For most of the years I have served in the General Assembly, I held a full-time
job. Pay for a legislator is less than $20,000, and unless one is financially independent, another source of income is necessary.
The idea behind the citizen legislator is that you need to live and work in the local community in order to understand the needs and interests of your constituents. The alternative to living in the capital city and meeting year-round can lead to what we see in some other states and in the nation’s capital is a government that gets out of touch and extends itself into more areas than might be necessary or desirable.
Citizen legislators pay a toll, as do their families, for working what is essentially two full-time jobs. I have the relative luxury now of being retired and able to devote more than full-time to my legislative duties. I am not complaining, for I asked voters to give me the job. I am honored to serve and enjoy the work.
A necessary part of the position is standing for office. That is about campaigning for election. With the electoral process being organized around political parties there is an involvement in partisan politics. Political parties are a necessary part of
organizing and campaigning for office.
Many times partisanship gets beyond the issues and dominates the election process.
I appreciate the fact that voters in my district clearly ignored the more than a dozen ridiculous post cards that were sent out about me during the campaign. I know that voters are intelligent enough to know for example that I am not totally responsible for the national debt as one card suggested.
Organization by political party is a feature of legislative bodies as well. There are caucuses of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Delegates, State Senate, and U.S. Congress. Although the organization of like-thinking persons into a caucus is intended to facilitate the work of the legislature, the experience in too many legislatures has been that political considerations take over too much of the time and energy of the legislature.
For nearly three years I have chaired the Democratic Caucus in the House of
Delegates. I chose not to seek the office again in order to have more time to focus on policy alternatives in these challenging times.
As I prepare to return to Richmond for the legislative session that begins on Jan. 11, 2012, I need your ideas and suggestions. Please e-mail me at email@example.com or call my legislative office weekday mornings at 703.758.9733. I hope you will attend a Public Meeting I am hosting with Sen. Janet Howell on Thursday, Jan. 5, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston.
I do not want the legislature to become full-time. Legislators need to stay in close touch with their constituency. I will soon post a survey on issues for your response along with receiving your comments at the Public Meeting. As your legislator, I need to hear from you, the citizens.