Michael Clark: My time in office-Week #3 From Outside In to Inside Out

As a citizen journalist, during session I can go to the capitol, sit in on committee hearings and observe the testimony  offered on various bills.  I can sit in the darken galleries and observe the floor debate.  aside from a passing ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ You’re pretty much left alone.  The Sergeant-at-Arms will come by to check on you and make sure that you are not up to any shenanigans. You can watch the coming and going of various people.  If you ask someone a question, they are courteous enough to help you find your way.   If you are really lucky, someone will spot you and offer a real comment.  Watching a floor debate on a topic like HB 1069 is really interesting, there is a lot going on.  Once you’re done you can leave and no one will really notice, except now, there will be an empty parking spot in the parking lot.

Looking in from the outside

My day as a legislature starts with a cup of coffee.  I check my e-mail and news feeds to see if anything happened overnight I might need to be aware of.  Unless I have breakfast somewhere, I will grab a sandwich at McDonald’s or Burger King.  If I have some extra time, I might stop by the Highlander. Some time in the morning, I will video chat with my wife, and make sure all is well at home.

When I get to the capitol, I will typically park as far back as I can.  I can use the exercise, I generally don’t have to compete for a parking space and the parking lot is clean off a bit better, there isn’t as much ice to navigate.  I will normally use the grand staircase to get to the third floor. I use the public lobby on the north side of the chamber, I noted there are a number of lobbyist either on the phone or working their computers.  I get to my locker, to hang up my hat and coat.  I get my coffee cup and get a fresh cup, then walk to my desk to find a pile of papers, nic-nacs and other ‘stuff’  I read, review, and deal with each piece.  I set up the I-Pad, and answer some e-mail and review the day’s bills.

The lobbyist have moved from the lobby and balcony to the back of the chamber. They will come to my desk ask for my attention.  They might pitch a position or ask me to sponsor a bill.  fellow legislators will ask questions, the pages and interns are busy dropping more stuff, I try to listen to each one.  After each visit I try to get going on the e-mails, again.  Sometimes I may have to start the same e-mail six or seven times before I can send it.  If I have a committee meeting, I will take the tablet so I have everything in front of me.  Each day is a little different, some days I need to stop by the LRC, or some other office.  Sometimes I need to reach out a contact for some research for a bill.  There is never a shortage of people who want to talk to me about just about any topic.

From the chief clerk position. From the Inside looking out

If someone is serving lunch, at the capitol I will grap a bite. otherwise, I will head to the basement and grab something from Tom’s Cafe.  Unless I can’t avoid it, I will not bring food to my desk. Coffee, water, maybe even some juice; However for food, my desk is a no-go zone.

SDBP Camera sees all.

During the session I try to stay focus on the task at hand.  It is easy to get distracted.  E-mails are coming in there are chat requests.  on occasion some jerk will flash something in the gallery.  I am ever mindful that everything I say, everything I do is duly recorded and transmitted on South Dakota Public Broadcasting network via the internet.

After the session I try to get some more e-mail answered, I know there a number of social events in going on. and I try to attend as many I can, even if it is just to pop in make an appearance, then off to the next event.

I try to end each day with another video chat with my wife and daughter, A glass of wine (I do not drink and drive.)  and try to decompress the day.

As a legislator, everyone trys to remember my name, and where I’m from, and they will write, call, and e-mail me.  Some of them remember me from this blog, some know me as Raymond’s dad, and some know me because I wear a hat.

Some of you know that each session is different for different reasons.  I just didn’t expect to get this intense this fast.

This weekend we had a four day weekend! and we’ll be back at it Tuesday morning for Week #4.

6 thoughts on “Michael Clark: My time in office-Week #3 From Outside In to Inside Out”

  1. Thank you for your service to our state and for sharing your experiences. I enjoy reading the latter.

  2. Thank you for the play-by-play. In my opinion, it seems that session for most legislators is very mundane and work-centered. Not quite as crazy as some people would like to think. It’s like being single … not as fabulous as married people would imagine.

  3. Mr. Clark should describe some of the evening parties and what sorts of food is being given to the legislatures inside the capitol building and at the after parties.

  4. From what I recall, the lobbyists all look forward to the chili feed. But then of course, they have to be at the Capitol by 7-7:30 am – so back to the room by 9. They are usually praying that the food (chicken dish) they get at these events hasn’t sat in the heat pans for too long or has turned bad. The chips and veggie trays are generally safe (dip is iffy). There are about 4-5 menus that get served and re-served and frozen and reheated. If the constituents didn’t show up and call the legislators to come out for meet & greet, they would likely be in their rooms with a delivery pizza and bill briefs. It’s Public Service in the truest sense.

  5. Good job on the updates. In a future post(s) I would also like to learn your stances on some policy issues too.

  6. I really enjoy reading your articles. Thanks for sharing your experiences even though you aren’t my representative.

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