So as a follow-up to my post on Minnesota unnecessarily collecting and storing newborn DNA without requiring proper notification of statute, I met with my state senator, Chris Gerlach, on Wednesday at the Capitol. I have never met with a state-level official in an official capacity for matters like this (I was at the Pennsylvania capitol and met with the senate majority leader and governor for swimming related stuff) so I was really uninformed when it came to what would happen. Here is my impression of the whole experience:
1. I had to park in a pay lot which only accepts coins. This is 2010. People who still carry coins are over 50. It’s time to catch up and either do away with the fees altogether (we already paid for the lot) or make them take credit cards or at least dollar bills. Oh and 25 cents for 10 minutes is absolutely ridiculous. I had to walk to White Castle and buy three sliders in order to get enough change to pay to see my senator.
2. I walked in and found tons of people lined up waiting to talk to their various representatives. They were dressed oddly, such as t-shirts under open sport jackets. Me? I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. It appeared that many were staring at me like I was crazy. “What is he doing here without an entourage?!”
3. I went up to the desk and let them know that I was there to see Senator Gerlach and had an 11 AM appointment with him. I was asked who I was with. “No one,” was apparently an odd answer because I was asked again for clarification.
4. Just after 11 I was greeted by Senator Gerlach’s assistant who led me to his office and eventually to the senator. We shook hands and got down to business–or somewhat. A little too much small talk and smiles for me. My time is valuable–in other words the meter is running at .25/10 minutes.
5. After explaining the situation to him, which I half expected him to have a clue about being that Tara Mack was well informed about the topic when she called me and the fact that he has an assistant to prepare him for these meetings, I was asked by Senator Gerlach why I didn’t hook up with a group who was in support or against the bill…
6. I walked away from the meeting with the feeling that there was no way that this was going to change at least not because I took the time to come down and speak to the person that I have the ability to vote for. Honestly, I’m a bit disheartened by the whole thing.
Now, I’m naive I know. I am not clued into how things work at the Capitol and I completely understand that. Unfortunately what I don’t understand is the whole “what group are you working with,” thing. I’m a citizen, shouldn’t I have just as much pull as one of those groups who are always trying to work some other slant? If you were to go downtown to talk with your elected representative would you expect them to at least have looked up the bill and skimmed it in advance so they’d have at least a vague idea of what you were talking about (just so you know, I do this for my work meetings–every day)?
Whatever you have to say about my experience in St. Paul go ahead and comment on as I’m interested in your own thoughts on it.