What Does A Representative Do?

So, here I am, in the car dealer's showroom, writing my weekly column on the laptop my husband gave me for Christmas.

I'm rather enjoying it, since this place gives me fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, our official state cookie (remember, they beat out the fig newton last year for the honor). Classical music is playing.

I'm also enjoying it because it means, when I leave, that I'll be able to drive around without my dome light on, lock the car, and wash the windshield.

Then, off to two receptions, a meeting, and a hospital visit. But, not to Boston. No four hour round trip today, no siree.

This isn't really a normal day. It's almost a day off. Even if I did get up at 4:30 this morning, left the house by 5 and won't be home until about 8.

The question most people ask, when they want me to speak before their favorite group, is "what does a legislator do?" There's no easy answer, because every day, every week, is different.

Some of it's quite exciting, still--walking up the steps of the State House, voting in the beautiful House chamber. Most of the work is mundane, unpredictable.

The hardest part, for me, is never knowing what you'll be doing the next day--will we be in session in Boston, how long will the hearing last, what constituent problems will arise. Or how to solve them.

Second hardest is always being late. We're late, because we're generally trying to be three places at once. (I've almost mastered being two places at once, but three is tough.)

Yesterday was really tough. I'd like to say impossible, but I don't like to admit anything is impossible.

Yes, there was the round trip, plus an evening reception, and I got dinner (left over chicken tetrazini without the chicken because the cats got to my plate before I did; I ate it anyway) about 9:30 last night. I left home at 5:30 a.m.

In between, there were meetings and programs in the State House with League of Women Voters members, childcare advocates, and Headstart. A swarm of little kids delivered valentines to my office, too. And cookies.

I only got to attend part of the auto body shops' presentation on original parts. Thank you, Gary Cloutier and Michael Beal, for stopping to see me. Even if I wasn't in the office.

I was in a hearing, Joint Committee on Commerce and Labor, which started at 10:30 and didn't end until around 5 p.m. We heard testimony on eight bills dealing with weights and measures, consumer protection, credit cards, whistleblowers...and more.

Meanwhile, I missed two other presentations, on terrorism and the Massachusetts Municipal Association's views on the budget, that I really wanted to attend.

Republicans met at 10 to go over pending legislation. The House met at 11 a.m., then adjourned until 1, and met until almost 5.

In between, I set up appointments, returned constituent calls, and read about 10 inches of mail and publications that arrived.

A pretty normal day, perhaps a few more meetings than usual, but pretty typical.

Don't you get to eat? Well, I had a paczyki for breakfast. Lunch, left from someone's reception, was a piece of cake. And, you already know what dinner was. Night before I picked up a pizza on the way back from Boston!

If you want the basic schedule, we're in Boston Monday through Wednesday, sometimes through Thursday, and Monday into Saturday when it's budget week, which is first week of May this year. There are formal sessions, where everyone attends and there are issues to be voted on; and informal sessions, when nothing controversial can be handled.

And there are special legislative receptions and breakfasts--everyone from Realtors and dentists to chiropractors and librarians, from nurses and labor unions to lawyers and mental health providers. They're usually on Fridays when we can be in our home districts.

And special events, birthdays, anniversaries, veterans ceremonies and annual meetings. Appointments to make, calls to return, a home page to update. Mail, e-mail and voice mail. Cable shows, radio shows, newspaper and television interviews, this column.

Photographs to arrange, constituents to meet, office hours, problem solving, public appearances. Conferences, conventions, committee meetings, and campaigning, too.

And getting your car fixed.

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