What Does a State Representative Do?

What does a State Representative do? Really do? On a day to day basis?

My calendars for the past year might give you some insight.

Officially, we took 302 votes in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. I missed 3 procedural votes--all on the day of Westfield's Pancake Breakfast--earning a 99 percent voting record.

I didn't count the public hearings or executive sessions I attended for the three committees I serve on--Ways and Means, Insurance, and Long Term Debt, where discussions of Bans and Gans can boggle the mind. But, Insurance alone considered 500 bills.

Neither did I keep track of the number of full formal sessions, or informal sessions, or caucuses. Or meetings with the Governor, or bills I sponsored, or the bills I testified in favor of. Or the meetings with lobbyists, activists, and constituents.

We finally approved adoption rights legislation, so my work on that special committee ended. But I'm still one of six (three Senators and three Representatives) on the HMO Reform conference committee.

There were ceremonial events--being officially sworn in, part of the delegation escorted to the Governor's office to inform him that the House was ready for business.

Traveling--up and down the turnpike, and to Ways and Means hearings around the state. Solving problems and answering questions for literally hundreds of constituents. Budget negotiations to get more funding for everything from homeless shelters and colleges to coroners and bridges.

Mountains of reading. Policy briefs. Legislation. Letters. Newsletters. Professional journals. E-mail. Recording monthly cable shows, writing news releases, and this weekly column which also published in the Westfield Evening News Saturdays. Appearances on Channel 57's "The State We're In" and TV, radio and newspaper interviews. Updates to the web page.

Pouring coffee at the prayer breakfast. Office hours. The St. Patrick,s Day parade and Sons of Erin festivities. Memorial Day and Little League and Fourth of July Parades. Quarterly Chamber breakfasts. Judging a chocolate contest. Montgomery,s annual tea. Glendi, Dozhinki. Noble Ball, Westfield State College dinner dance. St. Mary's 100th birthday celebrations.

Legislative Breakfasts--with the independent insurance agents and life underwriters, librarians, Soldiers Home, Project Bread, mental health, sheriff, labor unions, Holyoke Community College, convenience store owners, Human Services Forum, Home Builders, chiropractors, Baystate Health Systems.

Lunches with the Mass Bankers Association, UMass, and Package Store Owners, and dinners with the Massachusetts Medical Society, firefighters, dentists, Realtors. And others.

The YMCA's annual meeting and the Strawberry Festival at Stanley Park. Taste of the World. The air show. Expansion of the Westfield Area Mental Health facility and ground breaking for the home for elderly, homeless, mentally ill. George Gifford's and Dan Smith's retirements.

Speaking at the Westfield CDC, Western Mass GOP, Westfield State graduation. Staffing a table at the Council on Aging's information day, groundbreaking for the Amelia Ferst hockey arena. Samaritan Inn and Detention Center and Sportsman Club open houses. Welcoming students to the State House and arranging tours.

Awards for senior games competitors, Little Leaguers, and Forum House. Dedication of the North Middle School and STCC's Enterprise Center. Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service. International Paper's community grants. Lighting of the State House Christmas tree.

Programs on autism, brain injuries, the tax status of YMCAs, overpopulation of beavers, residential day care, housing, Head Start, brownfields.

Receptions with lawyers and nurses, Mass Maritime Academy, Mass Cultural Council, Jewish Community Centers, Tapestry, the Wish List.

Meetings about immigration, veterans benefits, welfare, health care, mental health, educational funding, bridge construction, highway funds, local aid, teacher retirement, adoption, credit unions, taxes, the death penalty, aftermarket auto parts, diabetes, domestic violence, MCAs tests, physical therapists, agriculture, Y2K, and those "invisible rebel angels."

Meetings with AARP, MSPCA, MTA,DYS, MCAD, AFL-CIO, MNA, VNA, GOAL, AIDs, PHC, EDC, PVTA, MBTA, LSS, LWV and other alphabetic combinations. Meetings with Mayor Sullivan, Congressman Olver, city officials, college officials, hospital officials, and the women's caucus, rural caucus, and mental health caucus, the beer distributors.

There were a lot of "Days" in the State House--AIDs Day, Gun Owners Action League Day, Nurses Day, Medical Day, Agriculture Day, Early Intervention Day, Jewish Community Lobby Day, Diabetes Day, Library Day, Zoo Day, Architecture Day, Realtors Day, Restaurant Day, Victims Day, Financial Planners Day, Immigrants Day, Tourism Day, Radio Reading Day, Community Health Center Day, Grandparents Day, Small Business Day, Public Safety Day, Recycling Day, I think I forgot some.

Ribbon cuttings, veterans ceremonies (somewhere between 8 and 12), Programs with Eagle Scouts and Cub Scouts. Shooting the starting pistol for a road race. Reading to school children.

Being at Barnes in the middle of the night when our Air National Guard troops returned from Kosovo. Ceremonies when the new commander was sworn in.

Sponsoring the 23rd annual pancake breakfast on the green and a Little League team. Enjoying the fishing derby.

Fundraisers--for others, for myself. Filing Office of Campaign Finance reports and publicly divulging all of my family,s financial interests, bank accounts, property and stocks and debts, required of all legislators.

I was elected vice president of the National Order of Women Legislators, attended a campaign training and leadership seminar in Atlanta, served on the national economic task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council and named to two committees of the National Council of State Legislators.

Just a sampling of what, indeed, a State Representative does.

Did I tell you that, in my spare time, I was mother of the groom? And became a grandmother?

That I got my car inspected, and my husband's car, too? My drivers license and license to carry firearms renewed?

Or that I still have to scoop the kitty litter?

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