Each state's constitution creates a legislative branch. Every state except Nebraska has a Senate and a House of Representatives. Nebraska is unicameral, meaning it has a single, nonpartisan legislative chamber. Senators take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of their own state when creating and updating laws that protect our freedom, provide education, maintain roads, allocate welfare and establish a fair taxation system.
A state senator speaks with his constituents about problems, concerns or suggestions they have for his district. He takes phone calls and listens to citizens who want to share their opinions. He reads mail from the people in his district to find out their attitudes towards issues. State senators use the information from constituents to base their votes and decisions to represent the will of the people in legislative sessions.
In addition to gathering information from members of the community, a state senator shares information with the public. Senators hold press conferences to discuss new legislation and the impact it will have on a district or on the state. They give speeches and presentations to schools, clubs and other organizations who want to learn about the legislative process or current legislative topics. A state senator might also contact a state agency to help a constituent who is having difficulty working with the agency.
A state senator identifies new laws that need to be passed. She works with her staff to thoroughly research the topic of a new bill. She networks with senate colleagues and meets with associations and other groups to gain support for new legislation before introducing a bill. State senators work with their teams and with the legislative counsel's office to draft an official bill. Once the bill is finalized, a senator sends the new bill to the senate desk.
Serving on one or more legislative committees is an important part of a state senator's job. Committees have regularly scheduled meetings to review proposed legislation. At each meeting, committee members listen to presentations from bill sponsors and public testimony from lobbyists and other interested parties. Senators discuss new bills among themselves, offer opinions and propose amendments. They vote on each bill with their recommendations for action by the senate, such as not passing a law or passing a law as amended by the committee. After the bill clears a committee, it may be sent to another committee or to the senate floor for a vote.
- South Dakota Legislature: What Do Legislative Committees Do?
- California State Senate: Legislative Process
- Michigan Senate
- Missouri Senate: Just What Does a Senator Do, Anyway?
- Texas State Senator John Carona: What a State Senator Does
- Minnesota Senate: Frequently Asked Questions abou the Minnesota Senate
- Nebraska Legislature: History of the Nebraska Unicameral
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images