When you are on the outside looking into the state budget negotiations, the anticipation of what the final product will look like can be pretty frustrating. I’ve been gone from legislative staff for more than three years now, and I can truthfully say the only part of the process that I still really miss are the final negotiations on the budget when dozens of seemingly unrelated issues get hyper-linked in a flurry of activity that makes the frozen concentrated orange juice futures trading scene at the end of Trading Places seem like a Sotheby’s art auction.
So, what do expectant budget watchers do to pass the time and keep from going stir crazy? Here are ten common practices that I’ve noticed (and yes, engaged in) here at the State Capitol.
1. Stand between the Senate and House chambers trying to look disinterested when a budget negotiator or staffer walks by. Silently pray that they will come up to talk to you so you can casually ask how things are going.
2. Ask political reporters what they are hearing (and they will invariably ask you what you have heard).
3. Walk around Capitol Lake to displace nervous energy.
4. Write endless rough drafts of “end of session reports,” changing fonts and margins to suit your hourly mood.
5. Circle fourth floor of Capitol Rotunda in a counter-clockwise motion, pondering why the railings are so low. Sit in House public gallery until noticed by at least one legislator. Repeat in clockwise motion sitting in Senate gallery.
6. Attend bill signing ceremony on legislation sponsored by budget negotiators in hopes their good mood will reveal information on budget negotiations.
7. Walk around Capitol Lake again to displace nervous energy.
8. Pretend to be interested in issues being worked on by other lobbyists.
9. Complain about the lack of new Washington State trivia questions on TVW.
10. Go home at a reasonable hour; eat dinner with family; sleep.