Texas Senate Hispanic Research Council
Spring 2011 Site ReviewPosition: Luna Scholar
Student: Government Junior
For my part, the Texas Senate and the Texas Capitol is the most prestigious internship site in Austin. Our State Legislature writes criminal laws, runs public schools and makes higher education policy, and manages a budget of over $70 billion dollars a year. Helping my Boss be effective and influential Legislator is the most rewarding experience of my career. I would caution that a capitol office internship experience would be vastly different if you interned during a legislative session as opposed to an internship during the interim. During the interim, there is simply not a whole lot of work to do. It is vitally important to answer each and every piece of constituent correspondence, because the people who write are likely to vote. During session, letters get lost in a mountain of work and everyone receives a standard reply noting the high volume of inquiries during session. It's a totally different atmosphere. I think session is best described in a few choice analogies. It is said that once you get this stuff in your blood, you never go away. Indeed now that I have taken part in this legislative session I fully expect to be back and to play a larger part in what happens in each subsequent session. The pace of session can be likened to that of a freight train. It starts off moving slow and steady, with lots of bells and whistles. Then it ramps up and picks up speed, but it always follows that same similar path. By the time the train is moving full speed, you have forgotten the slow pace of January and if you slowed down you would fall off the tracks. The point of these analogies is simply to demonstrate the point that if you continue to meet expectations, you can make it through session successfully-and even be welcomed back.
The last point I will add about a capitol internship is that it is completely what you make of it. The intern who spends their time in the office answering phones and making copies never picks up more duties because they are unwilling to excel in that "menial" task. If you remain diligent and invested in your own work product, then more responsibilities will follow.
Spring 2011 Site ReviewPosition: Legislative Intern/Luna Scholar
Student: Government Senior
A day in my life is can be summarized as hectic yet rewarding. Each Senate Office establishes what time for the staffers to get in. This time varies from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM. Our office gets in at 8:30 AM. It is often suggested to read the legislative clippings. The clippings are a service that the Legislative Reference Library provides in which they compile all the articles dealing with the Texas Legislature that are in newspapers that day. It is the best way to keep informed with the day-to-day changes. Then, I get started with reading the mail that has come in and assigning it to the staffers so they can respond. When session convenes, I may be one of the staffers assigned to staff Senator West in the Senate Chamber. If I am there, then I keep track of the bills being debated and those that are being voted on. I also make sure to facilitate any necessity that Senator West encounters. Sometimes, I may talk to the staffers of the other senators about a bill. Many staffers work their bills all the way to the floor. If I am in the Capitol Office, I will also take meetings with advocacy groups that come in and I assist them with their concerns. In the evening, I print out the Correspondence Report so that the Senator is aware of the concerns that constituents have addressed. This is the bulk of my administrative duties.
As an Education Policy Analyst, I attend the staff briefings for the staffers of the Senators that sit on the Education and the Higher Education Committees. These usually occur on Friday and Monday, respectively. I then read and analyze the implications of the bills and I put my report into the Legislative Management System. I prepare questions for Senator to ask about the implications of the bill if I as an analyst feel that there should be clarification. I assist the Chief of Staff with preparing the notebooks for the Senator's Committee Hearings. On the mornings of the Education and Higher Education Committee hearings, I monitor the hearings. Sometimes I may have to staff Senator West for these hearings as well. When I do that, I must sit behind him in committee and be keen to answer any questions that he may have about the bills.