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Legislative Secretary

State Legislature , 51-200 employees
greenftj

- St. Paul, Minnesota

- 10/15/20
Job/Career Demand
2.0
Positive Impact
4.0
Satisfaction
3.0
Advancement/Growth
2.0
Creativity
3.0
Work-Life Balance
5.0
Compensation & Benefits
3.0
Work Environment
3.0
Total Compensation
$47,000 - $55,000
Years of experience
9.0
Recommended Education
Bachelor's Degree
Male

Describe the path you took to become a legislative secretary

I started as a session-only employee in 2011, then accepted a full-time legal secretary role for the senate attorney's office, then transitioned to a legislative secretary/clerk role in a smaller non-partisan office.

What's a day in the life of a legislative secretary?

When the legislature is meeting in session, I draft and produce committee reports for all legislative committees. Depending on the day, there's anywhere from 20-35 reports of committee being generated. Reports include all changes made to a bill by the committee members and includes amendments and complete substitutions of bill language known as delete-everything amendments. When the legislature is meeting as a whole body, I help draft and analyze floor amendments to ensure that the bill's changes make sense and comply with statutory requirements.

When the legislature is not in session, I review and edit the legislative journal for corrections and minor changes with other departments. I also receive and process appointments made by the executive branch requiring legislative confirmation, which entails communicating with the governor's office to receive the right documentation as required by law. I also help train and onboard new legislative employees to the committee process.

What's the best part of being a legislative secretary?

The best part of being a legislative secretary is the proximity to where the action is -- if you can define lawmaking as 'action.' There's nothing more formative or useful for a future career in the law, lobbying, or policy-making than learning about the legislative process up close. I feel lucky to work at the state capitol building. I have a real respect for the legislators who have to manage and balance their constituents' wishes and the stakeholders for any given piece of legislation. There's a small sense of ownership involved when your bill drafting or amendment gets added to a bill that helps build consensus, but at the same time, you're not the one coming up with ideas by itself to make the bill better. I also pride myself on staying non-partisan and not letting the emotional weight of certain policies and the political theater get in the way of doing my job.

What are some perks of your job?

Generous vacation and sick time accrual, comp time earned during the legislative session.

What's the downside of being a legislative secretary? Words of caution?

It's a very stop-start type of job. For weeks, there may be very little committee activity during session, so it can be slow. Further, you're often relying on others to complete their job responsibilities so that you have the needed material to advance legislation. Then when it gets busy, you're constantly working and 'in the weeds' a lot, and with deadlines, there's not much room to catch your breath. I also never really take a personal day or PTO during the legislative session, except in the case of illness. It also can be very slow when the legislature is not in session, but that isn't a negative because it helps build work-life balance or allows you to go back to school full time.

The biggest downside is the lack of private profit motive, bonuses, or compensation that progress easily based on your skills and development. Salary decisions, and the budget for legislative employees as a whole, are made outside of your input and even your manager's input. There's a real challenge in classifying the work you do, so often, positions you know to be 'less' strenuous or challenging get compensated at a higher level -- either because the person occupying the role has been at the legislature longer or they're a squeaky wheel. My position entails legal analysis comparable to a low-range attorney, and people who don't have that responsibility get compensation at a range or two higher than me.

The other challenge and word of caution is the political environment. Because my position is non-partisan, it can be challenging to disassociate yourself from politicians' positions and arguments advance from your own personal beliefs. If things are contentious, it's imperative to stay neutral and focus on the task at hand, and you have no way to really influence a legislator's political position. Things are constantly being negotiated without your input, so your responsibility is to focus on doing your job well with professionalism.

Advice on how to get started as a legislative secretary

The legislature is always hiring session-only temporary employees, and that's the best way to get hired onto the legislature full-time. It's how I got started. Working in a non-partisan role means you generally have to steer clear of political campaigns in your background before coming aboard. Some people start non-partisan then work for a legislator or in a partisan position that is more accepted. But the opposite is rarely true and generally not condoned.

What skills are needed to be a legislative secretary?

Analysis, drafting, grammar and proof-reading, and the ability to remain calm and composed under tight deadlines.

What's work/industry culture like?

Skews older -- many people who work at the legislature have for a long time, so there isn't a ton of turnover, affecting compensation.

What's the future outlook for a legislative secretary?

COVID has impacted it in the sense of more remote work, but the legislature is still meeting even during the emergency.

What opportunities can being a legislative secretary lead to?

Most people who work as a legislative secretary end up as a lobbyist, lawyer, or policymaker. I am in my third year of law school.

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