By State Rep. Kathy LaNatra
Most people understand, at least on some level, the work that a state legislator does. However, there’s a lot to the role that people may not be fully aware of. With that said, I thought it might be helpful to dedicate this particular column to explaining what a state representative does.
First and foremost, a state representative is a lawmaker. We draft and file legislation; we may co-sponsor a bill initiated by another representative, and we vote on proposed legislation that comes before us. Constituent opinion is very valuable; as a citizen in the district, you can call or write your representative and vice your view on different bills and issues. We representatives take all of these opinions into account when voting on legislation.
From the title “State Representative,” we of course are here to represent our constituents at the state level. I see an important part of my role as being your voice, and I value the opinions of the people in my district.
In addition to the role of lawmaker, we serve on committees, which is an important part of the lawmaking process. All bills go through committees prior to being voted on by the full House of Representatives.
In my case, I sit on the Committees on Ways and Means, Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight and Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. This session, I was also honored to be chosen to serve as Vice Chair of Export Development, whose job it is to promote Massachusetts products nationally and internationally. Each committee votes on bills that deal with a certain issue pertaining to their committee; and if the bill receives a favorable vote from the committee, it then goes to the full House for a vote.
A State representative is also an advocate for her/his district. We are fully involved during the yearly budget negotiations. The negotiations are what lead to the allocation of state funds. We frequently file amendments to the overall state budget which, if successfully voted, will allocate money for our districts. These funds support schools, senior centers, infrastructure projects or anything else that the district may need.
State representatives can additionally assist our constituents with many issues they may be having. Whether this is an issue with unemployment or MassHealth or MassDOT, we can often connect constituents with the appropriate state agencies to solve issues they may be having. In this instance we can act as a liaison between the state and constituents.
Not all the activity takes place up on Beacon Hill, though. There’s a lot that takes place in the district, which could be providing a commendation from the legislature to a business on its 20th anniversary, recognizing the heroic actions of a fire department, or simply meeting with people during district office hours.