Ken Plum: A legislator’s holiday season

kenplum2The multiple celebrations that make up the holiday season bring travel, big meals, and family and friend reunions. For state legislators the end of the year and the holidays bring an additional dimension: preparation for the next legislative session. The Virginia Constitution provides that the General Assembly shall meet each year on the second Wednesday in January. This year that is January 14th, a later date than in most years.

Leading up to opening of the General Assembly session there is a great deal of preparation that needs to be done. Study committees that have been meeting throughout the year conclude their work in order that their reports can be written and legislation drafted. In order to spread out the workload on staff for the Division of Legislative Services that does the statutory drafting, a deadline is set in early December so that bills that are to be filed early can be drafted. A limitation on the number of bills that can be introduced after the session begins encourages members to get their bill drafting requests in early which happens to be during the time of preparing for the holidays.

With lobbyists, stakeholders, interested citizens and others concerned about getting legislation introduced or in opposing bills that others are proposing, the end of the year and the holiday season signals the need to move to action. Legislators get numerous invitations to meet with legislative committees of various organizations, lobbyists employed to support or oppose bills, and individuals who have an interest in a good government idea. Because regular business hours of both legislators and advocates get filled with meetings, social and meal times are used as opportunities to educate legislators and for lawmakers to learn of the interests and needs of members of the community. There are breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even a Sunday brunch scheduled on my calendar. Many advocates who are otherwise employed and who have their own family responsibilities use the social and meal times as available opportunities for themselves to meet with their representatives. Cynics of the process who suggest that the rubber chicken or high-calorie hors d’oeuvres are somehow attractive to lawmakers have clearly not been to any of these.

What goes on during the holiday season is critically important to the legislative process. With the heightened expectation that the General Assembly is going to be meeting, more people become focused on it and on making their views known. As representatives of the people we have to hear from constituents. That is why during the holiday season I send a survey to voters as a means for them to express their views to me. Complete it online at www.kenplum.com. I also have a public hearing with Senator Janet Howell onJanuary 8 at which we welcome public testimony.

In between getting ready for the legislative session, I will be enjoying time with family and friends. The holiday season makes for a busy time for sure, but it also is a time to feel the honor of being your representative in the state legislature.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.