This morning, the Senate gave its final approval to the same-sex marriage bill with barely a whimper of dissent in a voice vote.
All in all, it did not take much floor time in the Senate to pass the bill, despite its heft as an issue. An hour and a half yesterday, maybe 10 minutes today.
Based purely on that you could argue it wasn't a distraction at all, as Gov. Jim Douglas has argued it is. But floor time doesn't tell the whole story.
Most senators will tell you this issue has not prevented them from attending to their other matters. The Transportation Committee is still working on transportation issues, the Economic Development Committee is birthing an omnibus bill, the Institutions Committee is building a capital budget.
But they were doing that amid a torrent of messages, via via e-mail and on little pink while-you-were-out slips delivered by pages. And they were doing that amid making some what for some was a pretty heart-wrenching decision. Even for those who'd already made up their minds, it was an emotional moment.
Senators yesterday after the vote said they were exhausted, emotionally spent. Many of them spent the weekend fielding calls, e-mails and comments from neighbors back home. Some cast their vote not knowing if they will pay for it at the polls next year.
So was it/is it a distraction? The jury's out. You can argue that the adrenaline rush of this bill gives them energy for other work, that the more you have to do the more you can do, but you can also argue that a bunch of senators were exhausted and it was only Monday. Some of them have some very tough budgets to build. The answer will be in how that goes.
- Terri Hallenbeck