Legislative clerks and secretaries work around the clock, often in the background, to serve the needs of legislators and citizens alike. Without their dedication, the work done in state government would simply not be possible. As custodians of the legislative process, it’s important that clerks and secretaries are given the tools they need to make their jobs easier, not harder. Here, Propylon® CEO John Harrington looks at the unique challenges they face in this changing political landscape and addresses how can they be resolved.
Legislative clerks and secretaries work around the clock, often in the background, to serve the needs of legislators and citizens alike. Without their dedication, the work done in state government would simply not be possible. The sheer amount of work that they put in to make the legislative session work so well often goes unnoticed, but that doesn’t mean its impact isn’t felt or appreciated. On the contrary, processes and systems simply wouldn’t work without them. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that whilst an effective clerk or secretary does not guarantee an effective governing body, it is impossible to conceive of an effective governing body without an effective clerk. They promote the proper application of rules and procedures and preserve the integrity of a process that has evolved over years. In this way, clerks and secretaries are custodians of the legislative process – a role that needs to be protected and sustained for the good of everyone. A vital step towards protecting this role lies in acknowledging and addressing the various challenges facing clerks and secretaries in this changing political landscape where pressures are mounting and workloads are continuing to grow.
These are challenging times for legislative clerks and secretaries, who can often find themselves caught in the middle, struggling to balance meeting the needs of legislators with the needs of the public, and striving to find a compromise between embracing change while holding onto important time-honoured traditions and established processes that have made the legislative process the legitimate and respected one it is today.
One of the greatest challenges facing legislative clerks and secretaries is the ever-growing need for information to be given to the public as it happens in the chamber. Balancing unencumbered legislative deliberations with more open government is also an ongoing struggle. It’s important for legislatures to actively work to protect the legislative process, and, in so doing, recognize the high stress and pressures involved in such a demanding role. Process complexities combined with growing demands from both legislators and the public makes it increasingly difficult to get everything done in the strict time frames imposed.
But, as with all challenges, they present opportunities. This in turn can lead to solutions that not only overcome the specific challenges, but that can lead to improvements and advancements that were previously impossible or unimaginable. Our technology is designed to relieve some of these pressures by improving processes, increasing efficiency, and ultimately reducing workloads. This allows clerks and secretaries the freedom and flexibility to enjoy a better work life balance – something that is currently a very real challenge. Our software won’t be able to replace the knowledge and expertise that clerks and secretaries have built up over the years, but it will be able to offer a solution that can utilize that knowledge and expertise and process it in a faster, more efficient manner. As custodians of the legislative process, it’s important that clerks and secretaries are given the tools they need to make their jobs easier, not harder. By working directly with clerks and secretaries, we are able to tailor our technology solutions to their specific needs to alleviate pressures and streamline procedures and processes.
Positive changes can indeed result from turbulent times. Though change can sometimes be difficult, now is the time when clerks and secretaries can play an active part in changing and shaping the legislative process for the better. And we’re here to help every step of the way.