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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Citizens’ Legislative Seminar

Wrentham resident Julie Garland and Franklin resident Stephen Sherlock participated in the 87th Citizens Legislative Seminar. (Photo courtesy MassSenate.)

By Joe Stewart 
In early April, Julie Garland from Wrentham, and Stephen Sherlock from Franklin, participated in the 87th Citizens’ Legislative Seminar (CLS) at the State House. The CLS is a two-day citizen training program that is offered twice per year and sponsored by the Senate. The training is free, but you need to be nominated by State Senator Becca Rausch.  

Reference Archivist Conor Snow with the copper plate created by Paul Revere. (Artifact collection. The Town of Boston in New England and British Ships of War Landing their Troops, Paul Revere, 1768. AR22/A084. Massachusetts Archives.Boston, Massachusetts.)


Since 1975, the State Senate has offered the CLS to introduce interested residents to the legislative process as conducted by the Senate. Over the two days of training, Senators John Keenan, Michael Rush, Karen Spilka (Senate President), Michael Rodrigues, Patrick O’Connor, Brendan Crighton, Joan Lovely, Jake Oliveria, Pavel Payano, and Sal DiDomenico as well as Representative Aaron Michlewitz and Senate Clerk Michael Hurley, Counsel to the Senate James DiTullio, and CIO Paul Pak met with and presented to the nominees. Topics ranged from the formal and informal legislative process to budget and fiscal policy to outside influences on the legislature.  
Garland shared that the simulated joint legislative hearing, where participants presented arguments for and against the Act to expand the Bottle Bill (S2104), significantly reduced the fear of testifying publicly. The training also offered tips on how to testify effectively, meet with representatives, and convey key policy goals persuasively. Garland highlighted the consensus on effective advocacy techniques from most to least effective:
- Well-organized and rehearsed in-person meetings with representatives
- In-person testimony
- Clearly organized written testimony
- Phone calls
- Letters with personal or life-experience details supporting the policy

Garland noted that while form letters can bring an issue to the attention of representatives, they do not persuade elected representatives.
Sherlock highlighted the observations from Representative Michlewitz’, Chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, who discussed how difficult it is to secure accurate revenue forecasts.  When Michlewitz was talking, tax receipts were more than $1 billion below plan but since then tax receipts have exceeded plan. Sherlock left that discussion understanding that revenue forecasting is more art than science.  
Sherlock also noted the discussion led by Connor Snow, Reference Archivist from the State Archives, who brought an original copper plate created by Paul Revere and used in printing.  Snow explained that one side of the plate was used for printing money for the state and the other side of the plate was used to print engravings for publication in newspapers like the Boston Gazette, pamphlets (maybe), and distributed personally by Revere. Revere used both sides of the plate because copper was an expensive metal.
Both Garland and Sherlock encourage people to seek a nomination to the CLS. There is an application to complete, and it is a two-day, in-person at the State House event, but both felt their time was well spent. They left with a far better sense of the thoroughness and the attention to detail of the legislative process. While the process was mysterious before the seminar, following the seminar the process is clear and the efforts put forth by the representatives and their teams are significant:  getting the job done at the People’s House is work.