'Roots News: How hard do Ohio statehouse electeds work?

In honor of Joe Hallett’s 5/27/07 column in the Columbus Dispatch, let me share some of my original reporting. I’m going to try to make it a regular, highlighted feature and a way to get myself to post the stuff I gather from, you know, calling people, asking questions, listening, researching and writing. Here are some other WLST examples of doing that:

The Plain Dealer Diaries (12/05)
Three-part Series on The White House Project (11/06)
Barack Obama at Tri-C (2/07)

Meet the Bloggers: too many to bother with the link list but go search on “MTB” or “Meet the Bloggers” in the left sidebar for this blog and you’ll find my root news (as in, I was there, I asked questions) review of:

Paul Hackett
Marc Dann
Subodh Chandra
Brian Flannery
Ted Strickland
Jennifer Brunner
Jim Petro
Pete Draganic
Lance Mason
Eric Fingerhut
Sherrod Brown
Bill Peirce
Bill Pierce
Dave Lundeen

I’m sure I’m leaving out some folks re: MTB. And I’m sure I’m leaving out other ‘roots news I’ve done. But that’s okay. We all know what we know about ourselves – and I know I’ve done more than just those…25 or so posts out of the 2250 posts I’ve written. Is it 10%, or 225? I’m not sure – I really would have to go through every one of them (and maybe I should, just to know and be able to say, “X percent of WLST is original reporting).

Regardless, here’s one more:

Today’s edition: Our Ohio legislators – what do they do all day?

I’ve been wanting to do a series on the role of the legislators, in their different “named” capacities (like Speaker, President, Minority Whip and so on) and here’s what I learned a week ago from someone who has worked in the statehouse and with elected officials for several years.

Here’s what I asked my source:

Does Ohio law or do any rules in the statehouse require state representatives and senators to report back to their constituents, for example, through something like an annual report? How do voters get a handle on what their electeds are up to?

Here’s the response:

There is no rule or law that I’m aware of on communicating with constituents. It’s just common sense. The more you communicate the fruits of your labors with constituents, the better your chance of winning re-election.

I can say that most legislators do send newsletters (“legislative reports”) back home to their constituents. The issue, in the House, is that our mail budgets are limited. We can send out about 1,000 pieces a month. When you figure each district has about 120,000 individuals living in it – well, it is unlikely that any household is going to get more than two of these newsletters in a two-year cycle.

I can also say that a lot of the work legislators do can be hard to convey. Tuesday and Wednesday – and, sometimes, Thursday – are super busy. Legislators have to be at committee hearings or on the floor for a vote. In between these hearings, they frequently have people who want to [get] with them in person on this issue or that. Then, at night, there might be a caucus or fundraisers or receptions to get to. (Receptions sound nice, but week after week? It’s work).

The rest of the week is frequently spent in the district meeting with folks back home, attending various meetings, maybe holding a town hall or communicating with a legislative aide in Columbus on responding to constituent mail or drafting a new bill, working the phones directly with LSC… etc. For a weak legislator, it could be a time to slough off. But for a good one, there is work to do on each of these days.

Frankly, a good legislator is super busy. And I don’t believe you can measure them based on the number of bills they introduce (or pass? Lord no, considering how difficult it is on our side of the aisle to pass anything).

As an example, this source wrote:

I actually think Josh Mandel and Shannon Jones have done a superb job getting PR and momentum behind their divestment bill. Some members make the mistake of trying to be an expert on everything, or trying to work too many different bills right out of the gate. Mandel and Jones are focused on this one bill, and it shows.

And about that mail budget:

Essentially, members get postal budgets of about $210 a month. That covers everything – returning a letter to every constituent who takes the time to write, sending commendations to constituents in order to recognize their achievements, legislative reports, etc.

Folks who’ve been reading WLST for a while know that I (like many, many other Ohio bloggers) do ask a good number of questions of people worthy of the title “newsmaker” and try, try, try to post about it. I’m embarrassed to say that I have notebooks full of such notes, as well as documents on my computer, that haven’t made it to the blog yet. And the event that got my blog on the map, I think anyway, was the primary source work I did on the Eric Fingerhut/Shabbat scheduling of his ODP primary endorsement issue – and that was in February of 2006.

Anyway, I’m choosing to see Joe Hallett’s column as a catalyst to get me to prioritize and post the original reporting I have available to post. It’s a shame that he’s somehow missed all the great ‘roots news done by Ohio political blogs. But with the title flag, ‘Roots News, and the double entendre of “root” meaning primary as in original, I’m hopeful that he won’t miss it anymore.

One thought on “'Roots News: How hard do Ohio statehouse electeds work?

  1. Yeah, bloggers are nothing but dirty hippies who never do any original reporting. Case in point, my own site. After all, I’m nowhere near as prolific as you are, Jill, much less the rest of the Ohio ‘sphere. Naturally since my output is so low, I’ve never done anything like original reporting. Oh, wait. Yes, I have!Here’s the most notorious example, and then there’s this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and…well, you get the idea.

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