by Marissa Gorena, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
Today I am sitting in the Texas House of Representatives County Affairs Committee office eating a leftover P.F. Chang’s fortune cookie, reflecting on something my supervisor said that will stick with me so long as I am invested in changing policy. He said: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”He was speaking about passing legislation; that the steps to get there won’t always be easy, but just because something is not perfect initially, does not mean the good intermediate steps it took to get there should be ignored. Policy won’t always be perfect. In order to be effective in the policy world, it takes a lot of small steps sometimes to achieve near perfection, and even that is not guaranteed. Reaching across the aisle is going to have to take place to get things done and to protect the people we love, but it won’t always be perfect initially.
These are some of the things that have been said by my supervisor, and he is now one of the best mentors I have ever had. I have learned a great deal of knowledge from him and people like him, and that has shaped the way I attempt to wrap my head around things I don’t understand in the Texas Legislature. As a social work student here, I tend to see certain policy changes as common-sense fixes, especially when it comes to issues related to basic human rights and the dignity and worth of a person. When things get tough and I hear people say vile things about people like me, or like the people in my life, I need to stay grounded. This is exactly where the words my mentors have said to me help.
I knew on February 19th, the day I first heard bills before the House Public Education Committee, what my job here was all about. After panicking and texting my supervisor, everything started to come together, and I knew exactly what to do when bills eventually were voted out of committee and onto the floor of the House of Representatives (where the full membership of the House deliberates and votes on bills).
I learn something new every day and I am learning new ways to think of effective advocacy, while simultaneously unlearning unhelpful tactics I learned through my involvement with community organizing during my undergraduate career. There is a lot to think about when engaging in advocacy and messaging because not all situations are black and white – there is a lot of gray area that needs to be accounted for. This all ties in with how to be effective at reaching across the aisle and finding something that is as important to the other side as it is important to us, and to tailor the arguments to our advocacy targets. I was taught in my undergrad advocacy experience to never interact with the other side, to yell instead of listen, and to let not-so-perfect get in the way of good. There is a culture of Quid, Pro, Quo here, and every day I wonder how to adjust to that culture without compromising my own values. Even though my position here as an intern with the Legislative Study Group is not to advocate but to analyze, I now think more critically about the people who are advocating and how the best ones meet their targets where they are at.
With all that being said, through the stress of it all, I recharge and take care of myself by playing 30 minutes of basketball at a court down the street from where I live and have enjoyed having board game nights with my cohort of fellow interns. Today I am sitting in on the Public Education Committee hearing on House Bill (HB) 3 by Representative Dan Huberty in preparation for my analyses of this bill. HB 3 is a major bill consisting of almost 200 pages relating to public school finance and public education. This is going to be my first extremely long day (and night) of many to come, but I am glad I have been taught ways to stay grounded and remain passionate because nothing in the world is accomplished without passion (P.F. Chang’s Fortune Cookie I found in County Affairs, 2019).