November | December 2014


What was One Thing about Serving in the Legislature
that Surprised You the Most?

 

The Vast Number of Issues

Kentucky Rep. Rita Smart
Former County Extension Agent
Elected in 2010
Member of Agriculture and Small Business, Education, Local Government, Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety committees
“For me it was the vast number of different issues. I had served on the city commission and ... we had revenue issues and just three or four others. In state government, you have all these many things. To go along with that, you’re just bombarded with all this information. … In the media, most people will hear about the top issues—the budget, retirement, corrections. You hear firsthand in your committee meetings. But if you’re not in a committee, then you’ve got to read the minutes of committee meetings or ask fellow legislators to get you up to date on issues that are going on.”
 

Things Are as They Seem

Arizona Sen. Don Shooter
Farmer
Elected in 2010
Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee; vice chair, Water, Land Use and Rural Development Committee; member of Natural Resources and Transportation, and Water, Land Use and Rural Development committees
“The thing that surprised me the most is that things are as they seem. Pretty much the situation is what you would think it would be and people behave as you would think they would behave. … A lot of it didn’t surprise me. There are people who are doing it for the right reason. There are people up here doing it for the wrong reason. … . I thought there would be a lot of Machiavellian stuff and this and that. Mostly, it’s just people up here trying to do what they think is right.”
 

Constituents Respect Plain Talk

Connecticut Rep. Greg Haddad
Elected in 2010
Former Senate legislative aide
Vice chair, House Commerce Committee; Member of Appropriations and Higher Education committees
“Soon after taking office, what struck me was how realistic and thoughtful my constituents have been about the tough decisions that I had to make as a member of the Connecticut General Assembly. When I had difficult news to share, whether about programmatic cuts, or tax increases, my constituents consistently encouraged me to focus on solving the budget problems for the long term. Though politicians may not be seen in the highest regard, I found that people respect elected officials who speak plainly and truthfully about the challenges we face and prefer real pragmatic solutions over feel-good substitutes.”
 

The Issues are Complex

Kansas Sen. Jeff Longbine
Elected in 2010 to fill an unexpired term
Chevrolet dealer
Member of Commerce, Financial Institutions and Insurance, Federal and State Affairs committees and the KPERS Select Committee
“The thing that surprised me the most was the complexity of some of the issues that we deal with and the research that has to be done to make sure we don’t have unintended consequences to the legislation that passes. Oftentimes, (legislation) seems very straightforward on the surface, but when you dig deeper … or you start looking at how that legislation is going to interact with other pieces of legislation or what effects it’s going to have on different constituencies, that’s where the real work is. It takes a lot of research and a lot of discussion and a lot of looking at things at different angles to really understand the complexity of something that may appear to be a very simple issue.”
 

Opportunities to Learn Are Available

Iowa Rep. Dan Kelley
Elected in 2010
Realtor and small-business owner
2012 Toll Fellow; BILLD Fellow
Member of the Ethics, Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, Education and ranking member on the Administration and Regulations Budget Subcommittee
“I was pleasantly surprised at how many opportunities there are to develop leadership skills and develop your ability to navigate the legislative process offered by organizations such as CSG. … There are a lot of opportunities to learn about the campaign process, but … serving as a legislator is a completely different job than running a campaign. … Another thing that surprised me (was that) it was possible to build good friendships and relationships with fellow representatives in the other party. We hear about partisan bickering and we hear about how the parties don’t know how to work together constantly. I expected my legislative experience to be in line with that thinking.”
 

Legislature Moves at a Quick Pace

Alabama Rep. Bill Poole
Elected in 2010
Attorney
Member of Ways and Means Education, Judiciary, Technology and Research, and Tuscaloosa County Legislation committees
“Having completed a special and two regular sessions in my first term, I was initially surprised at the speed at which the legislative session and process moves. Similar to other states, that pace is driven by the limited number of days that the legislature can convene in Alabama. This was a stark contrast to my experiences earlier in my career on Capitol Hill, where I witnessed the much slower pace of the federal legislative process. I was also surprised, but very pleased, with how quickly our legislature was able to pass significant budgetary and other substantive reforms following the 2010 elections.”