Oak wood braced the banisters, blue and gold drapes cuddled the windows. A painting of John and Samuel Adams with James Bowdoin drafting the Massachusetts Constitution hung above the platform. The state representatives began to fill the chamber, clustering in clicks, chitchatting and laughing.
The speaker hit the gavel against the sound block, and the room settled. He quoted, “For every problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
An amendment was announced. A woman walked to the podium and began speaking. The chamber reminded me of disorderly high school kids with a substitute teacher. Some of the state representatives reclined in their chairs, others stood along the wall talking, and many fooled around with their cell phones. One state representative walked around the room with a Magic 8-Ball (a toy used for fortune-telling). The conversations grew louder and louder, amplifying more than just the woman’s voice through the speakers. In irritation, the speaker struck the gavel and said, “If you want to talk, please remove yourself from the chamber.” And just like unruly students, our representatives ignored the substitute teacher’s request for attention while someone else spoke.
Youth workers, teachers, health care advocates, and community organizers crowded the lobby chanting, “Raise revenue! Stop the cuts!” Their cries bounced off the chamber doors. No one was listening.
These 160 members represent all the people of Massachusetts. I wondered how seriously they took the budget, the cuts that were made, and the damage done.
Later in the day, I watched the five o’clock news. Some of the representatives talked with the press as if they actually deliberated in the chambers, as if they were actually in the chambers fighting for their constituents. Well, I am sorry to report, that they did what high school kids do when the teacher is out.