For winning candidates, an election night victory is the culmination of many months of hard work. The campaign strategy, fundraising, door knocking, and voter contact was an all-encompassing challenge they successfully navigated. While an election night victory is the end of one challenge, it marks the beginning of a new one: governing.
Many incoming members never served in local government or had other governmental experience. The transition from being a member-elect to a legislative member requires significant preparation in the weeks between an election victory and officially taking office January 1st. This is a small snapshot of the key decisions and activities winning candidates deal with leading up to swearing-in day.
One of the most important responsibilities of an incoming legislators is hiring staff.
They will be the people representing the member in the community, in their offices, and handle most of the day-to-day responsibilities in their legislative office. Immediately after an election win, incoming members need to identify and hire people they can trust and who can carry out the vision they have for their office and district.
One of the first responsibilities newly elected legislators have is to elect the leadership for their caucus. These elections happen confidentially, and each member receives one-vote to choose its caucus’ leadership team. It can be especially challenging for incoming members who are often choosing their party’s leadership without having a strong relationship with those running. These elections are very important as the outcomes have a far-reaching impact on the two-year legislative session ahead. This year, the caucus elections are expected to take place on Thursday, November 8.
Incoming members receive a “committee request” document from the Speaker of the House or Senate Majority Leader. This gives every member the opportunity to identify, and request, the committees they want to serve on during the upcoming session. Members can request appropriations committee assignments or policy committee assignments. While these are simply requests, they are the catalyst for where members are assigned by the House and Senate leadership teams.
Prior to the start of a legislative session, incoming members can request up to 10 bills to be drafted and prepared for bill introduction. This gives new members the opportunity to take campaign promises, or legislative ideas learned throughout the campaign, and turn them into bills to be introduced. These requests are made during November and December.
Incoming members have a great opportunity to attend several new-member orientation programs. These programs provide insight into everything from policy issues to how to be an effective legislator. They will also learn practical information such as how to run an office, how much money a legislator has to hire staff and run their office, and how to request a bill or get an amendment drafted. These orientation programs also provide a great opportunity to develop relationships and comradery with other incoming legislators. Being an effective legislator often comes down to relationships, and new members who identify that early can utilize these programs to get a head start on other colleagues in their class.
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