Thursday, February 5, 2009

First Day on Capitol Hill

I was in a frenzy Wednesday afternoon as I stared at the ugly boot stuck on my car and glanced at my phone that was letting me know I had 15 minutes to get up to Capitol Hill. 

This was my first day at the Capitol. Despite nearly 3 years reporting student and local news, I have never needed to drive up there and write about a Legislative issue. 25 minutes later I had parked and was wandering around trying to find the House building. It only took 2 people with instructions and an extra 50 feet of walking before I headed downstairs to room W020.

There was a half-oval shaped table with multiple representatives relaxed in seats, and rows of chairs where people in collared shirts and ties were already propping open laptops and texting on blackberries. I passed by 15 people and found a seat in the second row, got out my notepad and pen, and prepared to listen to budget announcements about the Utah Science and Technology Research initiative.

The Higher Education Appropriations Committee meeting delayed USTAR news for the Salt Lake Community College president to speak. Then Ted McAleer, the executive director, went up to the microphone and sat down. 

He said that USTAR was right on schedule, ahead if anything, and plans to start construction on their new building at the end of April. Last week, legislators had said construction on the building would have to be delayed with budget cuts and the struggling economy. 

McAleer instead proclaimed that the program had brought in plenty of researchers, who were already starting businesses, developing research and opening coffers around the U.S. to fund research at the University of Utah.

Despite my prediction that the meeting would be more boring than watching an episode of Barney, I was extremely interested, if not confused, by the budget numbers presented in multiple slideshows. 

And the Representatives, very talkative and interested in the program. I eventually found my way out of there after about an hour and walked up to my now-bootless car.

First day on Capitol Hill...I survived.

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