All in the day of a legislator
This newsletter will be a bit different than the others. I have often been asked: "What it is like to be a state legislator?" So I thought it would be a good idea to give you a brief summary of what an average day is like for me. With that said, each day is different in the state capitol. There is a general flow to each day, and that is what I hope to convey with this letter.
On a typical day in Des Moines, I wake up at 4:30 a.m. Sounds early, right, but that is the only time I have personal time. I usually go to the downtown YMCA, get a workout in and just think and try to be anonymous. I workout for one to one and a half hours and am in the capitol by 7 a.m. at the latest.
When I get to the capitol, I go to my office and respond to emails. Yes, that is right, I usually respond to almost all the e-mails that I receive personally. On some days, that is a job in and of itself. On a busy e-mail day, I could receive 200 or more e-mails. I do my best to work through them in the morning, knowing the day will get away from me if I do not take the time in the morning.
A group of legislators and I meet for breakfast each morning before we gavel in (or start the day) at 8:30 a.m. Sometimes, as the Majority Whip, I need to be present for the opening of the day and act in the role of Majority Leader. Unless I have a meeting, I am at the opening of each day for gavel in, prayer and the pledge.
Once we open the day with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, that is really the signal that our day has officially begun. Immediately after the opening of the session for the day, meetings are held, constituents are met with, subcommittee meetings and committee meetings happen and often parties goes to “Caucus." Caucus is simply a meeting where legislators from the same party are given the opportunity to talk with staff about the agenda of the day, upcoming floor debate and important issues and bills at hand.
A typical morning consists of meetings with constituents, different agencies and advocacy groups. As a part of leadership, I take part in leadership meetings twice a week or as needed in the morning. I also help mentor the freshman class of representatives, so that usually takes place right before the lunch hour. I oftentimes have an hour or two of floor debate in the morning, where we discuss the merits of a particular bill on the House floor before bringing the bill to a vote.
During lunch, I eat with fellow legislators in a working lunch, eat while answering e-mails or correspondence or sometimes don't get a chance to eat at all. Usually, my legislative assistant is bugging me about eating lunch cause she knows I tend to work right through it.
In the afternoon, we typically have committee meetings and sub-committee meetings for two to three hours. Upon completion of the committee meetings (around 3:30 p.m.) we come back to the House Floor to debate some bills. While we debate bills, we continue to meet with advocacy groups and hold special meetings within earshot of the House floor so we can come in to vote on the issue at hand. We will debate throughout the day until we have completed our job, even if that is midnight although that is not typical.
At around 6 p.m. we are off to legislative receptions throughout the Des Moines Metro area. Receptions are where constituents and advocacy groups have legislators come to them to discuss various issues, concerns and legislation. This is an efficient way for groups to get legislators to listen to their issue. At around 8 p.m., I make my way home for the evening and have been known to fall asleep while watching "Hogan’s Heroes" with my roommates, three state senators from around the state of Iowa. We watch the news at 10 p.m. to see what is happening and then I go to bed, so I can repeat the whole thing over the next morning.
Many people are surprised to see me back home in Spirit Lake or in House District 1 on the weekends. Our typical legislative session is Monday through Thursday, which gives me an opportunity to go home for the weekend, attend forums and meet with constituents at home.
For those who have not been to the capitol, you have not yet had the opportunity to meet my legislative assistant (clerk), Ali. Ali is a Minnesota native, who came to Iowa to help the Republican National Committee in Council Bluffs. She since worked for the governor and a local advocacy group in Iowa. Although she is a Minnesota native, we do not hold that against her. She will be the first to tell you of her love for Iowa and the people of our great state. Ali helps with my day-to-day tasks, schedules meetings, oversees emails and organizes bills/legislative proposals as needed.
I am very honored to have been elected to represent you in Des Moines in our State Capitol. Thank you for your continued trust in me to bring our northwest Iowa values to the concrete of Des Moines.