Talk about a stretch.
I refer to the state Senate thinking it was a good idea to spend $5,100 of your money to provide itself with a special place — for senators and staff only — to seek tranquility.
That place is a large but little-known meditation/yoga/Pilates room tucked away in the Capitol basement. Perfect for those rough-days getaways.
It’s not on any public tour. You need an access card to enter.
And, as reported by the Caucus, a weekly publication of LNP Media Group, Lancaster, the room is equipped — and Zen some.
The Caucus used right-to-know requests to get the details.
They include: organic buckwheat-filled meditation cushions ($896); a stereo system for playing the soft sounds of songbirds, crickets, Tibetan singing bowls ($500); large, visually soothing wall art ($676); and a constantly running garden waterfall ($379).
There also are low benches, a book-borrowing nook, yoga mats, yoga posters, a watercooler, and Suki floor lanterns.
I am not making this up.
A spider mite, by the way, is a tiny sucking pest (bring any sort of person to mind?) and, in my view, a strong candidate for official state arachnid.
Now, I understand $5,100 isn’t a lot of money in the context of legislative spending.
Heck, the legislature’s annual cost tops $337 million. And its annual audit released last month shows it has a $137 million surplus. That would be your money. Sitting there. To spend as leaders see fit. Like, for example, on Suki floor lanterns.
And certainly, you can understand the need for stress relief. After all, the “full time” Senate had to slog through a whopping 47 voting days last year.
But give the Senate credit. It’s had its $5,100 tranquility base since 2017, and managed essentially to keep it under wraps. Speaking of which, maybe with that fat surplus, it can also offer spa-worthy detoxifying body wraps.
Come to think of it, any Senate detoxification might be a good idea.
The official reason (excuse) for having an in-house Zen den is that Senate bean counters some years back noticed that health-care claims related to stress and mental-health issues were on the rise.
So, Jennifer Kocher, who speaks for the Republican-run Senate, told the Caucus that after a survey of employees, Senate leadership OKd “making improvements” to unused basement space as part of overall wellness efforts.
Kocher showed me the space on Monday. It’s nice. Clean. Silent, except for that gentle waterfall. Relaxing. (Though I could have used a little Tibetan singing bowl.)
And if you’re wondering about stress relief in the lower chamber, well, the House has a meditation room, too.
House Chief Clerk David Reddecliff showed it to me. It’s on the fifth floor of the Irvis Office Building next to the Capitol. It’s a dinky little unused room with three beat-up surplus chairs, two unplugged desk lamps, and an end table.
No cushions. No mats. No artwork. No sound system.
It does have a ceiling leak, and has for some time. It’s a room of gloom. Reddecliff says the House hasn’t spent any money on it.
So, the Senate, in this instance, stands alone in the Capitol as a caring, nurturing body – when it comes to caring for its own, with somebody else’s money.
And, again, the amount is small potatoes. It’s the attitude. An approach, even to little things, that exhibits entitlement. That places personal convenience above public interest.
They do this stuff because they can. Because they are beyond shaming. Because too few care about the legislature as an institution. And because no leader of either party steps up and says: “Wait, this is not why we’re here. This is not a valid use of tax dollars.”
It can stress out those interested in honest, open public-first government.