The Importance of Legislative Staff
Staff often have longer tenure at the legislature than most legislators. They are an important source of historical information about issues. Staff also work full-time; legislators are at the Capitol only part-time.
A very wise advocate used to sponsor annual meetings of the staff working on health policy for the Connecticut legislature with the staffs from Connecticut's US Congressional and Senate offices assigned to health issues. There were probably two dozen or more staffers who came up from DC to meet with the two or three state health policy staffers.
Staff are overworked. Some welcome assistance and input from advocates, some do not.
There are two types of legislative staff - partisan and nonpartisan. Partisan staff are chosen by their caucuses, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, House Republicans, or House Democrats, and/or by individual legislators. Partisan staff work for their caucus' interests and serve at their pleasure. They work as researchers, press liaisons, attorneys, constituent aides, and committee staff, among other jobs. Partisan staff are generally very active politically.
Nonpartisan staff are not politically active. They work within the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the Office of Legislative Research, the Legislative Commissioner's Office and as committee staff, among other jobs. Nonpartisan staff are civil service employees and not subject to political influence.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis advises the legislature on the budget, Connecticut's economic climate and drafts a fiscal note for each bill or amendment considered by either house. For more info, go to What is a fiscal note?
The Office of Legislative Research follows important trends in Connecticut for legislators, follows what is happening in DC and in other states, and drafts a bill analysis for each bill considered by the legislature.
The Legislative Commissioner's Office is the set of attorneys who draft legislative language.
Staff from all three non-partisan offices are assigned by issue area and/or by committee. These staff are generally present at hearings, committee meetings and advise in private meetings to decide which bills to advance in the process.
In Separated by Velvet Ropes published 5/25/03 in the Hartford Courant's Northeast magazine, Kevin Rennie describes the culture and frenzy at the end of the legislative session. A former Senator, his description is vivid and accurate.