by Marisela Gomez
For the 84th legislative session, I have been placed inside Representative Garnet Coleman’s office. I feel very fortunate to be working for a senior representative who is involved in many aspects of the legislative process. Not only is Representative Coleman seen as an expert in mental health but he is also the chairman of the Legislative Study Group and the Committee on County Affairs. Unlike past sessions where GCSW’s social work interns have been solely placed in the Legislative Study Group or in a representative’s office, I have the privilege of being placed in Rep. Coleman’s committee office on County Affairs.
Although my primary placement is the committee office, I’ve been tasked not only with committee duties, but also with responsibilities typically held by interns placed in a representative’s office and some of the responsibilities held by students placed in the LSG. I will carry Rep. Coleman’s county bills through the full legislative process, create bill analyses heard by the Committee on County Affairs for the Legislative Study Group, and take part in the duties of the committee office.
My role as a committee clerk has been the most fascinating and enjoyable thus far. The world of committees in the Texas House of Representatives seems to be a world of its own. It’s even located in a part of the Capitol that most people pass as they are walking through the halls. I’ve even overheard the occasional lost constituent compare the hallways to the eerie hallways seen in the movie The Shining. Most of the committee staff love this aspect: being separated from the craziness of the main capitol floors and working behind the scenes.
One of the perks of being a part of “committee land” is the relationships. Committee land seems to be the place where staffers sneak away and many refer to it as “their home away from home.” It also seems to be a place that many staffers consider their safe zone, where they can relax, openly express their thoughts and exchange information regarding bills. County officials and lobbyists also seem to enjoy the escape that committee land provides. It is in this committee culture that I’ve been able to engage in conversations regarding future policy and its impact on Texans.
Working as a committee clerk has also given me the chance to meet and get to know other members of the Legislature firsthand, specifically the members who serve on the committee. On hearing days, I’ve been able sit and chat with members who serve on the committee as well as those who come to present a bill. I’m able to learn about their concerns, likes and even what they are willing to negotiate on prior to the committee voting on a bill.
I’ve really enjoyed my experience so far. Being a part of committee has given me a well-rounded understanding of the legislative process and allowed me to interact with so many people that I never would’ve imagined meeting.