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Sen. Pat Jehlen hosts Citizens' Legislative Seminar

Fri, 10/28/2016

Sen. Pat Jehlen, D-Somerville, recently met with constituents who participated in the 77th Citizens' Legislative Seminar, which took place Oct. 17-18 at the Statehouse. CLS is a semiannual educational seminar geared toward adults of all ages interested in learning more about state government and the legislative process.

"Every year, I enjoy hosting constituents for the Citizens' Legislative Seminar," Jehlen said. "Understanding the role of the Legislature and how laws are made in Massachusetts is crucial to participation in democracy. The CLS is a unique opportunity for engaged citizens to really observe and play a part in the process."

Established in 1976 through a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts, the two-day seminar features engaging presentations by senators and staff on aspects of the day-to-day experience of legislators in the Commonwealth. Topics include the history and process of the Legislature, the parliamentary role of the Clerk of the Senate and the future of the Legislature. The seminar walked participants through the legislative process, including how bills are introduced, debated and passed.

The CLS culminates with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session, where participants are invited to use what they have learned to participate as "senators" in the Senate Chamber in order to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.
Fariba Houman, director of the Human Research Protections Program at Mass Eye and Ear's Research and Academic Affairs, has been a Cambridge resident for two years and was nominated by Jehlen to attend CLS.

"I was impressed with the backgrounds and the integrity of our legislators and their ability to vote on issues and ignore party lines," Houman said. "I learned how a bill gets conceived and the intricate steps it must traverse before it can be enacted into law. This experience will enable me to more effectively use my background in research ethics to help impact efforts to help save our health care system from forces that are bankrupting it."

Another one of Jehlen's nominees, Grady McGonagill, recently moved to Cambridge and is the co-founder of Elders Climate Action Massachusetts.

"As the representative of Elders Climate Action, I got involved this spring and summer in efforts to influence the omnibus energy bill that was being drafted and debated in the Statehouse," McGonagill said. "While I was gratified to see that climate change groups working together were able to get a stronger bill, I was disappointed at the limits of our influence.

"I wanted to learn more about how the legislative process works. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Sen. Jehlen, and thank her for her leadership in addressing climate change."

Adam Friedman, Jehlen's final nominee, currently lives in Somerville and is the president of Civera Software.

"The CLS gave me a valuable window into the day-to-day workings of the Senate," Friedman said. "I asked a lot of critical questions about power bottlenecks and secrecy around why certain bills proceed and others are tabled for years, why certain votes are not made available online, and why we, the people, are prohibited from walking through the front door of our own Statehouse.

"I recommend CLS to any citizen who wants a front-row seat into, and a forum for, constructively scrutinizing the sacred democratic process of law-making in Massachusetts."