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More of my advice – For what it is worth

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Last week I wrote of my advice to new office holders based on lessons learned over the past few years. You may read that article at hd31.org/660. Here are two more suggestions, including my most important piece of advice:

State Rep.  Jason Murphey

State Rep. Jason Murphey

The new office holder should avoid the tempting habit of keeping score and must never retaliate. Just about every legislator experiences the pain of defeat on a consistent basis. It’s all too easy for the legislator to keep a record of those who vote no to his proposals: if not in written form at least a mental recollection.

This is a mistake!

I have found that time moves extremely quickly in the legislative session. The pain of defeat is rapidly washed away by the emotion of subsequent events and a foe on an issue on Monday becomes a vital ally on another issue by Thursday. Those who retaliate in the heat of the moment risk turning a temporary defeat into a permanent wound and creating a lifelong opponent.

It’s vital for the legislator to avoid even the appearance of keeping score; for example, it’s a tradition for legislators, upon losing a vote, to approach the desk – located at the front of the House floor – to receive a print out of the vote. Those who voted “no” see the legislator receiving the tally sheet and worry that he is keeping score and will retaliate against them for not supporting the bill.

In my view, following a defeat, when possible, it’s a best practice for the legislator to not even look at the vote. This alleviates the temptation to retaliate as the legislator doesn’t know who to retaliate against.

Here’s my most important piece of advice:

The use of the phrase “let me think about it” should become the new legislator’s most utilized tool for dealing with the pressure which will inevitably come from lobbyists and legislative colleagues. Its use or lack thereof will determine if the legislator will become a pawn of others or remain true to his principles.

It won’t take long before the new office holder will be approached by those who may press for immediate commitments before the lawmaker has time to realize the implications of his action.

As just one example: a lobbyist may ask the legislator to sponsor a bill. Unfortunately, the legislator may agree to sponsor the legislation at first request and before he can research the proposal. By the time he figures out what he has done, it’s too late and he can’t easily go back on his commitment to the lobbyist.

The new lawmaker now has to find a way to reconcile the bad proposal with his principles and his attempt to do so becomes his first compromise of principle. After that time, he will govern by an ever-growing, inconsistent universe of situational ethics that will eventually leave him not knowing the difference between up and down.

This is just one example of many when the phrase “let me think about it” will save the office holder from tremendous grief and conflict and allow him to think through his actions before he takes them.

Rarely is there an occasion in which the office holder must make an immediate decision and those who use the contrived need for immediacy to seek instant commitment are often attempting to play chess master to the pawn that is the new office holder.

Next week I will write about how a similar “strategy of immediacy” was used to convince legislators to vote for a bill in what I now believe to have been the most important vote out of the 10,211 votes that I have been a part of since starting my time in the Legislature.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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