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Long hours still the norm for retiring Sen. Gray

Long hours still the norm for retiring Sen. Gray

By Renee Rivers, Special to The Glendale Star

When Linda Gray bounded upstairs between bill readings in Committee of the Whole (COW), I asked how it was going.

“This is one of many long days these past weeks when I’ve not been home before 8 p.m.,” she said.

Escorting me to the lounge behind the chamber, she smiled and showed me her long presentation schedule. You can tell she’s at home here. She should be. This is her last of 16 years in office.

Born and raised in Missouri, the dedicated public servant was drawn to service from volunteering in her children’s classes.

“I had great role models. My dad was a volunteer fireman. My mom taught Sunday school,” she said.

Sen. Gray’s favorite part of being a senator includes helping people. She’s particularly proud of the DUI laws she’s worked.

“Interlock has reduced fatalities by 17 percent . . . .” The most difficult parts are the way the party has changed and “…trying to please everyone.”

Gray’s bills begin with people.

“People come to you trying to solve a problem.”

A mother visited her who could not take care of her daughter’s affairs because her daughter’s death certificate could not be issued until cause of death was determined. So Gray sponsored a bill requiring death certificates within 72 hours.

Although the senator scrolls through as many as 2,000 e-mails a week, she still finds this the easiest form of constituent communication.

Regarding education, her constituents are concerned about school funding and student success. She’s concerned about teacher morale in the face of this and the mortgage crisis and challenges teachers face when families are in transition.

Regarding the idea that a large number of people feel they have no representation, she said, “They need to get out and get people who agree with them to vote. Our district has a 1-percent difference between Republican and Democrat.”

She also said, “Constituents can speak in any committee hearing on any issue.”

On charter schools versus public schools, Gray said, “There should be a choice. Not all needs are met in public schools.”

Here, the senator’s assistant, Christina, stopped to provide a bill update. The senator asked about her kids. I wonder if she’s thinking of her own kids, grown, now serving the community as an eighth-grade math teacher in Peoria and a nurse, her years of public service perhaps an inspiration to their service-oriented professions.

If given only three issues to focus on, Gray would 1.) Choose more funding for K-12, which has “been shortchanged the last three years, but shorted the least in latest cuts.” 2.) Provide more help for addicts, since drugs kill families, take parents from kids, and addicts contribute to the high cost of prison expenses. 3.) Provide kids access to higher education.

Gray said she would most like constituents to understand that she works hard.

She said, “I listen. Try to call people back. I want kids to get a good education… .” When Senator Gray campaigns on core family value issues, she won’t change her mind.

She said, “My word is important.”

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