SALEM — Lacy Ramirez Gruss did vocal exercises, stretched, pulled her hair back, and slipped on some comfortable shoes. She was going to be standing for a long time.
Ramirez Gruss, a reading clerk in the Oregon House, was determined to read aloud the 45 pages of the Student Success Act, dense legislation creating a major tax bill raising $1 billion a year for public education.
The task on Wednesday, May 1, would take more than two hours. Although she stopped reading briefly when the speaker wanted to impose a rule to keep all of the representatives in the chamber, Ramirez Gruss took nary a break for water or anything else, reading the bill aloud in a steady voice.
Her feat of oratory endurance garnered a round of applause from lawmakers, and hashtags by Oregon political observers and reporters on Twitter, like #respect and #golacy.
According to Chief Clerk Tim Sekarak, it was the longest continuous reading aloud of one bill by a single clerk in the House in recent memory.
Typically, clerks only read a summary of each bill, even though the state constitution requires each bill be read in full. That rule can be suspended with a two-thirds vote of House members. It usually is. But on May 1, Republicans wanted the Student Success Act read in its entirety.
"I am up to the challenge. I could have kept going for another hour, I feel."
Ramirez Gruss was prepared. She went through the bill the day before, marking places to pause and writing out mathematical symbols so she wouldn't trip up on them, she said. "I was trying to go through it at a steady pace, kind of like running. If you're doing a marathon, you want to have a steady pace so you don't tire yourself out too much."
By the end, though, she said, her mouth felt pretty dry, and on Thursday, May 2, she felt a bit hoarse.
Although her colleagues offered to pitch in, she was keen to get the job done solo.
Ramirez Gruss joined the chief clerk's office in January after working in higher education. She enjoys public speaking and was a communication major in college.
"I think I just wanted to maybe prove to myself that I could do it and really embrace my title of reading clerk," Ramirez Gruss said. "I'm still pretty new here…so I guess I just wanted to make a little mark in terms of claiming the title, a little personal goal."
It's hardly the last controversial — or long — bill that lawmakers may want clerks to read aloud. Ramirez Gruss is ready for them. "I am up to the challenge," she said. "I could have kept going for another hour, I feel."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.