A recent article in the Deseret News has prompted me to share my views on how a member of Congress can be most effective for his district, admittedly a treatise from a new congressman who is still figuring this out.

I have found Congress - both the House and the Senate - to be a whirlpool of competing interests. Some 535 people from 50 different states are there to serve those who elected them. People being what they are, this is rarely done in peace and unity, particularly when it comes to money.A new member of Congress figures out fast that the best way to serve his constituents is to get what his district needs in such a way that others can't take it away.

I think the most effective members are the ones who, among other things, help their constituents get their fair share of federal funding for vital projects. They are not the ones who get the most bills passed. The two are not related.

Those 535 people I talked about are all back there trying to dip into the same finite pool of federal money to pay for jobs, programs and projects at home.

Let me use Utah's transportation needs to illustrate my point.

When I came back to Congress, I could see that my district desperately needed two things: enough money to finish the I-15 expansion and additional cash to pay for Olympic-related road projects.

Now, I had a couple of ways I could go about getting that money for Utah: I could wait until the new six-year highway bill came to the House floor and try to pass a couple of amendments, or I could get on the right committees and subcommittees and build that funding into the bill from the ground up.

The first way was clearly the wrong way. You don't throw amendments that give your state hundreds of millions of dollars in front of other members of Congress who would like that same money for their states. The amendments will surely fail.

I decided the best way to serve my constituents was to get on the House Transportation Committee, then I got on the subcommittee responsible for writing the highway bill.

I persuaded the subcommittee to give Utah a huge surge in federal highway funding, then I put a section in the bill instructing the secretary of transportation to give Olympic host cities top priority when he appropriates his discretionary funds.

I wanted it perfectly clear from the get-go that Congress was authorizing Secretary Slater to give Utah some of his discretionary funds for our 2002 Winter Games.

When my subcommittee sent the highway bill, now known as TEA-21, to the House Transportation Committee, Utah had the second highest funding increase in the nation. That funding got cut some in committee. I expected that. But I hung on to what we needed. When that bill went to a vote before the House, it included a 57 percent increase in Utah's federal highway funding over the next six years as well as the vital Olympic section.

Because of that Olympic section, Slater announced this week that Utah will get $87 million next year for Olympic-related road projects. We stand a strong chance of getting similar appropriations every year until the Olympics.

The money I helped get for Utah includes $40 million for cities in my district like Salt Lake City, Murray, Sandy, Riv-er-ton and West Jordan. The money will help fund road projects that make it easier for city residents to get around quickly and safely. That funding never would have happened if I had attempted to get it through stand-alone bills or floor amendments.

I consider the money for I-15, the cities and the Olympic-related roads projects one of the best measures of my effectiveness as a congressman.

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I think the Deseret News' practice of counting bills and amendments as the primary measure of effectiveness is an overly simplistic view that doesn't reflect how much good this delegation does for Utah.

The practice also overlooks a member's role in passing legislation that impacts all of us, such as a balanced budget that stimulates the economy or tax cuts that give you and me more money to spend raising our families and saving for the future. Those votes make a much bigger difference to each of us than the hundreds of small bills that pass each year. In fact, sometimes I think the most effective thing Congress can do is stop passing so many bills.

As I've pointed out, the paper's method of measurement almost entirely overlooks the fiscal aspect of government. Meaningful funding certainly doesn't happen through floor amendments.

I encourage the Deseret News to find a way of measuring the delegation's effectiveness that takes into account the way power is used in Congress.

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