Friday, February 24, 2017

Capitol Hill – Our Day

“You should have been there!”

That’s the type of energy exchanged among those of us
who went to Capitol Hill Wednesday 2/22/2017 and those who did not join us.

We’ve been preparing for this trip since January 4th – searching, viewing, reading, pondering, and debating how our government works and who represents us. We’ve posed questions. We’ve explored official documents, web sites, and data. We’ve even done the math. We’ve listened to meetings and watched sessions. We’ve identified what happens in each chamber. We’ve followed bills from start to end. We’ve checked out our government officials, figuring out what matters to them. 

So, we left on our trip stoked on Wednesday and returned even more excited!

Have you been up there this year? If you don't have time to go yourself...with electronics and social media, you can follow from afar – just go to Through this site, you can listen to committee meetings, read and follow the progress of bills, and watch congressional sessions. 

Did you know: The Capitol is free and open daily to the public, even when legislators are not working. Each floor houses art work and displays. You can pick up a free self-guided pamphlet at the visitors’ entrance (east end of the building by the lions Integrity and Fortitude).


Senator Hatch addressing Utah Senators.
Our morning, once most of us had arrived, began with a group photo in front of the USS Utah memorial plaque on the ground floor. Then, in pairs, we set off on a scavenger hunt. The pairs searched for items on a specific floor of the Capitol. Some answers were recorded on paper while other answers were photographed and then submitted to our center. (Find our scavenger hunt form as a pdf file all the way at the bottom of our lesson page. You can use it with your family or a group of friends. Enjoy.)

At 10AM, most of us sat in on the Senate session (two people didn’t read the instructions and spent the morning in the House of Representatives). We heard bills in all stages of movement through the Senate. At some point, Senator Hatch arrived and addressed the crowd.

While electronics failed, body parts were still viable as voting method.
At 10:40 AM, we moved on to the House to observe our representatives at work – and to hear Senator Hatch one more time. The house members showed us how they overcome electronic challenges. At first, during one vote, we saw a couple of Representatives holding fingers or thumbs in the air. We were perplexed. For the next vote, more of them were holding up fingers or thumbs. Then on a third vote, all the Representatives seated on one side of the room were standing with fingers or thumbs pointing up. At that point, the Speaker of the House commented that they were experiencing issues with the voting system. Sure enough, for the next vote every Representative stood up with fingers or thumbs raised in the air. Some members of the House even took selfies and group photos for their social media sites.  And, by the way, Representative Chavez-Houck announced our presence to her colleagues on the floor and other visitors sitting in the balcony around us.

At 11:30 AM, we walked down to the area where House members greet the public. Nine out of ten learners, who sent in green slips*, chatted with their representatives (and posed for photos) before we went to lunch. While we pushed for everyone to complete and submit a green slip to their representatives (and blue slips to their Senators), only 11 out of our group submitted slips. Nine learners had photo opportunities as well as moments to discuss their concerns about specific bills. (Two learners had phone calls from their senators later in the day!)

At noon, we traveled to the capitol cafeteria, sharing tables with lobbyists and other visitors. Following our tasty repast, some of us took a walking tour of the statues outside of the capitol building. Eventually, we all left, either for home or back to the center for individual work.

*Slips: The pieces of paper visitors turn in to their House Representatives or Senators. House members receive green slips and the Senators get blue slips. On these notes, visitors may pose questions they want answered, share personal information related to public issues, or tell how to vote on specific bills. 
Blue slips go to Senators. Green slips go to House of Representatives.

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