Before November's elections, I had the opportunity to learn more about what our Texas politicians have to do when elected. A construction industry group I belong to tried to set up a forum where a panel of newly elected state politicians would answer questions about their plans to boost the construction industry. Texas is doing better than many areas of the country, but there are always situations where politics matters.
We couldn’t schedule the forum on the date selected because the new state representatives had to go to their orientation meetings to learn what they need to know when the Texas Legislature meets starting Tuesday, January 8.
During planning, when our group discussed questions for the panel members, one group member, a former state representative, made a comment that stuck with me. Most new legislators know virtually nothing about the construction industry and how it works. How could that be? We’re a tremendously important part of the economy!
So it’s our responsibility to teach them what they need to know? Apparently, yes. And with my limited political knowledge, I guess that’s called lobbying!
Maybe I’m the last person to realize this, but after some thought, maybe it’s time to appreciate what our legislators have to learn. During the 82nd Legislature, ended May 30, 2011, they considered the 5,796 bills filed, and 1,379 passed. Before they vote on any of the 6000+ bills likely to be filed in the House and Senate during this session, they’ll have some homework to do, and only four months to do it!
In Texas, they get a yearly average of $16,160 for their work, including a daily stipend during the five month legislative session every two years, according to the University of Texas website, http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/0205.html. I get the impression they don’t do this for the money. Maybe it’s for the power, connections, ego or, perhaps, to just make Texas a better place to live and do business.
So, I’m ready to admit I haven’t appreciated what our politicians do for us. Sure, there may be a few who don’t do their job fully or correctly, but every industry has to weed out its bad actors.
What I now appreciate is the amount of time and effort the committed politicians have to put forth to have any chance of doing the right thing when they’re faced with thousands of requests for lawmaking from hundreds of constituencies. Each politician has experience in some business, whether law, industry, medical and even a few with construction backgrounds. They have to learn all they can in a short period of time about the plusses and minuses of the proposals they have to consider. It seems nearly an impossible job.
For the little you’d get paid, would you run for office? Would you spend the hours necessary to try to learn what you need to know?
If your background is running a construction company, would you be willing to learn all you can about the medical, retail, restaurant, agriculture, oil, gas, and hundreds of other businesses to make your vote on items that matter to them the best possible vote? It’s a lot to learn!
As an example, at the Texas Legislature email notifications choices website, a list of the committee notices that one can sign up for is at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/MyTLO/Alerts/Posting.aspx?Type=Notices. It’s a LONG list of committees! And a committee like “Business and Industry” might have plenty of learning opportunities! I signed up for its email notices. I’m interested to see what shows up in my inbox.
So, yes, it is our responsibility to tell them about our industry’s concerns. Otherwise, we’ll get drowned out by the competition. Political party affiliation doesn’t matter in this case. It’s just about getting the word out to the legislators so they have what they need to know to help any of us help the people we work with and for.
It also seems the whole process is even tougher for politicians we send to Washington. I understand their pay and benefits are substantially better than state or local compensation, but they also have more responsibility to many more people in their districts or states.
And don’t forget the local city council members, mayors, school board members and other politicians. They do a LOT for us. I’m not willing to do it. If you are, I’ll say in advance that I appreciate your work! I certainly do if your campaign is a nasty, mudslinging one that seems so popular these days.
I hope to learn a lot more about the political process this year. (Should I make it a “resolution?”) I signed up for Texas email notifications and as a rookie, I expect I’ll find others available to keep me informed. I wish I’d paid more attention years ago. I hasn’t kept me awake at night, but it should!