During January, his first month as State Senator for the 3rd Middlesex district, state Sen. Mike Barrett says he heard “from a surprising number of people about a surprising number of personal priorities, profound concerns and even pet peeves.”
“When I went door-to-door this past summer,” Barrett said, “I got an earful on all kinds of subjects. Having counted – and read – my mail from the first 30 days, I can report that my climb up the learning curve is continuing.”
The issue of gun control was predictably hot, Barrett says, but the volume of mail on the subject was larger than he expected. In January he received 108 emails, phone calls or letters from people who disagree with recent gun control initiatives proposed the President, the Governor and legislative advocates – compared to only 10 in favor.
“I wasn’t born yesterday,” Barrett says. “I know that certain interests are better organized than others, I know the general tenor of the district, and I have my personal convictions. Still, some of these letters made good points about specific policy ideas, and I’m looking into them.”
Not all issues had the same high public profile, Barrett says, but they generated lots of mail nonetheless: Canine breed neutrality, for example. Dog lovers mobilized around their fear that state regulations may label entire breeds as dangerous. They argue, Barrett says, that each pit bull and each Doberman deserves to start out with a presumption of innocence, judged only on its individual behavior. Barrett heard from 28 constituents in January on behalf of such breed neutrality language.
Other mail was unexpected, not so much because of the subject matter as because of the timing and intensity of interest. Barrett says he received 71 emails asking for his support of a proposed Electronic Privacy Act, which would limit access by government agencies to individuals’ cell phone, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“These notes drew my attention to a bill I hadn’t known about,” says Barrett, who has a professional background in information technology. “After hearing from people and perusing the legislation, I decided they were right, and now I’m co-sponsoring the legislation myself.”
Late in the month, public attention – and constituent mail – turned to the Governor’s proposals for new investments in transportation and education, funded by new taxes.
“This is one topic of discussion that will continue, at a feverish pace, for much of the year,” Barrett says. “Still, for the record, in January we heard from 28 constituents against the Governor’s proposals and 10 in favor.