News from District 96
With the start of every legislative session, I receive a lot of questions about how the process works and what it is like being a legislator. For this week’s newsletter, I thought I would share some of the most commonly asked questions and answers.
What is your weekly schedule?
I try to leave for Des Moines around 7:00 am on Mondays. I try to get in a few meetings before we gavel in at 1pm. Then we have rounds of committee blocks throughout the afternoon. During the evening, we try to catch up with constituents and prep for the day ahead.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays bring a lot of constituent meetings, subcommittee meetings and committee meetings. I try to at the Capitol around 7:00am. We will leave in the evening to meet up with constituents, grab dinner or read up on legislation that will be discussed in the coming weeks. Most legislators head home Thursday afternoon.
Fridays usually give me time to catch up on all the things I missed back home. Usually there are forums, and meetings to attend. Saturday is spent at the farm helping with things that need to be done in preparation for the spring.
How long are you in session?
Members of the House are elected to two year terms. The first year is “limited” to 110 days, the second session to 100 days. This is not a hard cut off, but legislators do not receive per diem for any days in session beyond the 110/100 day allotment.
What do you get paid?
Members of the House and Senate receive a yearly salary of $25,000. Members are eligible for certain benefits (health care, IPERS). During session, members receive mileage (once a week, regardless of the number of trips made) and per diem expenses. Each member is provided with $300 per month for constituency expenses such as stationary, postage, mileage outside of session, certificates, etc.
What do you do when you are not in session/ do you get the summer and fall off?
The government never stops getting in people’s way, the mail is still delivered and time does not stop with the fall of the gavel on the last day of session. I check my email most every day and try to respond in a timely fashion. Summer is county fair and parade season and when fall approaches constituents and groups want to meet to discuss issues important to them and thoughts for the upcoming session.
Constituents are welcome to contact us at any time. We do not punch out with the fall of the gavel. It is important for us to be accessible and responsive to constituents. I try to stay engaged and in-tune with what constituents need.
Where do legislators stay while in Des Moines?
A lot of legislators live close enough to Des Moines that they can drive in and home every night. That is not practical with my commute. Those of us living further away work with hotels, extended stays, snow birds, roommates, friends and family for accommodations during session. I and three other legislators rent a home from a couple who spend the winter with their daughter in Florida. With session lasting about four months, with long days, short nights, we have very little down time.
How are the Speaker and committee chairs chosen?
The Speaker is elected by members of their caucus, informally and formally by the members of the House. Committee Chairs are selected by the Speaker.
What committees do you sit on?
I am the chair of the Ways and Means Committee; this committee works with all matters relating to taxes and fees. In addition to this appointment I also sit on the Agriculture and Environmental Protection Committee
Do you have staff?
Each legislator is permitted one part-time clerk for the 100 or 110 days of session. During the interim we are a staff of ourselves.