I remember fondly pulling an all-nighter to prepare for my U.S. foreign policy class final in college … I summarily fell asleep during the exam, woke up in time to write down a few rushed answers and as far as I remember I didn’t completely fail it, but it definitely wasn’t my best grade of the semester.
I also spent more than one night (or morning) on the Michigan House floor back when I worked as a policy advisor. Days and nights like those brought out the worst in all of us (myself included). I remember yelling at a new staffer who tried to take our 1 AM “dinner”, slap-happy moments that annoyed some of our co-workers, too many Slim Jims and bags of Cheetos, or that time I fell asleep at 4 a.m. in a chair only to be awakened two hours later and told we could go home for a few hours (needless to say, I had a few choice words).
As staff, we learned to prepare for late nights: make-up, deodorant, snacks, phone chargers, sweaters, hair ties, anything we thought we might need because honestly, you never knew when you were getting out of the Capitol. A few too many times I was leaving as my normal morning e-mails rolled in and the “morning” radio shows were starting.
The worst of the late nights are the ones during Lame Duck—the time between the election and before new legislators are sworn into office. The time Michiganders happen to be living through right now.
It’s the time when any and all bills may be up for consideration, and usually some new, more controversial bills make an appearance. It’s been impossible to turn on the news the past couple of weeks and not see what the Legislature has been up to, including gutting paid sick time and minimum wage initiatives and trying to make changes to redistricting proposals and voter access initiatives passed by the voters in November.
With less than a week left of Lame Duck—and I’m sure a few more late nights—I hope that the Legislature thinks back to their time in college and how the papers they wrote until 3 a.m. were never their best products. I hope instead of rushing to push through harmful bills, they spend the next week looking at legislation that helps Michigan families and children.
But while those dangerous bills are out there, there is still time for you to act. Keep calling your legislators to encourage them to pass well-meaning legislation.
To my staff friends – Godspeed! Your work doesn’t go unnoticed.
Disclosure: Some good policy does get done late at night, including the expansion of Medicaid and the “grand bargain” for the city of Detroit – two issues which passed after my normal bedtime