64th Legislative Report, Week One, Senator Phil Murphy
Do you think you might like to be a member in our legislative body or wonder what it is like? If so, here is a small sampling of what it is to be a legislator: Everybody comes at you this first week – “Senator Murphy, will you sign onto this bill?” “What do you think of this idea?” etc. This is the four month period when my identity changes, because I am no longer Mr. Murphy (I taught for 36 years), or “Hey, you!”, but Senator. And that can get into people’s heads, with some members really caught up in the power, prestige and company. I have many who keep me grounded and consistently remind myself that it is not me, but the position that is gathering attention and power. Someday, I am going to be ignored by those same people and be no more special than any other short, balding guy. Meanwhile, I am trying to network, greet people, catch up, discuss issues and get bills drafted. To get those bills drafted by our attorneys, one needs to have done some research and consensus building if positive results are to be expected. Between that and the ceremony which saturates the first three afternoons (States of the State, Judiciary and Native Nations respectively) as well as caucus meetings and two or three receptions each evening, a legislator had better come out here ready to rumble. You know how people are and this is a people business, so gossip, rumors, family matters and other relationships all have to be noted to some degree. Also, our standing committees begin and those topics have to be understood, both sides listened to and decisions made. Not only might you have to testify on bills you have sponsored, but you have to be ready to vote on the floor as well as write and deliver what are called “Carry'” speeches, which explain to the members what they are voting on in front of the full Senate while on camera.
When one is a resident outside of the Bismarck area, be ready to drive home each weekend. Of course, the weather and roads are always perfect. I look forward to getting to see my wife again, but not so much to the shoveling or fixing things around the house. Often, there are community forums to attend. By Sunday afternoon it is back on the road to think about the week ahead, read the bills coming up in your two committees and get laundry done if you did not do it at home. There are a lot of positives when representing one’s districts, but like anything, it cuts both ways and the session usually has moments each week when it is a pure pressure cooker and you have to remind yourself that to make a difference, this is the price you pay. Rest assured, I do enjoy this job, but just like your job, it is not always roses. I will do my best, as I have the last four years, to write you each week about what is happening while this session runs until the last week of April. Issues that I am working on now include bringing natural gas to those unserved, property tax relief via the state picking up part of the county share of social services, promoting small businesses and early childhood education/child care help. It will be intense, but I will hear “Hey, Murph” soon enough.