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Welcome to In an Auscape! What's an auscape? It's a word my friend Katie came up with that means "The sensation of a second stretching into a minute, a mile, or a year." Is that fresh or what? This newsletter is where I'll describe my (bi)weekly minutes, miles, and years. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
What I'm About
Last time, we talked about the citizen legislature. Today, we'll talk about how bills become laws in 120 days or less. As you know, the citizen legislature was created so that people could govern for a short amount of time and then go back to their regular life. Today, we know that means a regular life of real estate investing, "consulting," and, you know, being independently wealthy, in most cases.

So what happens when they are governing? Basically, government happens for some amount of time (pre-determined, usually by the constitution) between 30-120 days. Most places with citizen legislatures have "long" and "short" alternating sessions. Our session in Virginia this year is 30 days. You might be thinking, "Thirty days? What can they possibly get done?"

The answer is both a whole lot and not very much. Over 2,000 bills will be introduced in those thirty days, and hundreds will pass. Hundreds more will be considered, but ultimately won't pass. Every legislator has a few bills they're really invested in. If you're Senator McClellan this session, those bills are the domestic worker bill of rights, protecting the right to receive an abortion, and the VA Voting Rights Act. If you're some dingus republican, it's criminalizing poverty by making sure nobody but you can post your bail.

Once bills are introduced, they get shuttled off to committee, where the committee chair (this is where it helps to have the majority party) decides what bills will even be considered. Let's say your bill is up—great! A chance for real debate! You've waited for this moment, you're prepared to testify, you've got your two minutes ready as instructed. But then your bill gets punted to next week, because people disagree on one section of it. Next week, you show up, you're ready to go! Then the chair says that instead of 2 minutes per person, everyone will have 30 seconds. You stammer out what you can in 30 seconds, something like, "Bill good! People love bill! Support bill!"

Debate in committee lasts about 7 minutes (luxurious!) wherein legislators who have definitely not read the bill ask questions of the sponsor. Then they say, "Do I have this right" several times as they're understanding what's actually in the bill. Then, on bills where there's debate, republicans vote one way and democrats vote the other.

Session ends. Bills that have had debate that can't be resolved die in committee or on the floor, to be taken up (again, and again, and again) next year. 

Next week, we'll talk about why systemic change can't happen during legislative session, and how it's outside agitators (heyyyyyyy) who make it happen at all.
Who I Followed
Poster reading "What if a big shark just ate all of the police" with graphic of shark
"I had a dream I got the vaccine while I was at the library picking up my holds." 1/19
Richmond indigenous society with logo graphic: X shape in black, white, yellow, and red
"P.S. Fuck Christopher KKKolumbus!" 10/5/20
Leisure Activities
In between hearings and ranting, I do make some time for things I enjoy. Here's a few things I've liked lately.

Amazing Race
Okay, this is ridiculous, but I am highly into the Amazing Race. So many places! So much traveling! Relationship dynamics! Heavy bags! I love fantasizing about getting on a plane again one day, but not as much as I love making fun of the bros who lose.

Trust Exercise, Susan Choi
This book is the best kind of weird and I have loved reading it. And I'm not alone—it won the National Book Award in 2019. 

Maymont Farm
Goats, horses, cows, and more! Maymont has a sweet little farm, but it's also situated on the James River and is much more than just the farm—there are Japanese and Italian gardens, a nature center with river otters (we have yet to go inside, for obvious reasons), and an excellent set of raptors who aren't safe to be in the wild. My favorite, though, is one old blonde goat with an excellent underbite.
Pleasure Fix
Erica holds a hammer and pecanDuring my trip to Wilmington, I was gifted a large bag of pecans by Katie and Dory! I don't have a nutcracker, but I have discovered that my favorite way to destress on a Friday night is to shell nuts! If I'm obnoxiously into foraging the next time you see me, it's just because I have a lot of stress I need to manage, okay? 
As you read this: SNOW!!!
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Big ups to Ana Alvarez—writer, designer, cat enthusiast, and coffee whisperer—for my logo. Hire her!

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