— OPINION —
In our nearly 15 years of existence, Food Safety News has consistently informed our readers about state food safety actions. The “Laboratories of Democracy” are incredibly important to food safety.
With something like 2,700 state and local health departments providing the front line in the surveillance for foodborne illnesses inspection of the country’s grocery stores, restaurants, and convenience outlets, the state legislatures have an enormous role in food safety.
Underneath the domes of those state capitals, important food safety decisions are made that are as important as those made by the FDA, USDA, and CDC. Those federal agencies often overshadow the 50 State Legislatures.
Food Safety News uses its network of state-based food safety professionals and food safety professionals working in those state capitols and our work with our working relationships with the organizations that monitor and track state food safety bills, the National Environmental Health Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Going into 2023, Republicans outnumber Democrats in state legislative positions by 4,021 to 3,273. Republicans have dominated at the state level since the 2010 elections. Those numbers translate into a 58 to 40 split in favor of the GOP on control of the 98 legislative chambers.
This is a long introduction to a newly published book that’s not about all state legislatures but what it takes to develop the skill set to become a truly successful state lawmaker.
The book is “Getting Elected is the Easy Part. “ The author is Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Seattle. The subtitle is” Working and Winning in the State Legislature.”
I must disclose that I’ve known Karen Keiser for half a century. I worked for her parents, Eldo and Inez, after school and on weekends when I was in high school
After spending a couple of decades at it, Karen is today one of the most influential members of the Washington State Legislature as Senate President Pro Tempore and Chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. She is “left of center” with long lists of legislative accomplishments in a very blue state.
But readers can put those accomplishments aside and focus on how she does her job; the book is helpful for all political persuasions.
Hers is an interesting story from her family general store in a small town north of Sioux City — “I spent days behind the old-fashioned fountain, making hot fudge sundaes, Green River sodas, and malted milkshakes” — to being a television journalist in Portland, Denver and Seattle.
Her first election to a suburban district south of Seattle came in 1996 when she worked for the Washington State Labor Council.
At the end of each chapter, Karen has “Key Takeaways” that anyone who gets elected can use to be a successful lawmaker. One of the early ones I liked was “ Introduce yourself to staff, lobbyists, and security staff so they will know you and remember who you are.”
Karen also explains how partisan legislative caucuses work secretly and how they must be approached. Over the years, I’ve often found newspaper reporters at state capitols who seemed clueless about caucuses. “Bills that get brought up in caucus will live or die there,” according to the Keiser takeaway.
The “Key Takeaways” for knowing what everybody wants from a legislative session was especially good. “Keep your ear to the ground” to hear what those expectations are is good advice.
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