The daily life of a local statesman and what his fellow lawmakers want you to know


IDAHO FALLS – If there’s one thing Rep. Marco Erickson wants more voters in his constituency to understand, it’s that there is a formal process by which legislation is passed, which requires a lot of collaboration with legislators across the state.

Erickson is only 9 months into his tenure for District 33, Seat B, which covers the Idaho Falls ‘donut hole’ between Anderson, Skyline and portions of Sunnyside Road. It’s a seat the 42-year-old Republican lawmaker inherited after defeating Bryan Zollinger in the election last November.

Since taking office, the political newcomer says he has been inundated with calls and emails on a daily basis, many of which express concerns about COVID-19 and want him to address the issue.

“Individually, I really can’t do anything. There is a process for everything we do, so just having a value that matches (your beliefs) doesn’t lead to a new law being put in place, ”Erickson told EastIdahoNews.com . “There are 105 lawmakers (in Idaho) and we need to work with each of them, including their values ​​and personalities and the committees they sit on, to get the legislation passed.”

Erickson notes that there are elected officials who have staff to help them. This is not the case for state legislators. And if you’re a first-time politician, there’s a lot of on-the-job training. Understanding state laws and policies requires a lot of research on his part, and he says his legislative colleagues have been very helpful in teaching him the ropes.

Erickson had a lot to do from the start with the longest-running legislative session in Idaho’s history ending in May. It has been an ongoing process of learning to juggle legislative duties while running a nonprofit agency in Idaho Falls and making time for church and family responsibilities.

“We weren’t expecting the session to be in May (this year),” Erickson said. “It was hard for our whole team because when I’m in the capital for 15 hours a day, I can’t focus my energy on the stuff at home.”

His professional life is often interrupted by legislative tasks, sometimes forcing him to travel on short notice. If you aren’t able to have an irregular schedule, running for the Legislature is not something Erickson recommends.

He says it was surprising to learn how much time and energy the job requires.

Erickson gets up at 6 a.m. every day and often works until midnight or 1 a.m. the next morning and only brings home a meager income of $ 18,000 a year for his efforts. Idaho doesn’t pay its lawmakers much.

Despite this, Erickson says he enjoys the experience and that it is an honor to serve.

“Every day is different and I don’t really feel like I’m working because I really like it,” he says. “I consider it a vocation. I have devoted my entire life to serving people. Money is not what motivates me, (but) making a difference in the world is (what motivates me).

‘You don’t have to talk to me that way’

Erickson’s lifestyle is similar to that of the state’s 104 other lawmakers. He says he has learned a lot from his fellow statesmen, most of whom are good and honest people who, regardless of their political party or leadership style, ran for office in the hope of making a positive difference in the state they like.

“The people I work with, on the whole, come with the highest intentions of representing and protecting the individual liberty of people,” said Wendy Horman, Republican representative for western Bonneville County.

But in every legislative constituency there are people who assume the opposite to be true.

Media headlines often portray politicians as toxic, power-hungry fanatics who want to control people’s lives. While there are certainly politicians like that, this narrative tends to perpetuate a misconception that everyone in public office is toxic people.

As a result, some voters will sometimes resort to unnecessary rude and disrespectful behavior towards local elected officials.

Representative James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, said restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have sparked a lot of “exaggerated” anger from rushed voters in his district. While he understands the responsibility he has to his constituents and welcomes their comments and comments, he says it is much more effective if you are polite and civil.

“When you call to ask me and tell me that you are my boss and that I work for you and that I have to do as you tell me, we are not going to have a very good conversation. You don’t have to talk to me that way and I guess most lawmakers don’t like being spoken to like that, ”Ruchti says. “If your legislator despises you and does not treat you appropriately, that is also a problem. “

If there are policy concerns or potential inappropriate behavior from your lawmaker, Ruchti says it’s okay to ask questions. But make sure you have all the facts before you call and yell at them.

Erickson also advises against the use of cookie-cutter stereotypical emails to communicate, as they will simply be deleted. If you want to have a productive conversation with an elected official, Erickson says the best approach is to just be kind and speak from your heart.

Horman says that people’s personal experiences of how a certain law affects them is particularly insightful in helping him know what course to take.

“You just never know the impact you might have on contacting a lawmaker and (explaining to them) how a certain law isn’t working or could be improved,” she says.

Learn about and get involved in local government

Local government usually has a bigger impact on your life than the federal government, Erickson says, and a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to it. If you do not participate, your elected officials will not be able to represent you.

For those who wish to be more informed and involved, Jerald Raymond, a former Republican representative from parts of Butte, Clark, Jefferson and Fremont counties, offers a suggestion.

“Nowadays it is so easy to access the very act of legislation. If you have a computer, you can go to the state website and you can extract this bill and read it verbatim… to see how it affects you and what your take on it is, ”says Raymond.

For more details, Raymond also suggests calling your senator or representative. They can provide insight into what people in your community are talking about. Joining groups or associations related to your industry can also be beneficial, he says.

“These industry groups… create their own resolutions which form the basis of state-level policy,” he says. “This is often how legislation is written.

Erickson encourages people in his district to attend city council meetings and learn what it takes to get something on the agenda. He also invites you to pay attention and vote in the primaries.

“This is where you bring in your new candidates and your old candidates. If you don’t like something your lawmaker is doing and you see it constantly, you need to get that person out of there with your vote. The primary is where you make this happen.

Erickson says he’s grateful to rub shoulders with hard-working lawmakers in other districts and is happy to represent constituents in District 33. He wants to continue to serve and use his skills to make a difference.

“Thank you to the audience for allowing me to be a part of their lives and to serve them every day. It’s a real blessing, ”he says.

Lawmakers at the Idaho Legislature in July. | File photo from EastIdahoNews.com


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