A state representative is a politician who serves in a state-level legislative branch. These politicians represent local cities or counties and help to form state laws that benefit their constituents. A career as a state representative is often a stepping stone to future positions with the U.S. Congress or other political jobs at the state or federal level.
State representatives introduce and vote on bills that represent the interests of their constituents (people who live in their voting district). They create new laws, modify or update old laws and serve on research committees within the legislative branch. These representatives uphold the state's Constitution, and vote on changes to the Constitution when amendments are needed. They may address issues such as education, transportation, commerce, state taxes and any other items that are a concern to local residents. Representatives may also assist constituents with personal legal issues such as immigration or justice problems.
To serve as a state representative, an individual must be a legal resident of the area he plans to represent. He must be between the ages of 21 and 67 years, though exact age requirements vary by state. State representatives cannot have been convicted of a felony within the 20 years prior to election and may not hold any other political job while they serve in the legislature. Most states elect representatives for 4-year terms, though term limits and duration may vary.
Those working in state legislatures may work full-time during busy periods, but often hold other jobs throughout most of the year.
Salary for state representatives can vary widely from state to state. According to VoteSmart, representatives in Kentucky and Montana do not earn a salary, while those in New York earn $57,500 per year. In Rhode Island, legislators earn just $5 a day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average state legislator earned $37,980 per year as of May 2008.
Skills and Education
Legislators may posses a wide variety of backgrounds from business to legal to education and politics. Some may have little to no work experience, while others are retired or serve as volunteers or community leaders. Many state representatives have experience on city or county councils or other local government organizations.
While experience may vary, all representatives must have strong leadership skills. They must be able to inspire constituents to vote for them in order to win an election and should be comfortable with public speaking. Skills in marketing and fund raising are all extremely beneficial.
State representatives should not be confused with federal legislators. Federal representatives for each state serve in the U.S. Congress, while senators for each state serve in the U.S. Senate. All 50 states, with the exception of Nebraska, each have their own dual-chamber government. State senators serve in the Senate, while state representatives serve in the State House of Representatives. Many states have more than 100 representatives, though exact numbers vary by population.
Per the 10th Amendment, these state branches of government have the right to create local laws beyond those created at the federal level. These often include education planning, state budgets and taxation, local laws and justice, welfare and aid programs and any other issue of interest to the state.