Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mid Session Update

The session so far has been a blast. I could probably be more professional in my analysis of the my time here by using terms such as informative, interesting, exiting, and rewarding. But then again, I’ve been writing that way for the past four weeks, and it’s kind of refreshing to sometimes tone down your writing… on occasion.

Our big push this year is Jessica’s law, and other such legislation which addresses the national phenomena of an alarmingly growing sexual offender population, which is an issue that I believe, deserves everyone’s consideration. Recently I was on the road to work listening to a local talk radio station. The hosts where talking about what should be the focus of this years legislative session. I called up and was put on the air soon thereafter. “Many people don't realize how vulnerable their children are in these days, and I believe that our State legislature in particular should be producing stronger laws and placing tougher sentences on sex offenders so that the innocence of our children here in Washington might be protected." The host paused and replied that this was a very big issue that needs to be addressed and thanked me for the call. Though I am restricted from lobbying for bill while at work I’m sure not bound by that law on the way to work! Of course if I get fired on behalf of the ethics committee I’ll be forced to think other wise.

I have been flooded with questions from family and friends and so I have listed the most common questions below and will update the list in the future.


How do you get to the Capitol? I drive.

How long is the commute? 15 minutes

How long is the 2006 legislative session?
60 days

What special privileges come with the job?
Invitation to all Senatorial receptions, admission to closed caucus sessions, special elevator and Senate chamber access.

What do you do at the capitol? Answer calls, reply to constituent emails, open all snail mail, do research on other government officials for specific reasons, draft speeches and press releases, deliver bills to the “Hopper” to be officially recognized the following day as a newly dropped bill, and fulfill whatever duties the legislative assistant or the Senator might present.

What is the dress code? Suite and tie are required. Security will not allow anyone without such to be admitted into the Senate chamber offices or near the floor.

What are your hours? 8-5, Monday thru Friday on normal days, but have been notified that committee and floor actions may extend well into midnight on some nights and may even extend into the weekends, though there is no paid over-time!

What have you learned so far? That not all government officials are at the Capitol to further cultivates their egos. Those constituents are number one priorities to most Senators, and that they respond to every enquiry from the people of their districts.

How is security set up at the Capitol? The Capitol security consists of State Troopers and retired military personnel who are stationed throughout the campus.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Session starts today

The Senate/House staff reception on Friday was a lot less formal than expected. With a sparkling disco ball, tons of pizza, loud music and unlimited alcoholic beverages, the atmosphere reminded me more of a college bar of sorts, more than a government sponsored reception. Not that I know what a college bar looks like, nor care to for that matter. All else aside though, the reception was an excellent opportunity to meet a few of the other interns and session aids with whom I will be working with. One thing of interest to find out was how far most of the interns had traveled to get to Olympia. Some where Yakima, Bothell, Pullman and other far distanced corner areas of the state. Also what I found surprising was the amount of money these college interns were paying to rent rooms and basements in people’s houses near the Capitol, the average price ranging around $500 a month! It just made me thankful that I still lived nearby.

Today is the start of a new day, a new experience and a new legislative session for Washington. I’m not sure exactly what all that this entails, but I most defiantly will find out soon. This session my Senator will be pushing some very interesting legislation, the most note worthy of which will be Jessica’s Law. You may have heard about the young Florida girl who returned from church with her parents one night only to be snatched from her bed later that evening by a man already convicted of kidnapping, rape and arson, only serving about 15 years for all offences combined. Jessica was later found dead two weeks later under a porch where she was buried was buried alive, after being raped. This new legislation has already been enacted by the State of Florida and Washington State will hopefully follow their lead in protecting the innocence and even the lives of children. The law would state that even first time sex offenders will be fined with a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, with the possibility of the death sentence on some cases.
As a staff member of the Senate I am not allowed to lobby in any way for this bill, but wait till I tell you haw I was able to voice my opinion to hundreds of Washingtonians on the way to work.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Before the Storm

I’m told that the peaceful days are over. Next Monday will be the start of the 60th legislative session in Washington State, and will be the beginning of an interesting and hectic (?) time.

This past week has been crammed with training courses, lectures and media presentations with the intent on better equipping the legislative staff. The courses are well intentioned but some of the stuff is just a waste of time. Take, for instance, the hour long course on how to send an email, or the four hour session on ethics (which was mainly about how staff cannot lobby for their member, why we can’t accept gives over $50 dollars from lobbyists, and why sexual harassment will get you fired [!}).

There is usually a personal supporting staff of about three people per Senator. First there is the Legislative Assistant, which is here year round to respond to constituents, then there is the intern, which is here during the session for college credit, and then the is the session aid (usually college grads), whose is also here for the session, and whose job it is to take calls, greet constituents (the voters), and conduct other such supportive activities.

The last few days of the week I have been more involved in the office. My responsibilities now include sifting through the snail mail, responding to calls for the Senator from the State Hotline, answering the office phone, and tracking constituent opinions.

Tonight, the Senate and House will be hosting a casual reception to welcome new staff and interns to the 2006 session. Aside from getting “free pizza, beverages, music, and fun” the purpose seems to be a chance to try and meet all of the Senate and House staff “before the storm”.

Next time I log in, I will address any interesting events in tonight’s get-together, as well as talk about the legislation we will be pushing this session (some really good stuff). By the way, I have been asked by the LA (Legislative Assistant) to think of a bill of ny own, which will then be given to the Senator and most likley presented to the legislative process. If you have any ideas on a new law or "anti" law then drop a comment.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Hello and Welcome to this new little corner of the web (can there be a corner in a web?).

I plan on writing about the days and events in the State Capitol from the viewpoint of a session aid to a senator here in Washington. As most of you (don't) know, the Legislative Session starts on the second Monday of the first month of the year, according to the constitution. So this past week has been filled with numerous meetings, lectures and other forms of communicating (sometimes needless) information so that all of the Senate staff will be prepared when the ninth of January rolls around.

More will be coming soon as I learn to manipulate the features on this site.