September 2005 Committee Assignments

Chevy Chaser Magazine,

Rep. Susan Westrom, 79th District Lexington KY

I believe that true professionals strive to be at the top of their game by expanding their knowledge base whenever the opportunity arises. –Rep. Westrom

This month I will update you on the committees on which I serve at the state and national levels.  In January of every odd-numbered year, the House Leadership determines the committee assignments of all House members.  Typically, each member is assigned to three committees.  During the first few days of session, each legislator is asked to submit their committee choices in order of preference and importance.  The first choice is almost always granted, but the remaining two choices may be denied and we are assigned to another committee.

State government committees serve many important purposes.  They provide an opportunity to analyze legislation during session, provide oversight of the Executive Branch of government, and educate legislators on a more macro level about critical issues that arise during the summer and fall interim.   Ever since I was elected in 1998, I have made it a point to move every two years from one committee assignment to at least one new committee in order to broaden my knowledge base.  In the past I have served on the Judiciary Committee and the Seniors, Military Affairs, and Public Safety Committee.  Then I transferred to the Banking and Insurance Committee and the Agriculture and Small Business Committee.  In four years we have hardly scratched the surface of the many topics covered in the newer committees.

In January 2005 I requested a move from the Health and Welfare Committee since I had served on it for six years.  Health and Welfare is a very challenging committee because so many issues are reviewed that deal with the physical well-being of Kentucky citizens.  These meetings sometimes extend from morning into the evening.  This year our leadership denied my request to move from Health and Welfare because of my institutional knowledge.  I was, however, placed on the Licensing and Occupations Committee at my request.  A few weeks later I was also placed on the Program Review and Investigations Committee.  Therefore, instead of serving on three Committees, I now serve on five.  In addition, I am still the cochair of the Subcommittee on Horse Farming which is now three years old.

There are various national legislative organizations which provide  continuing education for the legislator who thirsts for knowledge.  These large organizations are a tremendous source of specialty information shared in meetings at the annual national conferences where people with the best credentials present informational classes.  These organizations have a committee structural system similar to that in our General Assembly.  State legislators  meet with national leaders, such as cabinet secretaries, who have great influence on how federal directives  will impact the individual states.  The national committees provide an opportunity to shape policy at the national level in the form of a resolution which is sent to Washington, D.C.  We expect members of Congressional committees to read and understand what we send them.

Many state legislators participate as members on national committees because the federal government sometimes changes programs without a basic understanding of how it will impact each state.  I serve on two national health committees, one with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and the other as vice chair of the Health Committee with National Association of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL).  I was recently appointed to serve on the Property and Casualty Committee of NCOIL.  I have found this to be extremely important since much of this information does not come across my desk at the state level.  I became interested in that organization after being placed on our state Banking and Insurance Committee in 2002.  I also hold the position of State Director for Women in Government.

National conferences are quick to headline model legislation that has been successful in other states, and often the original sponsors present the information.  Legislators are eager to carry these innovative bills back to their own state, and are grateful for not having to spend hours learning how to reinvent the wheel.  Legislators who draft model legislation which is carried across our country have reason to be proud of their accomplishments.  Often they set the standard for national policy.  National meetings also allow us to network with legislators from other states, expanding our view of the country and the various cultures represented at the meeting site. We are also updated on critical international issues at these meetings.  I am still amazed at how the governmental structure works in our country.

I believe that true professionals strive to be at the top of their game by expanding their knowledge base whenever the opportunity arises.  I will be at the National Conference for State Legislatures in Seattle, Washington, before this issue appears in the Chevy Chaser Magazine.  Hopefully, I will bring home some new thoughts and understanding of changes that can be made to move Kentucky forward.

Please feel free to contact me at my Lexington office at 859-266-7581 or in Frankfort at 502-564-8100, Ext. 740, or email me at [email protected]  My web site is www.susanwestrom.com and provides details of my legislative accomplishments and other information.  It has been an honor serving you in Frankfort.