March | April 2017

What Advice Would you Give Newly Elected Legislators on …?


EDUCATION: Listen and Learn

Kansas Rep. Vern Swanson
Vice-Chair, CSG Education Policy Task Forces
“This is truly an exciting time to be in the legislature. There is much to learn about how the legislative process works—the leadership team’s ability to guide legislation, the committee process and how much authority is given committee chairs, and the seniority process within the legislature. Public education is one the most important issues in most states. My advice would be to find a senior member of your education committee and listen and learn from that person. Also, it is important to know the educational issues in your local school districts. Ask questions, take notes and know how public education impacts your constituents.”

TRANSPORTATION: Vital to Economy

Minnesota Repr. Alice Hausman
Co-Chair, CSG Transportation Policy Task Force
Chair, CSG Midwestern Legislative Conference
“Transportation issues have long been nonpartisan issues. I believe that is because policymakers understood that transportation infrastructure is vital to our economic health and competitiveness. Getting products to market and people to work in an efficient way requires us to plan together as we design and construct those systems. Today, the business community and the environmental community have come together around an agenda that includes safe places to walk and bike, buses and rail that provide a seamless public mass transit system, and inter-city rail that connects us as regions. I am hopeful that policymakers who plan and fund this new transportation future will find that this multimodal agenda is also a nonpartisan issue.”

HEALTH: Seek Resources from Outset

Kansas Senator Vicki Schmidt
Co-Chair, CSG Health Policy Task Force
2007 CSG Toll Fellow
“When it comes to health care policy, my advice is to seek out resources from the outset that can help you better understand the issues from different perspectives. Consider making appointments with the health care organizations in your state, including associations that represent pharmacists, physicians, nurses, dentists, hospitals and nursing homes. Find out which issues are most important to them and what data/resources they have available to help you become more knowledgeable about health care trends and data. Taking initial steps to understand the issues and establish working relationships with the health care professionals in your state will prove to be a valuable resource in the years to come.”

Prepare for a Bumpy Ride

Jessie Stratton
Policy Director, Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
Vice-chair, CSG Energy and Environmental Policy Task Force
“Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a long, often bumpy, ride. Regardless of whether or not you know where you want to go, anticipate traffic jams, dead ends, detours and drivers that may require you to employ defensive moves to avoid head-on collisions. Additionally, the energy and environmental landscape has been changing at a pace that makes maps that might have guided you a few years ago less and less accurate. That said, the territory you are about to navigate is incredibly interesting and you now have the privilege and responsibility of shaping the landscape others will travel.”

FINANCE: Learn to Say No

Arkansas Senator Gilbert Baker
Chair, Arkansas Joint Budget Committee
“The best advice I could give is learn how to say no. You can always change your mind later and say yes if the project is worthwhile, but if you say yes at the start, it’s awfully hard to back away from that position. If you do, people who counted on you will remember that you didn’t stick with them. I found that constituents are well informed and thoughtful, so if you explain your reasoning they understand. Sometimes I had to remind people they elected me as a fiscal conservative, and that’s how I intend to vote. They respect that.”