Last year, I wrote a series of three articles chronicling my experience as a freshman legislator in the Utah State House of Representatives. This year, I have been asked to continue writing about my legislative experiences as I enter my second legislative session. Like many of life's transitions, I am beginning my sophomore year in the Legislature feeling more prepared for the session and better equipped to tackle the important issues the legislature will face.
The nearest thing I can think to compare Week One 2011 to Week One 2012 is to recall what it was like to be a college freshman vs. a college sophomore. A whole host of new and challenging experiences are presented to a college freshman: learning the campus, new classmates, professors, roommates, and expanded and more difficult curriculum just to name a few. Many of those elements apply to freshman legislators too.
While campaigning, one learns more about the issue important to our constituents. However, a campaign doesn't prepare us for interacting with our fellow legislators in a highly charged political setting. It doesn't teach us how to make the proper motions in fast-paced committee hearings or during floor debate, and it doesn't prepare us for the speed of the 45-day session and the volume of work to be done. The learning curve is steep. A college sophomore, by the very nature of "having done it before," has a much better understanding of what the course work will demand and thus starts the school year better prepared. In addition, as a sophomore, I've been able to tap into what is essentially an extra semester of study. In legislative circles, we have what we call "the Interim," the time when the Legislature is out of session, but meets in joint committees to study issues and prepare bills for the session.
This provides a tremendous benefit to legislators. The session is really the second half of the legislative cycle. The first half is really the interim; the study and preparation portion in which legislators receive reports from state departments, explore the various sides of issues, get feedback from colleagues and review proposals on issues that will be voted during the session.
Freshman legislators miss out on this interim period because it takes place during the campaign season before they have been elected. I have found this interim period particularly helpful in learning more about complicated issues. I also refine legislation I want to run during the session.
I was able to use this interim process for a bill I presented this week, HB 28 Economic Development Task Force. As a small business owner, I want to work on growing and creating jobs. As I looked at the various economic development efforts around the state, I thought they could use better coordination and focus along with some real-life input from business and industry leaders.
The bill would create an economic development task force to make recommendation for how economic production can be increased, including: how more exports and high-paying jobs can be created, how the state can attract more businesses and how regulatory barriers to economic production could be reduced or eliminated. Industry and business leaders would serve on the task force along with legislators and representatives from the governor's office. I first presented the idea to the Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Interim Committee in October 2011 and then a draft bill in November 2011. Fast forward to now, and the bill passed out of the House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development standing committee with a unanimous vote this week.
Without the study and feedback I received on this bill during the interim, it wouldn't have been ready for a hearing on week one of the session. This same bill would likely still be in the drafting room during my freshman year and it wouldn't have had the vetting and feedback that would make it a win-win proposal unanimously voted out of committee this early in the session.
While there are still many things to learn about the legislative process and the many issues the state faces, I'm feeling much more comfortable and confident about my ability to be a positive and active force for the state and my district.
Thank you, as always, for this opportunity to serve.
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing a series of articles during the annual legislative session chronicling his experiences as a legislator.