by Tyler Anderson, intern in the Texas Legislative Group
We did it y’all! It’s been over a month since our first day in the Capitol, and to say it flew by would be an understatement. This past month has been a whirlwind of topical briefings, networking events, advocacy opportunities, bill analysis trainings, and endless happy hours spent trying to recall people’s names from the last happy hour I met them at (I’m getting better at this). We’ve had the opportunity to learn about some of the issue areas we’ll likely be working on including public education, public school finance, reproductive justice, immigration, and so many more. Having the opportunity to be briefed by people who are well known experts in their respective fields has been incredible. We’re going to be the most prepared group of staffers in the lege! I’m so excited for our new committee assignments and to start really honing in on what I’ll be focusing on this session.
Over the past month, I’ve been reflecting on one thing that I want to dissect a bit here: the concept of “meaningful work.” From the first day I found out exactly what I would be doing this session as a policy analyst in the Legislative Study Group (LSG), I’ve been processing what it would mean to make my time and work meaningful. What is meaningful work? How do you do meaningful work in a highly politicized environment? While I don’t have all the answers to these questions, I’ve definitely gotten some insight over the past month.
First, something that has been reiterated by Ana Ramon, our supervisor and the Executive Director of the LSG, is to “focus on the process and not the outcome.” Sometimes in a political environment, the outcome is almost predetermined; meaning, there can be so much support behind an issue that no matter how well you advocate against or analyze the bill, it’s still going to pass. This is why it’s important to focus on the process and to intervene where you can to make an impact. Focusing on marginal gains that will add up to a significant impact is critical in a politicized environment where change can be slow and tedious.
I feel so lucky to be working for the LSG, a caucus whose mission is “working on behalf of Texas families,” something I wholeheartedly believe in. Not only do the LSG’s values line up with my own, but they align perfectly with professional social work values as well. At a time when I feel that many of our political leaders aren’t necessarily governing with social work values like dignity and worth of the person in mind, it’s humbling to have an influence, however small it may be, as I’m advocating for working Texas families.
Another thing that highlights the importance and meaning of the work we’re doing in the LSG is the respect and interest that legislators, lobbyists, and staffers have in our reports. The LSG has a reputation for producing accurate, useful, reliable bill analyses that can be used to formulate talking points or policy briefs. The legacy and importance of the LSG has been communicated to us by our supervisors, but it is also demonstrated through the multiple field-experts, former legislators, and lobbyists who volunteer their time to brief us and offer to support us throughout the session.
As our country is transitioning into a new presidential administration, many people, including myself, are experiencing feelings of helplessness and confusion about what we can do to actually make a meaningful difference. The more I work on my bill analysis skills in preparation for my role as a policy analyst, the more I’m realizing that all of us in the LSG have been presented with a rare opportunity to have actual influence on policy makers, and in turn on the lives of the millions of Texans that these potential policies can affect. This realization has brought a newfound sense of meaning and urgency to the work we’re doing, and I am excited to hit the ground running and start doing it.