Learning How to Swim

by Marissa Gorena, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group

Yesterday was the start of the 86thTexas Legislative Session and I couldn’t be more excited to start training as a Policy Analyst with the Texas Legislative Study Group. Prior to the start of session, our cohort had class lectures with Dr. Pritzker, and through those course lectures we learned steps to create effective change in policy and how to become an effective advocate. In our role at the Texas Legislature we will not be at the forefront of policy change or making decisions, but instead we will learn the dynamics of Texas politics and how to navigate our way through bill analyses with a value neutral lens.

We are a cohort of 13 students, and 10 of us, including myself, are in the Legislative Study Group (LSG) under Rep. Garnet Coleman. The LSG is a caucus within the Texas House of Representatives, and we work on analyzing bills to help guide members’ decision-making. I have heard from so many people around the Capitol, in our brief time here, how important our role in the LSG will be and how vital we are to the political process. Even though this is just the 3rdday for us, not including the 2 days of orientation we had in the Capitol, I am finally understanding a little bit more about what our role in the political process is; and that is to be a strong policy resource in the Texas Capitol.

My experience in the LSG so far has me only slightly overwhelmed. I was previously an intern in Spring 2017 with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, so I have been trained well for this type of environment before. I am grateful that we had several people with a ton of knowledge and experience in the Texas Capitol come speak to us in our 2 days of orientation prior to the start of session.

A phrase I have constantly heard from those that have walked in our shoes before is it’s gonna click. I understand that this phrase means we will be expected to swim with the sharks, and suddenly all the information we have obtained over the last few weeks will all make sense when we learn how to swim. Learning how to swim looks like enduring those long nights as a group in a room with no windows, while the bills are piling up and those analyses need to be finished by the crack of dawn the next day, but still being able to come out of it all in one piece to prepare for the next long night. I am excited and nervous for the work I will be contributing, and I know it will click soon, and when it does our group and myself will be ready.

Something I enjoyed on Opening Day of session on January 8th2019, was visiting Members’ offices. I visited Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, who is my hometown representative from Weslaco, TX, and whose office is adjacent to Rep. Coleman’s. I met his extremely friendly staff and introduced myself. I also visited my friends who now have positions at the Capitol in various offices, such as those of Rep. Jon Rosenthal, Rep. Gina Callani, and Rep. Armando Walle.

We then headed to the office of the County Affairs Committee to watch the floor vote on the new Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen. On our way, I ran into Dr. Letitia Plummer, who I had worked with previously on a voter registration drive and when coordinating transportationto the polls for students at my field placement at Houston CAN Academy SW last November. She asked me to be on her podcast titled Shades of Blue, and we had a great discussion about what it truly means to reach across the aisle to get things done in Texas.

All in all, it has been a great first few days, and I cannot wait to get trained on how to analyze bills and get assigned to committees!

About GCSW Legislative Interns

This blog is brought to you courtesy of The Graduate College of Social Work's Austin Legislative Internship Program. The College selects graduate MSW students to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. Student interns work as full-time staffers in the Legislature, either as policy analysts with the Legislative Study Group, a Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or in legislators’ offices. Here, they will share their unique experiences!
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