploy is that, by signing up "on" or "for" bills, you'd never piss anybody off. Nobody minds if you support their bill, whether randomly or not. And signing up "on" a bill but not testifying is random, but not harmful. Signing up "against" means the House Research Organization mentions the opposition in their floor report, people notice, maybe somebody calls you to ask why you don't like the bill (at the phone number you gave them to register).

I suppose one might derive a similar, if more cynical, nihilistic pleasure from signing up against random bills. I know plenty of folks who wish the Lege would go a biennium or two without passing any laws at all. Still, registering random "nos" would be a more disruptive intervention.

By contrast, registering "on" and "for" random bills is like harmless graffiti littering the legislative process. It may be a meaningless thing, but those two gals got a kick out of it and, for some reason, so did I.


Jefe said...

A related anecdote. I saw a well known policy advocate appear during a House committee hearing. He had not signed up, but after listening to a member lay out a bill he wanted to speak in opposition. The committee waited close to 10 minutes while he signed up from the wireless connection on his laptop. Maybe this is why the Senate sticks with the cards.

Jordan said...

Those girls did show more interest in the legislative process than a lot of other people out there, so good on them anyway, even if they were doing it for giggles.

jD said...

Some sort of related news reported here by the Texas Tribune:

Anonymous said...

Nihilistic pleasure. Yes!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, those girls were probably as informed about the bills they were signing up on as many of the legislators who are actually casting votes.

Anonymous said...

How long before the Lege makes "nihilistic pleasure" a felony?