“I have never seen anything like it” was the phrase everyone at the Capitol kept repeating after yesterday’s wild floor session. I was in the balcony as it all exploded. During the cigarette tax discussion, there were several debates over parliamentary procedure. At several junctures you had Rep. Krummel and Rep. Richardson yelling across the floor trying to be heard over the House Speaker’s motions. Both lawmakers demanding explanations for violations or explanations on the rules before things proceeded as they proceeded. Rep. Jenson grew frustrated over being ignored over his repeated signaling to be heard. When Jenson’s moment to speak came he said he “had no idea what was going on”, as Jenson continued the Speaker then tried to cut him off. As the senior member of the House and as a man who is measured in his words, Jenson deserved better treatment.
To cap off the bizarre incident, the final vote on the controversial bill had Rep. Lim NOT voting. Rep. Lim said he was denied a chance to be heard, and refused to vote until he was. The rules specially demand lawmakers to vote with no allowance for either non-voting or abstentions (rumor has it that this law was put into place in the 90’s when then Rep. Thompson tried to do the same thing). The floor was caught frozen in time in the middle of a vote where no other motions or actions could be taken. This caused the lawmakers to be stuck for nearly two-hours in limbo, as they could not leave the floor. Some played cards while Rep. Tom Butler rolled out a sleeping bag and slept on the House floor (picture here).
After a marathon wait, the House Speaker Merkley did the right thing by calling again upon Rep. Lim to give his vote. Rep. Lim said he WAS going to vote, just not “YET”. The Speaker finished the vote count without him. In protest, Rep. Lim said he was going to remain in his seat for the next 72 hours. As of 7:00 that night when I left the Capitol, Rep. Lim was still at his desk. I don’t fully understand what happened with Lim on the floor, but not voting is a serious matter! Rep. Lim needs to issue a clear statement on what occurred. You just cannot not vote.
If all this seems confusing, well so am I. I can sympathize with Rep. Merkley at times for trying to move the process forward, while at other times he seemed to over-reach. More details can be seen here. It was truly a day like no one has seen before at the Capitol.