Earlier this year at a town hall type breakfast meeting I had the chance to ask Senator Bennett what he considered to be the most important task of a Senator. I was not very impressed with his answer that the most important thing was to try to see the future clearly. I still argue that keeping their oath of office is what all the actions of an elected official should revolve around, but upon further reflection I think I have a better understanding of what he meant and it was closer to acceptable for me. His third item in the list of of most important jobs was that they should do their homework. I think that what he was trying to get at was that legislators need to study the information that is available to them and then make wise decisions about how to deal with whatever information is available. After all, that is the whole point of a representative form of government – voters are essentially selecting someone who will have access to more information than most of them with the expectation that the elected official will make a better than average decision with that more comprehensive information.
While that task of analyzing information to make decisions should be anchored to keeping the oath of office it is truly one of the most important tasks of a legislator. As an analyst, a legislator must always be seeking as much information as possible on the issues they are called to decide upon. They should seek that information from their constituents as well as all the official sources of information that are brought before them (such as task forces and committee reports). Their job is to take all that information to put together as accurate a picture as possible of the reality they are dealing with and then make as wise a decision as possible with that understanding.