When asked to provide a perspective on what it is like to be one of 19 new members of the State House of Representatives, my thoughts were immediately drawn to one of the most important things I've learned in my first two weeks... all the things I still need to learn.
It was during the swearing in ceremony when the full force of the responsibility of being a legislator hit me. It was not unlike how I felt when I became a parent for the first time. The responsibility to comprehend and make wise decisions on so many different areas of policy affecting so many people is at times daunting. The weight of the decisions we make is compounded by the desire to do right by the people that have sent us here.
The fast pace at which the Legislature moves and the need to quickly learn what feels like a foreign language of motions and procedure (the Legislature uses Mason's Manual as the guide for parliamentary procedure) have made for a crash course in humility.
Of course, not all the things I'm learning on the Hill have been daunting. During the campaign season, it was often necessary to showcase the ways in which my views and policies were different or better than my political opponent's. I have found that the legislative process is less about highlighting differences and more about finding common ground.
After all, that is what this political process is designed to create. It is meant to put ideas through a combination of scrutiny and debate that considers all sides. Rough edges gets smoothed and political adversaries find middle ground. I have gained new respect for ideologies and philosophies different than my own and note that nearly 90 percent of the time there is enough common ground to build a bridge across the areas of disagreement.
If you had asked me two weeks ago if I thought I understood the process of how a bill becomes law, I would have answered yes and drawn a chart detailing the process.
The old Brad knew only the academic process. It has been a whole new experience to be the sponsor of a bill and to in essence strap oneself to a bill like a cowboy to a bronco at a rodeo. Charts don't explain the crazy ride, the issue ownership and the determination to see your creation given life.
I'm pleased to announce that my first bill, HB 52 Limitation of Actions-Criminal Offenses, passed through the House and is now being considered by the Senate.
The bill lengthens times limits for which a person charged with murder or aggravated murder might also be charged with predicate offenses (other related crimes) in conjunction with the crime.
For instance, there have been cases where a criminal has held up a convenience store, tied up the patrons and then killed the clerk before escaping with the cash. Police then apprehend the suspect several years later.
At the time of the arrest, the statute of limitations might have expired on the theft and assault charges, while the murder limitation would not having expired.
Under current law the criminal could only be charged with the murder but not the theft or assault charges. My bill will allow those other charges that are proven in the prosecution of the murder (predicate offenses) be included along with the murder or aggravated murder charge for sentencing.
With luck, my bill will have a Senate committee hearing this week and then receive a full Senate debate some time next week.
As you can see the first two weeks have been an amazing experience with a large learning curve. I can't wait to see what the next 4.5 weeks have to offer!
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is a freshman legislator and is sharing his experiences as a new legislator on Utah's Capitol Hill. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.