People at home have been asking me what differences I’ve noticed between serving in the Senate after four years in the House.
While we’re not at the midpoint of the session yet, we’re far enough into it that I’m getting a better feel for those differences.
There are 65 legislators in the House and only 35 in the Senate. When I was in the House, we often poked fun at the Senate chamber for thinking of itself as the upper chamber because of the smaller number of members and, consequently, greater influence of each senator.
I’m not sure how much more influence each senator has compared to each state representative, but I can say that the House’s perception that it’s quieter in the Senate is true. So far, it seems we don’t have as much debate activity at the microphone in what is referred to as the well of the chamber. It may be because a number of senators have been state representatives in the past and spoke their piece more then, or it may be because we haven’t hit the more controversial bills of the session yet.
I’ve not yet observed the naptime that we in the House always thought senators were taking, but that could be because I’m spending so much time in the four committees I sit on.
Actually, with the fewer number of legislators in the Senate, but having the same number of committees and the nearly same number of bills to read and hear debated as in the House, most senators are as busy as I am. So, I’m beginning to think the rumor of a naptime is only that.
The smaller number of members in the Senate chamber does mean more frequent contact with each other, either in committee or on the floor, and that lends itself, at least potentially, to stronger personal ties, including across party lines. We’ll need those ties to help us work through the challenges ahead.
Despite our different daily schedules, I still keep in pretty close touch with my “old” House friends who stayed in that chamber. Also, newly elected State Representatives J. Paul Brown, of Ignacio, and Don Coram, of Montrose, who represent different parts of the senate district with me, are important sources of information for me and both have done a great job getting right into the swing of things at the Capitol. They’re working hard and we do our best to keep in touch with each other on common constituent issues, as well as sharing what we learn from the different committees we sit on.
What has stayed the same in the Senate is the tremendous help we receive from the legislative support staff who are also dedicated public servants at the Capitol. They help us draft the bills we carry, respond to constituent issues and keep the place running even in the midst of chaotic schedules and lots of Capitol visitors, protests and school children getting their first glimpses of our wonderful democratic process.