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What Does a Parliamentarian Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 June 2014
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The term “parliamentarian” can refer to two slightly different professions. One is a representative serving in a nation's parliament and the other is a consultant hired to provide advice on parliamentary procedure. The job descriptions for both are quite different, and the type of parliamentarian under discussion is usually evident from the context.

Members of parliament, whether elected or appointed, are responsible for proposing and discussing new legislation, including repeals of prior legislation. As part of their work, they usually belong to a number of committees concerned with individual issues, ranging from public safety to the environment. These committees can commission studies and discuss legislative actions amongst themselves before bringing matters to the floor. Parliamentarians may also make speeches on the floor and engage in debates when contentious topics are brought to discussion or vote.

The parliamentarian has a set term of service established by law. In some regions, it is possible to repeat service in parliament, sometimes indefinitely and sometimes only for a specific number of terms. The work also includes interacting with constituents and providing advocacy and outreach services in local communities, such as assisting constituents with accessing government benefits or assistance. Usually a staff is hired to provide assistance with the work.

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A consultant on parliamentary procedure may work for a legislative body or provide assistance to other types of groups interested in using this procedure for rulemaking and meetings. The parliamentarian can help establish bylaws for a new group, rule on disputes about procedure, and advise people on how to use parliamentary procedure effectively and appropriately. This work requires extensive knowledge of basic procedure, as well as its variants and historical precedents.

People who are members of professional organizations of parliamentarians have more rigorous training and have committed to uphold certain professional standards. They can be more desirable hires when consulting services are required and for this reason many people who want to provide consulting services choose to join professional organizations. Membership usually requires passing an examination, paying a fee, and meeting continuing education requirements to maintain certification.

Pay for parliamentarians varies. Members of parliament typically receive a relatively small stipend for their work and have access to benefits ranging from car services to health care. Consultants can make varying salaries, depending on the organizations they work for. A parliamentarian employed by the government to provide consulting assistance to the legislature and government agencies typically has access to government benefits, like other employees in public service positions.

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