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Legislative staffers work through the quiet off-season

Legislative staffers work through the quiet off-season

August 4th, 2019 by Shelby Matthews in Local News
Julie Smith/News TribuneEven though the session concluded in may, legislative staffers still man the offices of elected represenatives and senators to handle constituent calls and perform other necessary tasks. In the case of Matt Morris, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter's chief of staff, he spends a considerable amount of time on the phone or retrieving Bernskoetter's tarantula that is a visitor's favorite.

When Missouri's legislative session comes to a close each May, not everyone packs up to go home.

Many legislative staffers work full time at the Missouri state Capitol year-round, answering phone calls, researching new legislation and helping constituents.

Matt Morris, chief of staff for state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said the hours are the main difference between working during the session and in the interim.

"During the session, I could be working up to 12 hours a day, and in the interim, it's a little less," Morris said.

During the session, which runs from January to May, staffers are tasked with office management, keeping minutes at committee meetings, scheduling hearings, keeping track of bills and much more.

Bernskoetter is the chair of the Senate's Agriculture Committee, so Morris works a lot with gathering testimony and posting meeting notices.

"In the interim, we are still running an office, but we are handling a lot more of constituent concerns," Legislative Assistant Joyce Bush said.

Bush works full time for state Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, and Rep. Greg Sharpe, R-Ewing.

Constituents can call their local representatives' and senators' offices when they have issues with another part of the government, then staffers like Morris and Bush work to get it fixed. The calls can range from problems with a license office to income tax refunds to national foreign policy.

They also spend a lot of time looking into legislation their boss is considering bringing in the next session.

"I spend a lot of time researching topics and reorganizing past legislation in order to be prepared for when the session starts," Bush said.

Morris is currently working on legislation for projects in the area including a proposed port for Jefferson City and a museum.

Morris also coordinates when people want to meet with Bernskoetter.

"I get people that call and want to meet with the senator to discuss something, and I arrange that and even stand in if he can't make it," Morris said.

With the shortened hours, legislative staff members also have time to take vacations and personal days.

Bush is currently taking phone calls for an additional two representatives while their staffers are on vacation.

"We help each other out a lot during the interim," Bush said.

Morris said it is a little weird how quiet the Capitol can be, and there are some days when he only sees the mail carrier and members of the Capitol Police.

"The quiet is nice, honestly; I feel like I get more work done," Morris said.