I recently engaged in the legislative process at the Vermont Statehouse, following a bill during last session that was ultimately passed into law. The experience was frustrating at times, but also empowering and enlightening. Based on that experience, I wanted to share a few points that might encourage a change in the way many legislators interact with the citizens they represent.
The most important request I would make of our representatives and senators is that when listening to testimony, or voting on a bill, please pay attention. It is hard to understate how frustrating it is to watch a hearing involving an important and difficult policy issue when the legislators who make decisions about the issue are doing one or more of the following things (all of which I and others have witnessed on more than one occasion):
— Passing notes.
— Making jokes or small talk with the legislator next to them.
— Filling out time cards.
— Surfing the web.
— Sending emails.
Am I old-fashioned or is it hard to pay attention to the necessary issues that determine our laws while engaging in these other activities? As a parent, I would be embarrassed if my child behaved that way in her elementary school class. We should be able to expect better behavior from our legislators. I am aware that our legislators are paid minimally for their countless hours of work and do appreciate this choice to serve.
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