My husband, Damon, walked into the living room and wordlessly handed me the paper he had just gotten in the mail.
It was from Rep. Sue Helm (R-Dauphin County), informing him that he had been randomly chosen to be a guest at her “Legislative Spaghetti Dinner” this month.
“The purpose of this dinner is to give you an opportunity to let me know what’s important to you,” the letter states. “You will do the talking and I will do the listening. I will also be happy to respond to any questions you may have.”
“Sounds like you should go,” I said, handing the paper back to my husband.
“I want to know what your reporters would ask her,” he said, handing the paper back to me. “Take this into work with you, and ask them what they would say if they could ask anything at all.”
Damon and I tossed around the hot topics — pension reform, should Corbett be re-elected — as well as some questions specific to her: Does the state pay for her vehicle, and what is it? Does she support annual COLA raises for legislators? What bills has she sponsored or co-sponsored? When has she voted against her party, how often, and on what issues?
At some point during that discussion, it occurred to me: Talking directly to his House representative was a pretty big deal for my husband. Yes, we all know we can call our legislators’ offices at any time if we have an opinion, but rarely do we exercise that right.
Back in my reporting days, I frequently called legislators for comment on a variety of issues; in fact, former state Sen. David “Chip” Brightbill sent me a congratulatory note when our daughter was born because I had spoken to him so often for work during my pregnancy.
But for the average person looking in from the outside, it can be daunting to approach legislators because they seem almost like celebrities instead of the civil servants they are.
So what would you ask Sue Helm if you had the chance? Or any other state legislator, for that matter? And why don’t you?