October 3, 2017

The Hill Has Ayes

By Derecka Alexander

My first experience with Robert’s Rules of Order was when I was a citizen at the American Legion Auxiliary’s Louisiana Girls State program. That was a great introduction but no where near the level our Congress People work through markups on the hill.

A markup is the process by which a U.S. congressional committee debates, amends, and rewrites proposed legislation. Markups are open to the public, however, depending on how popular the bill is, you might want to get there way sooner than when the doors open. The first markup I attended was for the Fiscal Year 2018 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill. The other extern Jacob and I stood in line for over thirty minutes waiting to get in. I usually don’t do waiting in lines, especially when I have on heels, but I knew this learning experience was not the time for me to be boujee. Lesson learned.

The next markup session I attended was for 7 bills in review by the House Natural Resources Committee. Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah,  had no problem enforcing Robert’s Rules in a swift manner. Other markups were scheduled to happen right after and some markup meetings overlapped other ones. So much important legislation, like the healthcare bills, were being discussed and amended in preparation for the day they hit the floor for voting. Trying to keep up with the discussions, the ayes versus the nays and the constant request for roll call votes was more than I expected and kind of gave me an adrenaline rush. Then towards the end of this markup, I finally understood why the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group was present at the full committee markup for a committee concerned with natural resources issues. It went down during discussions around the SHARE Act. I’m not here to sway people to the left or right, however, I do find it strange for legislation removing silencers from the National Firearms Act to be important to the heritage of American sportsmen and women.

My Hill meeting with Mr. Peter Hunter from Representative Cedric Richmond’s staff will hopefully lead to an aye for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. Mr. Hunter and I discussed why this bill is needed and how important it is to agriculture states like Louisiana. He said it’s straightforward legislation that is requesting the same kind of treatment other health professionals working in underserved areas get. Definitely expecting that co-sponsorship and a big AYE from Representative Richmond!

I really enjoyed meeting a couple of members of Congress who also practiced veterinary medicine! Dr. Kurt Schrader is a representative for the state of Oregon who wears the coolest cowboy boots everyday to work. Florida Representative Dr. Ted Yoho is definitely a U of F Gators fan and didn’t hold back his southern hospitality when he offered Jacob and me a couple of small bottles of Tropicana Florida orange juice.

Being on the hill and experiencing the process of law making was a great experience. Washington D.C. is home to many vets who play major roles in developing and implementing legislation. The profession has only a few who take on the challenge of traveling down the non-traditional path. For those who do, the reward of working for the greater good of this country is something they cherish. I am looking forward to my future experiences and to continuing to break down barriers while showing the world what veterinarians have to offer.

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