Legislators Lambert, Hennessy Caught Playing Solitaire In Capitol
Two US democratic legislators were caught playing Solitaire on the their laptops during an important budget debate in the State House thanks to a photo made by an AP photographer. The photo shows two US legislators - a male and a female - playing the computer game on their computers while the House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. delivers his presentation during a debate that took place on Monday, August 31. The duo's faces cannot be seen, but despite that, both of them have been identified -- they are Barbara Lambert and Jack F. Hennessy. It is not clear whether any disciplinary action will be taken against the two.
Interestingly, the photo also shows laptop of a representative just behind Lambert and Hennesy, playing the clip of a baseball game. The owner of the laptop is not in the photo frame, however, so he or she could not be identified.
The Associated Press picture has appeared in any number of venues, and it shows two lawmakers sitting in the back row of the historic Hall of the House in Hartford during the lengthy debate over the two-year, $37 billion state budget.
During the long debates at the state Capitol, legislators often work on their laptop computers - as seen in the photograph. Sometimes they are answering e-mails from constituents, while other times they are researching important information on pending bills. Other times, they are playing solitaire.
Lambert made a comment, saying it was the first time she ever played Solitaire. She also said she was fully knowledgeable about the budget and made up her mind long before the opposition speaker took to the stage.
"We had a lull and I had it on my screen," said Lambert, adding that she had thoroughly studied the various budgets introduced over the last few months and there was nothing Cafero could say to change her mind from supporting the Democratic package.
"I was still listening to him," Lambert said. "I asked Jack what he was doing and this is probably the first time I've played solitaire. I have no excuses because I work very, very hard and I was certainly listening intently, but Larry was really going on. I respect Larry as an individual. He's humorous. There's laughter when he's talking. He should know I always look at him."
Hennessy said his attention was also entirely centered on the speaker.
Hennessy, a member of the legislative Finance Committee, said he was also paying attention. "I was listening to every word that Larry said," he said in an afternoon phone interview.
Tom Foley, RepublicanThis is not a time for the Democrats who control our legislature to be playing games with Connecticut's future. Our elected officials need to put away their computer toys and help working people by lowering taxes and keeping government spending down.
Cafero, the speaker who was presenting while Lambert and Hennessy were playing Solitaire, had the reaction of frustration and dismay.
"They were playing solitaire," Cafero said. "Maybe I was boring. God bless them. What you want from me? I hope they won the game. I don't know how they played. They don't owe me an apology. The picture speaks for itself."
"I think it is symbolic of their frustration," he added. "Like, what the heck are you guys doing up there, you don't get it, and I think that is why it is getting the reaction it is."
So, it seems the problem of keeping legislators' attention is a significant one. To me, the solution to keeping legislators focused on doing the job they have been elected to do is to ban personal laptops during House sessions. Instead, why not provide legislators with in-House computers with limited Internet access, no computer games and no attention-diverting applications of any kind? After all, there is a simple trick that many university professors use -- they prohibit students from using laptops during their lectures, carrying out demonstrations that necessitate a computer themselves. But, will there be anyone who will dare curb the use of personal laptops by legislators in light of the incident? It remains to be seen.
What is your take?