What impact do you think you were able to have as a State Rep? Are there any specific projects or policies you’re particularly proud of?
Looking back, there are four projects I’m the most proud of:
Three bills I played “sidekick” on… 1) A 911 immunity bill, which confers legal immunity from drug possession charges to both the person who calls 911 in the event of a medical emergency and the victim of the emergency. 2) A bill expanding Narcan access to third parties. (Narcan is a medication which can be administered by a layperson and which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.) 3) A bill that legalized syringe service programs, aka needle exchanges.
A bill I put forward to shift the Overton Window, decriminalizing sex work, which was to my knowledge the first bill of its kind to be introduced in the US, although it is no longer the only bill of its kind to be introduced in the US. The successor to my seat has taken up the banner for sex workers’ rights, and I’m very proud of her.
In addition to these, I also experienced a few very cool moments of “holy moly, I can’t believe I just pulled that off,” which all had in common the theme of going up against consensus in a deliberative body, be that my Committee or the General Assembly, and convincing my fellow Representatives to reverse course and vote the opposite way they had intended.
going up against consensus in a deliberative body, be that my Committee or the General Assembly, and convincing my fellow Representatives to reverse course and vote the opposite way they had intended.
It’s great to hear that this is not only possible but possible for one person to achieve multiple times in two years. Do you think you were able to do it significantly more often than the average representative? (e.g. because the average representative cares more about conforming to the pack than you and so tries to do this less often?)
Able to do it? I’m not sure. It seems likely that my persuasive skills played a role, but the more significant factor is that I did it more than the average Rep because most Reps never tried.
I think it would help me answer if I gave a little more context. I only succeeded at this three times, by my estimation. We go through 800-1000 bills a year, to give you a sense of scale. I was very wary of attempting to do it and failing, because my model is that each failure makes the body as a whole slightly less likely to listen to you in the future. So the only times I attempted to do it were when the counterfactual outcome was both so intolerably stupid that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and I thought I had an okay chance of making a difference. The couple of Reps who had a reputation for always getting up and saying something every time they disagreed with the committee recommendation, whether or not there was a chance of overturning that recommendation, were often greeted with groans; like, “Oh boy, it’s this guy again. Why is he wasting our time?” I most certainly did not want to be seen as one of those people because that would have been extremely counterproductive.
Only one of those three times can I say with 99% certainty that yes, that was me, because any outcome in politics has many different inputs and so it’s quite hard to assign responsibility for any outcome to oneself.
For example, one of the times I’m not counting was when I was working with a team of people that were cooperating with each other to get a favorable vote on allowing contraceptives to be dispensed over the counter. All of us played a role in getting the committee recommendation overturned.
I’m trying to think of other Reps who got committee recommendations overturned on more than one occasion, and I think they were all higher-ranking than me; in such a large legislative body, people relied very heavily on heuristics about a speaker’s experience level and education. When I was first sworn in, I was age 24 and the median age of the NH House was 67.