Tag Archives: Steven Haner

Bye, Bye, GAB

by Steve Haner

Okay, I admit that particular sign was not in that particular frame until I got creative.

Today was the big flea market/yard sale of stuff in the General Assembly Building. Senate Room B is a location of many pleasant and painful memories for me over four decades (heading toward session #34) so I bought the agenda frame from beside the door for five bucks, figuring to make it a picture frame or put my own sign in it for the vanity wall.

Then I superimposed it over other signs around the building reminding people to not just walk off with their prints, lamps, nameplates, direction signs, chairs and desks.

Am I implying that things have been for sale all along in Senate Finance or Senate Commerce and Labor? Heaven forbid. Not my intention at all. Am I implying that the decisions in that room cost people real money? That, I will admit.

I guess I first walked into the GAB to cover State Board of Social Services meetings for the Roanoke Times in the early ’80s. I had covered the Robb inauguration in 1982 but I don’t remember going into the GAB that weekend. It really became the center of my working life in January 1985 when I started covering the session start to finish.

The biggest yard sale in Richmond.

The affection so many of us have for that building, with all its flaws, is akin to the affection that sailors and shipbuilders have for the hunks of steel that ride the waves. Lifeless? Don’t believe it. Ships have personalities, souls even, and the GAB has been a part of the legislative process. No bodies are really buried there, but thousands of dreams, careers and grand illusions have expired there.

It will not be the same in the temporary quarters in the Pocahontas Building, and the new building will need to create its own aura. The play matters but so does the stage. A new stage will change the play.

All of us will have to learn once again where the quieter bathrooms are, what back staircase leads to which corner of the building, what exit a legislator might use to avoid a lurking lobbyist, who rates a locker in the wide hallway and who gets relegated to the basement. Which offices always have cookies. Where to have a quiet word unobserved or where to go if you want to be seen with somebody to start the gossip. Long forgotten (but once crucial):  where to find a pay phone or even a free phone where you can plug in a mojo wire (see: Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing at Ninth and Broad”).

So many of you on the blog love to disparage the Assembly and the process, but you’re wrong. It is very human, with all that means, and I accept no whining from people who have not actually worked it for a while. It was nice to see so many lined up to buy some stuff to keep the memories alive. Sales tax was applied.

Steven Haner, a lobbyist, is the principal of Black Walnut Strategies.