I was a legislative staffer in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2015-2022, starting as a Legislative Assistant and ending as a Legislative Director before moving onto Grassroots Midwest.
As a legislative assistant to a member of the House you are mainly focused on constituent-specific issues. When a resident of the member’s district contacts the office, they are typically greeted by the Legislative Assistant. In this role you are essentially the face of the office who works on any issue a constituent has with a state agency, scheduling meetings for the member, organizing in-district office hours and scheduling events for the member to attend back home. The Legislative Assistant is arguably the most important position in the office considering they are the one getting the Representative to the right place on time and spending the majority of their time helping the constituents of the members district.
As the Legislative Director, your job is more focused on the member’s policy initiatives and helping them navigate and keep track of the many bills that are introduced and sent to their committees. The majority of your time in this role is spent reviewing legislation and preparing the Representative for committee and House session, while also participating in meetings with stakeholders who have interest in a bill that will be brought before the Representative. While reviewing the legislation it is important to inform the Representative of every argument in support and opposition to the bill (if there are more than one) in order for them to have as much information as possible before they make a decision.
In my experience, the office dynamic was best when both staffers worked together to solve issues. It was always a priority to provide the Legislative Assistant with opportunities to do policy work as well.
The work in the office is not the only aspect of the job either. In order to keep your job, you needed to make sure your member was going to win their re-election which in turn means you’re simultaneously working on the campaign. State law prohibits campaign work from being done on state time or property and with state resources. That means all of the campaign work either had to be done in your free time, or you had to use vacation time. When I left the House, having seven years of service under my belt, there were very few staffers still there from when I started. Legislative staff turnover is extremely high due to the effort required to do the job well, and the level of stress that comes along with it, especially in an election year.
Although I am extremely happy to be where I am today, I remain proud of the time I spent working in the House. It provided me with an opportunity to work with some great people and I gained valuable insights to the issues impacting our state. Of course there’s more I wish I could have done during my tenure in the House, but I am glad to be working in a different enterprise while I continue to pursue my career in Michigan politics.