I don’t know that I have ever been this glad to see a Kansas legislative session end.
And, given some of the sessions I’ve endured over the past 9 years, that’s saying a lot.
But this one was particularly rough.
Much of that is due to the November 2010 elections; the Kansas House, in particular, has many new faces, many of whom we’ve learned, the hard way, are not super interested in forging compromises in pursuit of good governance. Ahem.
And some of it is attributable to the budget, which is, by any account, pretty dreadful.
But what made this session particularly unsatisfying for me was that my time was ALL occupied with defense–trying to stop bad things from happening. That’s why I’m so exhausted. And why I was so glad that they went home.
Because, really, I got into policy advocacy because I wanted to make the world a better place. I get a kick out of working with dedicated elected officials, affected constituencies, and other allies to forge new public policy solutions that take us towards a vision of economic and social justice, not because I like throwing up roadblocks and exploiting procedural maneuvers to stall for time.
With the thought that perhaps many social work advocates had sessions that looked not unlike mine, I’ve done some reflecting about why this session (and these defensive tactics) were so hard for me, and how I can reconcile myself to this kind of advocacy as part of my quest for justice. I don’t have any magic secrets; in fact, I’d love to hear from others about what this session has looked like for you, and what you learned that has helped prepare you for next year, defensive or not. But I’ve found that sharing our disappointments and frustrations, and even our heartaches, makes these sessions (how can 4 months feel like an eternity?) more bearable. And, sometimes, sustaining ourselves to fight another day is an important part of our overall strategy. And, sometimes, it’s the best we can do.
Today, I’m mourning some of what could have been this session, and I’m very worried about the implications of some of the budget cuts and other policy decisions from this year. I’m also very aware that it could have been much worse, and that our defensive work did make a difference. And I’m committed to campaigning for the senators who stood between us and destruction, because we can’t take for granted that they’ll still be there if we don’t.
Did you play defense this year? Did you win? What did you learn? And how will it feed your offensive goals for next year, and the years to come?