What it is Like to be a New Legislator
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
“Good morning, Senator,” said a Capitol staffer. It took me a moment to realize the man was talking to me. That was ten years ago.
This week fifteen new lawmakers raised their right hand and swore to uphold the Constitution. They celebrated with a day of family, photos and receptions.
I recall how exciting the day was and how that excitement quickly turned to the daunting challenge of adjusting to my new role of Senator.
Following Election Day, the new legislators-elect attend orientation sessions, which provide vital information relating to all aspects of the Legislature. I remember thinking there was too much information packed into a few days. I realized, as my new colleagues will, the orientation is simply a glimpse of what they will need to learn over the course of the coming months.
Most new legislators come into office with ideas about changes they want to see in state government. Fresh ideas can be a good thing. Wisconsin does face difficult problems that require innovation. However, it’s hard to innovate when, as a rookie legislator, you are just learning the language. There are new acronyms, new processes, and new agencies.