2009 Legislative Glossary

In four days, the Iowa Legislature returns to the Statehouse. I’m too excited to sleep.

And in order to understand the Legislature’s customs and rituals, it helps to speak fluent lawmaker. So I’ve compiled this short glossary of legis-speak, freshly updated for 2009. I’ve come across many new additions to the language listening to leaders and lawmakers in recent days.

Bipartisan – A thoughtful invitation to the minority party to join the majority in a politically suicidal act. Example: “We hope our dear friends across the aisle will join us in a bipartisan effort to pass a whopping tax hike.”

Challenging – We have no flippin’ idea how to solve all these problems. Synonym: “Screwed.”

Daunting – Seriously, we have no idea.

50-50 chance – It would take a miracle for that to happen.

Infrastructure – A long, impressive-sounding word, usually paired with words like “crumbling,” and used to answer a wide array of tough questions. How do we improve the economy? “Infrastructure.” Why do we need to raise taxes? “Infrastructure.” How do we attract new business? “Infrastructure.” Why did you forget our anniversary? “Infrastructure.”

Innovation – New 2009 definition: The act of coming up with crazy moneymaking schemes at the end of a session when lawmakers realize they can’t balance the budget with conventional tricks and dodges. Example: “Let’s lease the lottery and put keno in bars and sell naming rights to state agencies, like the ‘Department of Agriculture, Presented by Monsanto’ and the ‘Outback Statehouse.'” Now that’s innovation.

Job creation – New 2009 definition: Raising the gas tax. Example: “It’s not a tax increase, it’s job creation.”

Lack of consensus – An excuse for shelving something a lawmaker really didn’t want to do in the first place. Example: “I share your deep concerns about this issue, but doggone it, there’s just a lack of consensus.”

Long term – A period that begins after a politician leaves office. See also Short term – The time between now and the next election.

Middle class – Everyone in Iowa, with the exception of the truly needy and the obscenely wealthy.

Move quickly – Legislative action will probably occur in your lifetime. See also “glacial” and “molasses.”

Eternally optimistic – Things don’t look so good. Synonym: “Denial.”

Quite frankly – A phrase often used by a lawmaker who is trying very hard to avoid being frank. Example: “Quite frankly, I’m eternally optimistic.”

Rainy day fund – A magic $620 million fund that can cover more than $1 gazillion in promises.

Revenue enhancements – Tax increases. Example: “Hey, let’s pick up people by the ankles and shake some revenue enhancements out of their pockets.”

Washington – A mysterious city to the east that can be blamed for all problems.

We’ll take a look at that – A phrase used to describe something dead.


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