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California in Congress

Wear sensible shoes and get a good therapist: Watch California representatives give advice to their new colleagues

Six newly elected Californians are in Washington this week for a crash course in how to be a member of Congress.

They are sitting through daylong sessions on ethics, advice on hiring competent staff and managing their office budgets, and how to write legislation. Rep.-elect Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel) compared the experience to trying to drink from a fire hose.

So The Times asked some of California's veteran members of Congress what advice they have for new members.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) suggested bringing noise-canceling headphones, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) advised buying duplicate pairs of shoes rather than carry them back and forth across the country.

Others were more serious tips. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) urged her new colleagues to find members already working on issues they care about, rather than starting from scratch all alone. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) said they should go to every available training session or seminar on Capitol Hill in order to get up to speed as soon as possible.

"Follow the rules so that your good work is not undercut," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), who leads the California Congressional Caucus.

"Get to know the Republicans from your state," Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) said. "It's great to work across the aisle because there are lots of things you actually can do for your state that are positive."

Some cautioned that the pace in Washington is slower that in the Statehouse or on a city council, where some new members have served.

"Slow and steady," Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) said. "Don't get too enamored with passing a bunch of bills."

But the most frequent piece of advice was to focus on the people who sent them to Washington.

"Effective constituent services makes you a great public servant," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).

Finally, "get to know a really good therapist," advised Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord).

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