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Advice for a New Law Maker

Post #142, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

Your word is your bond. Keep it always.

Senator Bob McKnight

"The Golden Years of the Florida Legislature"

With the start of the Organizational Session of the Florida Legislature, my thoughts drift to what the newly elected members can expect to learn, after being sworn into office. Emotions of exultation, exhaustion, hope and learning come to mind for these fresh members of such an exclusive body. What do I mean by learning?

Lawmaking is a craft and to be good at it, like any craft, takes brains, industry, and a lot of studying. The one thing a new member does not need to do is talk. New members should be seen, not heard. The temptation by a legislator to speak is real. The new legislators have just won their election--some by a lot, some by a little, and some without any opposition. By any standard the legislators have pent up thoughts on their mind, like:

  • Thank their voters.

  • Declare their goals and objectives.

  • Attack their deep state.

  • Ask for Bi-Partisan help.

  • Attack their opponents.

  • Pledge support or opposition.

To see the press corps hanging on their every word, and to notice Florida's version of C-Span recording much of the Committee and Floor debate may be too much to hold back for these fresh persons. But wait for this advice:

"Do not commit your vote on an issue until you have thoroughly studied it--pro's, con's, and possible amendments." Senior legislators will pressure the new members to commit, and the temptation is to please the person requesting your commitment. But respectful and seasoned legislators know to not pressure the new members--it is unfair and can only hurt the new member by prematurely locking their vote, prematurely.

In my book, The Golden Years of the Florida Legislature, '70's and '80's. Lessons from Campaigning and Public Service, I point out when the new member is convinced they understand the issue from all sides, be at liberty to declare it publicly. "But once declared, do not break your word under any circumstances, unless you are released from your commitment by those to which your commitment was made."

Your word is your bond. Keep it always.



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