By Lyle Hillyard
State Senator: Cache and Rich Counties
I can tell the legislature is about to begin by the number of telephone calls I am receiving and the number of meetings that are being scheduled. A court hearing took most of one morning last week and when I returned I had 16 new voice mails. It is hard to listen to all the messages, let alone meet with everyone who calls.
Serving in a part-time legislature is not a part time job. I find I spend over 50 percent of my time year-round doing legislative work. I have the added burden with serving while living in Logan which is 82 miles (1 hour and 18 minutes) from the Capitol, but who’s counting?
While it is well worth my time, it bothers me when I hear about how much we make, or how many freebies we get. In truth, the cost of serving far exceeds the compensation.
I am often asked how I manage to keep up with all I do in the legislature. I try not to take any new clients after October 1, so I can finish up all the matters that require a court hearing before I leave. I do this because court hearings aren’t easily handled over the telephone and can’t wait until March. Also, my law office purchased an 800 number so I can call from Salt Lake without any wrongful use of state funds. I usually spend every Saturday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. with clients and my secretary preparing everything for the upcoming week. I also have great partners who fill in for me when needed.
So why do I do it? A couple of reasons. First, I believe I have and can continue to make a difference. My rural background and the practice of law bring a perspective that is needed in the debate and discussion about public policy. Second, the timing has worked out better with no committee meetings in December; the session begins the third and not the second week in January; and the internet access many people have to give me input. Third, I have always been involved in public service and have found it to be rewarding.
Generally speaking, the people with whom I work - staff, fellow legislators, and the public (including the press) - are motivated by doing the best thing for the public. I hope that we never become a full-time legislature because it will deny many people the chance to serve as is currently being done. I believe we can still survive as a people and a state without laws being passed for everything we think needs to be done. We just need to rely a little less on government to solve our problems.