By Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring
We have now crossed the midway point of my first legislative session and the acclimation process is going quite well for me at the Capitol.
Aside from the new people to meet, rooms to find, times to remember and procedures to follow, no orientation can do justice in preparation for the sheer volume of information we have consumed on such a wide array of topics. They were right when they said there’s no real way to anticipate what it’s like to be a House member; you’ll just have to find out when you get there.
My background is not that of a career politician, which I have found to be a blessing. The partisan gap has widened in our nation in recent years, but I am able to put differences aside and view issues according to my conscience and constituency. I came the house bent on doing my very best to serve as a voice of the District 13A residents and I remain unwavering in my mission to always make my work “about the people.”
This has been reinforced by the impressive amount of constituent engagement I have been involved with on a wide variety of subjects. For example, just the other day a group of eight carpenters and laborers from various towns throughout District 13A came to my office to discuss issues that are important to them.
This face-to-face communication is immensely important in helping me understand people’s personal perspectives and learn how existing or proposed laws impact their daily lives and jobs. As subjects come up, I remember faces and our personal discussions. These are not just “taxpayers” or some other generic descriptor. They are our friends, family and neighbors, the people you see at the gas station or at church on Sunday, and I am working my hardest to help them.
We may or may not be in the same camp on any given issue but, through respectful dialog, healthy exchanges of ideas can happen and we all can come away having learned a thing or two from one another. Everyone has a unique story and that is part of what makes serving in the House so rewarding to me.
I quickly learned the best way for me to feel at home in the House is by focusing on the issues I am most passionate about, such as children. Maybe the highest-profile statewide issue I have been working on relates to cracking down on child care fraud. I have authored H.F. 1680, which requires child care providers receiving Child Care Assistance Program payments to keep daily attendance records on site and make them immediately available upon request. This is just one common-sense way we can bring more oversight to this child care program, which a non-partisan state report shows is rife with fraud.
People’s opinions may differ on how state agencies should be run. We can go back and forth all day disputing the size and scope of government programs or haggling over the state’s regulatory structure for businesses. But we all can agree that abuse, waste and fraud of our tax dollars is unacceptable. We also can agree that it is an utter shame for people to be skimming dollars that are supposed to be helping low-income families afford child care in order to work or further their education.
My bill lets us start making improvements in those areas where we agree and, once we have made progress there, we can move on to the next challenge. That is the productive path I am taking as a legislator and I hope you will walk it with me.