Note: Texas’ 86th Legislative Session – and the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work’s 2019 Austin Legislative Internship Program – concluded on Monday, May 27. Both will convene again in January 2021. Over the next few days, we will be posting concluding blog posts from several interns as they reflect back on their experiences this session.
by Kayla Lail, intern in the office of Rep. Sarah Davis
It is my understanding that I am writing one of the final blog posts for the session for the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work Austin Legislative Internship Program Blog Series for the 86th Texas Legislative Session. This is unfortunate for you, reader, as I am likely about to end this series like Game of Thrones, with a disappointing finale. Just days after the end of the legislative session, I wish I had a thoughtful narrative or theme that I could use to illustrate my experience here. I wish I could even put together a comprehensive list of what a prospective Austin Legislative Intern could use to prepare for this experience. The truth of the matter is that, after much deliberation and redrafts, my ability to do either of these as I come up for air after an intense session seems unable to measure up to the experience itself.
With all of that being said – I had a great experience working in the office of Representative Sarah Davis. To echo the statements of previous posts, I have learned more here than I ever could’ve imagined. Working in this office gave me the opportunity to work closely with veteran staff, advocates, and lobbyists. It also gave me the opportunity to work with small business owners, parents, and professionals who may not have been politically savvy, but were passionate enough to make sure their voices were heard. I learned that policy is more complex than I ever imagined, and the same can be said for politics.
This experience showed me that to be engaged in policy does not require expert-level understanding of all the players involved. It also doesn’t require having key political connections or incredible resources. While those attributes can certainly help in getting your voice heard, advocacy comes from a wide variety of individuals and groups. Whether you’re able to organize an entire group of concerned Texans to work with legislators to move policy during the interim months between each biennial legislative session and through the legislative session, or whether you’re able to call your representative during a lunch break to let them know what bills and issues you’re most concerned with, the legislature depends on citizen interaction to function properly. This isn’t to say that getting involved will immediately produce your desired outcomes. But it is to say that your desired outcomes do require your active and consistent support to have a chance at reality.
The experiences I had at the Texas capitol involved wins, losses, frustrations, and moments of inspiration. There’s not some single, well thought out narrative I can draw from it. It’s a system that involves thousands of people working together through a nearly 200-year-old process that affects over 28 million people. And for any prospective social work students who are wondering about whether or not they should apply for this internship, I have one thing to say. You need to do it, and you have our support.