One of the most important lessons I've learned this year is that it is entirely possible to juggle work life, family life, and political life as long as I only have to do so for 45 days!
When asked why the Utah Legislature only meets for 45 days each year, I will reply because that's the human limit for that kind of life-stress. I'm amazed that other states with part-time legislators often meet for 65 to 90 days at a time. Our session has elements of both a marathon and a sprint; a 45-day event designed to get in, get it done and get out as cleanly as possible.
Our 45-day time limit does force us to knuckle down and get to work. While the public might think we spent too much time messing around with message bills and resolutions, I would suggest that we are fairly efficient with our time.
After all, figuring out how to allocate $12 billion dollars and considering the merits of 1,000 bills isn't easy work. I think this is one of the important differences between a part-time state legislature and our full-time Congress.
This isn't something I can (or want to) do 24/7. I have a company that needs me to come back and help run it and I have a family that needs me to resume my full share of household responsibilities. As part-time legislators we don't have the luxury of deadlocking for the sake of taking a principled stance.
Differences have to be worked out, compromises have to be struck and budgets have to balance. Too many people are depending on the work we are doing at the Capitol while at the same time my family and day job are counting on my return by day 46. That is a powerful motivator to get things done.
The clock is always ticking on our work schedule with tasks and checklists organized by week in order to finish on time. We oftentimes believe government can learn from business -- which is true. However, some businesses might take a page from the Legislature's playbook and implement the systems and processes the legislative staff use to keep us on track.
When I think about all we've managed to accomplish in the last seven weeks, I'm pretty impressed. After all, Congress spent nearly 140 days in session last year and never managed to balance the federal budget.
Despite all I've said thus far about deadlines and the enormous pressure to get things done, some things can't be rushed. We all know that decisions made in haste can often times require more time and energy to fix than it would have been to study it a little more and get it right. For that reason not everything the Legislature accomplishes is done in the haste of a 45-day session. Many times while hearing bills in committee, it would become apparent that while the idea might have some merit, it just wasn't ready for primetime. Ideas that need more work are referred to interim study. Even though the Legislature only meets in one 45-day general session, we work throughout the year in what we call the "interim."
This is a time to study issues that need evaluation from experts and input from affected groups in joint interim committees. I'm looking forward to the interim and a chance to dig into a few issues like studying decreased government regulation on business and eliminating government waste. These re-tooled ideas will then be first in-line for consideration by the 2012 Legislature.
This session has been an incredible adventure and I want to thank all of you for putting me in this place to experience it. I have met so many interesting and dedicated public servants, advocates and engaged citizens that are working hard to make Utah a better place.
I am amazed at the sacrifice and dedication I see in my 103 legislative colleagues, we may not always agree, but I'm happy to be in the trenches with them.
And finally, I want to thank my family, and in particular my wife Jeni, for supporting me during the last 45 days. They picked up the slack at home so I could be at the Capitol and I couldn't do this without them.
Thank you all for the opportunity to serve.
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. This is the third article in a three-part series about his freshman year as a legislator. He can be reached at Bradwilson@utah.gov.