"So, Dawn, what do you do?"
"I'm an editorial assistant."
"Ohhh." The person nods slowly, prepping more questions. "Where do you, uh, do that?"
"I work for the Indiana General Assembly, which means that I review, proofread, check for typos, check for inconsistencies--that sort of thing--for the state legislators. Basically, I help edit all of the bills the legislators propose."
At this point, I usually get one of three reactions:
A) a confused furrowing of the eyebrows, which means I'll have to explain my job further;
2) the wide-eyed, high-pitched "Ohhh," which also means I'll have to explain my job further, as they are under the impression I write the laws (which I don't); and
D) the inquisitive squint, usually accompanied by a nod and the words, "Soooo, can you, uh, write whatever you want into the law?"
(For the record: no, no I can't.)
My office is known as the "Keeper of the Indiana Code." Each year, after the legislators have adjourned sine die, my office updates the Indiana Code (state law). This involves a lot of organization, quick analysis, double-checking, and reading aloud.
During the session, every amendment, motion, and resolution the legislators propose are examined by individuals in my office. In one day, you can read about tanning beds, cemetery regulations, property taxes, mopeds, charter schools, and racinos (the portmanteau for a casino-race track). Sometimes, there is a 100-page criminal law bill that needs tackling. And, sometimes, you need to read a resolution congratulating a high school basketball team on its state championship. It's a grab bag, really, and we take our humor where we can find it.
Last year, for example, there was a House bill that concerned wild hogs. The bill happened to be co-authored by representatives Bacon and Hamm.
And then there are the days I trip up the stairs in front of the governor. Or the days I trip over myself and fall, face-first, in front of a herd of state representatives. I stand up, brush myself off, and laugh. It's a habit; a talent, almost.
We work sixty and seventy-hour workweeks during the session. We have thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen-hour days. Some individuals leave the office at 2:00 in the morning. Others come in just four hours later. It's exhausting, sure. We read. We think. We deliver documents to the Statehouse, sometimes sprinting our way through the underground tunnels. We gotta meet deadline. We want every document that leaves our office to be the best possible piece of legislation.
The end of the legislative session--sine die--reminds me of election day in the news industry. We both hurry and wait. We anticipate. We watch coverage online. We're angsty. We're caffeinated and full of pizza. And on those late-night stretches, we wonder what the legislators will do and say next. But, for as blurry-faced and red-eyed as we are, we love it. We're a part of something.