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Freshman lawmakers busy at Legislature, but excited
by Becky Ginos
Feb 14, 2011 | 4457 views | 0 0 comments | 724 724 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE NEW LEGISLATORS presenting themselves at the beginning of this year’s session, after which they were immediately put to work.
THE NEW LEGISLATORS presenting themselves at the beginning of this year’s session, after which they were immediately put to work.
CAPITOL HILL — Remember being a freshman in high school, timidly walking the halls looking over your shoulder in fear that a formidable senior might be lurking in the shadows waiting to initiate you? Pranks in high school are expected — but in the Legislature?

According to one of the new legislators from Davis County, even lawmakers like to have a little fun.

“I was hazed,” laughed Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville. “It was my first bill and I got up and thought I did a great, compelling job stating the case. Then I looked up and the (voting) board was red — all lit up. I asked my colleague ‘What’s wrong with the bill?’ and he said ‘It must stink.’ Then everyone started to laugh and changed their vote to ‘yes.’ Everyone but me was part of the joke. They thought it was pretty funny — I didn’t. Until later, then I could laugh about it.”

So goes the first days of being on the Hill. In spite of the occasional ribbing, legislators are hard at work from morning until night every day of the session.

“A typical day starts at 5:30 a.m. and goes until 9:45 p.m.,” said Wilson. “There is so much information to consume. It will take a session or two just to figure out with the volume of data we see.”

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton agrees.

“The management of paper is unbelievable,” he said. “The schedule has been the biggest adjustment. Technology makes things easier to manage, but then there’s more of it. I have to learn to wade through it and not get buried.”

Handy said his days are long as well and he likened the experience to his high school football days.

“I remember I dreaded two-a-day practices,” he said. “But over time I adjusted to the rigger. The first week here I was kind of under water. As I’ve learned to manage the flow of information, I’ve started to adjust and my effectiveness has increased.”

The new lawmakers all say the process itself hasn’t been too surprising.

“It has been much the way I expected,” said Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful. “I grew up around this kind of thing, sitting in the gallery growing up.”

Nielson said he has been excited to serve on committees and see progress there.

“I was fortunate to be put on the Public Education and Revenue and Tax committees,” he said. “We had a very energetic debate about a tax bill one day. I realized I was enriched by that debate. The process is absolutely engaging and stimulating. It’s breathtaking to behold the depth of conviction,” among legislators.

“There are a lot of people (legislators) trying to do the right thing,” said Handy. “It’s a huge sacrifice for them and their families to serve.”

Wilson said often when he gets home late at night, he spends another hour looking over bills.

“It’s been challenging but positive for me,” said Wilson. “It’s more humbling than I thought it would be. I hope I can make a difference.”

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