guest commentary from Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith
Editor’s note: Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, has agreed to provide regular reports on actions and events of the 2013 General Assembly. FIles was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 2010 and was elected in 2012 to serve District 8, which comprises a large portion of Sebastian County. Files is the first GOP chairman of the Senate Revenue & Tax committee since Reconstruction. He also serves on the Transportation & Technology Committee, Joint Budget Committee, and Senate Efficiency. He can be reached at email@example.com
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
• The Senate Report: Week 7 review
When I ran for office the first time, I didn’t know what a State Representative or Senator did. I had never been to the Capitol. I didn’t know how a bill became a law. Sound familiar to you?
Most people never run for office. Easy to see why. It is easy to rip someone into pieces on a mass email without ever looking that person in the face.
I was thinking about the mental toll of the Session last week and how enemies are made unintentionally in many cases. There are many decisions made, bills filed, and laws passed of which I may not be in favor. Does that mean I don’t like the sponsor or supporters of the bills or laws? Of course not, but to many people it becomes a marker for someone with which they have a problem.
This elected life is probably harder on my family than me. I signed up for the criticism, but they did not.
I don’t like seeing negative comments associated with me any time, but I also realize that I can’t please all the people all the time. At the end of the day, I have a responsibility to do what I feel is right on behalf of our district and state, and I take that very seriously. I also know that I can't please every stakeholder. It is simply part of the process.
I had someone tell me that they could never run for office because they would hate to walk into a restaurant and think that half of the people didn’t like them. I had never thought about it in those terms. When you put it like that, I don’t want to run either!
We run for office, and if successful, represent 100% of the voters in our district even though many times nearly half the people voted against us. Some of those are quick to point out to us that they weren’t a supporter or how hard they are going to work to get me defeated in the next election. Crazy world.
In today’s social media environment, a vote or quote can be viral in minutes if not seconds for all the world to see. Well-intended people can become villains.
Specifically, I had a bill that passed the Senate last week called the Video Services Act. It was an issue I felt had merit in bringing equality to the video service providers across the state and the communities they serve. Some misinformation got out early on in the process after the bill was filed, and I had questions over and over about things that the bill didn’t do or didn’t reach. I spent hours meeting with people about trying to correct misconceptions. I spent time emailing folks all over Arkansas who were inquiring about information they received that was inaccurate.
Part of our job as legislators on issues like this is to bring compromise and build consensus. I genuinely believe the successful statesmen are those who bring people together for the good of the city, state, or nation, and I think the public recognizes those statesmen more often than not.
We ended up with an agreed to bill that hopefully satisfied many of the concerns of both sides and allowed Arkansas to move forward with a better competitive environment and a level playing field. All good for the consumer!
We get a lot of communication during the Session by email. Many times someone just wants you to vote for or against a bill. Sometimes they want to try to convince us as lawmakers what we are doing is wrong, and sometimes they are more forceful in their words than others. I appreciate the viewpoints of every person who emails me their opinions or convictions. I try to be accessible and open to hearing concerns, thoughts, and ideas whether we agree or not.
At the end of the day, we all have roles to play. Many simply are not afforded the opportunity to run for office because of work or family responsibilities. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice.
Get in the game. Be involved. Make sure you don’t get lulled into thinking that one voice doesn’t matter.
You can make a difference, but only if you engage.