Cold Fusion: Droopy Drawers Edition
Cold Fusion has been on sabbatical due to the brief illness and eventual passing of my mom on January 14th. I started back up writing a few weeks ago and posting on my website’s blog – www.chrissaxman.com; however, my Cold Fusion emails were very special to mom. She reviewed every one of them before I hit send. Like just about every son, I didn’t take all of her edits, but I soaked up her praise.
So where were we….Ah Yes…Redress of Grievances and the Story of the Droopy Drawers Bill (one of mom’s favorites).
Back in the General Assembly Session of 2005, I turned to my seat mate, Delegate Algie Howell and asked him what legislation he was carrying that year.
Algie and I had hit it off from day one of the 2004 session. While we were not of each other’s party, race, or generation, Algie and I shared with each other life experiences, thoughts without fear of condemnation, and stories. We became and are friends to this day.
So when I asked him what bills he was carrying, he first explained what problem he was trying to solve and then what the bill intended to do. To the best of my recollection, here’s how the conversation and some of the story of the internationally famous Droopy Drawers Bill goes.
Me – “Algie, what bills are you carrying this year.”
Algie – “Chris, I get sick and tired of seeing these young boys in my neighborhood walking past my barber shop with their pants hanging down. It’s awful to see all those bottoms hang out. Don’t need to see their underwear.”
Me – “Right…”
Algie – “So you know what I did?”
Me – “What’s that?”
Algie – “I put a bill in. It fines those boys fifty bucks…Can you help me out?”
Me – “Sure. Let me ping some of my (GOP) guys on Courts of Justice and see what they can do.”
So I emailed several members on Courts and asked them if they could help Algie with his bill. Within about five minutes, email responses came back all saying basically the same thing, “I like Algie. We’ll help him out.”
Different parties. Different life experiences. But they liked the guy and he asked for help. They said “yes.” Not a difficult process being nice and asking for help.
In fact, it works and works well.
Back to the action which was not ten minutes after the conversation began.
Me – “Hey, Algie…looks like we got some support for you. I think you got a chance. Make sure you go see each of the guys on my side. They’ll help you out.”
Help in this context meant they would make changes to the bill sufficient enough to get it out of the Courts Committee or as I referred to it – Cambodia in the early 70s – The Killing Field. Twenty-two lawyers arguing over bills. *shiver*
Algie – “Chris, that’s great! Let me know how I can you help you. What bills are you carrying?”
Me – “As a matter of fact, I do have this school choice bill that would really help your district out.”
Algie – “Tell me about it…”
And I did.
A couple of weeks later, we’re on the House floor and Algie turns to me calmly and says, “Chris, I think my bill is going to make it out of Courts.”
Me – “Which one?”
Algie – “You know. The one about those boys wearing their britches below their behinds.”
Me – “Oh yeah. That’s coming to the floor? No sh!t.”
Later that afternoon, still on the floor, I got an email about Algie’s bill from a slightly outraged lobbyist .
“Can you believe Algie’s P.O.S bill is coming out of Courts? Are they serious?”
I wrote back simply, “They like Algie.”
“That’s not a reason to vote for his crappy bill!”
Me – “Yes it is.”
As soon as Algie’s now famous legislation, The Droopy Drawers Bill, passed out of Courts it became a media firestorm.
Algie and I sat down the next day on the floor after the noon time prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.
Algie – “Chris, my bill passed Courts.”
Me – “So I hear.”
Algie – “You still with me?”
Me – “Sure. You good with my school choice bill?”
Algie – “Oh yeah. Something needs to be done to help those kids.”
Me – “Cool.”
There are three readings of House initiated legislation – if it passes full committee. The first reading is just a public notice that the bill’s first debate and amending will occur the next legislative day. So, two days later our bills – Droopy Drawers and school choice – are on second reading and are in an amendable state. Bills on second reading also require a vote – either recorded or by voice. This is Monday.
Algie’s bill passed with a simple voice vote and was onto 3rd reading the next day – Tuesday.
Later that day, my bill initially died on the 2nd reading recorded vote 45-46. So I got one of the 46 to make the motion to reconsider the bill. That motion passed largely along party lines and then I drew up some amendments to satisfy some of my colleagues which cleared the way for passage to 3rd reading. But it was a dog fight.
The next day, Algie had received some constituent response to his support of my bill from those who usually take exception to school choice legislation. He turns to me on the floor saying, “Chris, I got a lot of calls back home for my vote yesterday on your bill. I’m going to have be against you today.”
Me -“No problem. I understand. Thanks for helping me get here.” It’s an election year. We all understand political realities.
Algie – “Now…you’re still with me on my bill, right?”
Me – “No, Algie. That’s not how it works. Tell you what, how about we both not vote? If we stay off the board, we help each other without actually voting. A lack of a negative is a positive.”
Algie – “I can do that.”
Me – “Deal.”
We both Not Vote. Our bills pass. Algie’s bill, by now, has become an international story and the Senate was waiting to kill it.
I left the floor and flew to Los Angeles for mom’s brother Phil’s funeral. My body woke up at 5am East Coast Time in LA which meant 2am. UGH.
Finding my way into the coffee shop next to my hotel, I eased into a booth ordering a cup of 2AM over warmed java. Mmmm…warm AND chewy. Look up at the television turned to CNN and what do I see? Yup, a story about the Droopy Drawers bill!
Son of a…
After the funeral, at the wake, Aunt Georgia from St. Louis – without so much as a greeting – said “Well! Did YOU vote for that belly button bill?”
Sensing her outrage along with the rest of western civilization at Algie, I proudly replied “No. No, I didn’t.”
“Well, you SHOULD have!’
Headed back to the airport. Hopped on a red eye to Boston, slammed two wines and two Tylenol PMs. Woke up in Logan and hazily made it to the Richmond flight and back to the House floor by noon. Thursday. A little under 48 hours since Algie and I not voted for each other.
Algie – “Sorry about your uncle. How was the funeral?”
Me – “Thanks. Not bad. Caught sh!t for your bill.”
Algie – chuckling “Me too. Can you help me out with the Senate.”
Me – “Sounds fun.”
Never got the chance though.
The Senate Courts Committee killed Algie’s bill that afternoon and mine died a few days later in Finance.
Droopy Drawers – a lesson in the redress of grievances.
Mom loved that story. Telling it makes me grieve less knowing she is reading it out loud to her new old friends and hopefully Uncle Phil.