While next year’s state legislature is predominantly controlled by Republican leadership, one important committee will be led by a Democrat.
Representative Leon Howard (D-Richland) is entering his second term atop the House Committee on Medical, Military, and Municipal Affairs– also known as the”3M” committee. Howard says he’s honored to lead a committee he’s worked on since his first term in 1995.
When a person is elected, the House leaders give you an opportunity to at least ask or request a committee that you would like to serve on. I’ve never asked to serve on any other committee other than the House 3M committee.
Howard says a tragedy in his own family caused him to seek out the committee that oversees healthcare issues.
My mother died suddenly the day before I was elected to the House. Just an unexpected situation… it was a total surprise. So, I wanted to serve on a committee that would help and support healthcare professionals in making healthcare as good as possible.
He said he eventually held in every office on the committee over the next 12 years, so he could better understand its structure before seeking the chair.
Howard says he expects his committee to be very busy in the upcoming session, as lawmakers will have to deal with an expected $1.3 billion budget shortfall. He predicts the House could see “thousands” of pieces of legislation next year as budget cuts and reform will dominate the agenda.
One role of the committee is to oversee military issues that come through the legislature. Howard says he expects the 3M committee to become heavily involved with veterans’ affairs in the state. He said legislators are forming an ad hoc committee to examine the problems facing soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. He was careful to point out that most of the responsibility lies with the federal government, however.
What we want to do is work as close to the federal government as possible… even through resolutions and recommendations to Congress about certain changes that we’d like to see happen.
Howard also chaired the committee from 2009-2010.