Campus Notebook: To Sit or Not to Sit

Posted January 19, 2010 at 6:37pm

Weary (and rule-conscious) visitors face a confusing contradiction when visiting the Capitol: Some signs invite them to sit on the East Front’s “seatwall,— while others tell them to keep off the wall entirely.

[IMGCAP(1)]The short walls that surround the Capitol Visitor Center’s skylights have long proclaimed, “Do Not Stand on Seatwall. Keep Off Glass.— But in recent weeks, some of those signs have been replaced with ones more restrictive, stating, “Do Not Sit or Walk on Walls.—

Have the seatwalls become unsittable? Or did officials tighten security?

Neither — the weather is to blame, said CVC spokesman Tom Fontana. Some of the original signs disappeared during December’s snow storm, and workers have temporarily replaced them with the (more restrictive) signs that were immediately available.

“We want visitors to sit on the walls,— Fontana said. “Hence the name ‘seatwall.’—

Web of Rules. Senate committees sometimes vary widely on how they handle procedural issues such as meeting notice requirements and hearing quorums, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.

The report compares the rules of each committee with the standing rules of the Senate, finding that each panel gives different power to its chairman.

For example, the Senate’s standing rules require committees to give a week’s notice for every open meeting. But the rule allows an exception for “just cause— — and each committee has a different procedure for determining what constitutes “just cause.— The Armed Services Committee requires the whole panel to agree, while six committees leave it to the chairman

and ranking member. And three give sole control to the chairman: the Finance Committee, the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

The report also details committee rules for scheduling witnesses, issuing subpoenas and a handful of other issues. It also highlights some unique regulations, such as the Budget Committee’s limitation on the size and number of charts that a Senator can use during debate.

Dueling Reforms. Republicans on the House Administration Committee recently introduced legislation to encourage online voter registration, claiming their bill will do more to cut costs and protect privacy than the Democrats’ plan.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a bill last year that would require all states to offer online registration by 2012. But Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — a senior Republican on House Administration — said the bill would force unprepared states to go online without necessary fraud protections.

McCarthy’s bill instead offers incentives, promising reimbursement for the cost of creating an online voter registration program if the state follows several requirements, such as signature verification.

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