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My Interns Weigh In

March 19, 2013

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I was lucky to share two interns, Ciara and Emily, during the session with Senator Deidre Henderson. Here I am with Ciara (middle) and Senator Henderson (far right — get it).

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Ciara is a senior in high school, and Emily is a Senior in college. I asked them both to write something for this blog.

This is what Ciara had to say:

“What an incredible experience it has been interning at the Capitol during this session! I learned so many valuable things that I wouldn’t have been able to learn anywhere else. I am now able to: give tours with my eyes closed, hide from other legislators, track multiple bills at one time, cut out many newspaper articles, play pranks like never before, and sit during hours of floor time. Not only was I always learning, but I enjoyed being there. The long hours seemed to fly by because we were always joking and laughing. I will always say that I had the best senators and interns to work with. I am so grateful for the incredible opportunity I had and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me as well as my senators.”

And this is from Emily:

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When I started my internship working for Senator Weiler, I didn’t really know what to expect. Like many other younger Americans, I had done my best to pay attention with events and issues going on in Washington but had completely ignored what was happening here on the state level.

At first I was expecting it to be a heated battleground where Republicans and Democrats debate controversial issues, not realizing that the Utah senate is composed of 24 Republicans and a mere 5 Democrats. When I learned that, I assumed that every single bill would be passing with very little deliberation.

What I found when the session began was quite different. The majority of the bills passed were “maintenance” bills that only amended a few words in the existing code, most of which passed unanimously. The most controversial bills were the ones that caused dissension between the Republicans themselves. Not all the issues were as black and white as the media led me to believe. Individual legislators within both parties can have a wide range of opinions and philosophies regarding government and society.

Despite the conflict, they are all polite and professional. Though they may tear each other’s bills apart on the senate floor, all of them are good friends behind the scenes.

Another thing that absolutely astounded me is just how easy it is for individuals to let their voices be heard. I arranged one meeting with a constituent who had recently moved here from New York. He arrived early because he had planned for extra time to get through security. He was surprised to find that there were no metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, etc. Citizens can literally just walk right in any time they please.

Committee meetings are open to the public and welcome anyone who wishes to testify. When the legislators are on the floor, people can watch the proceedings from the gallery. If you would like to talk to your senator or representative, they’re usually more than happy to set a time to meet with them.

Senator Weiler is very good at listening to his constituents and most of the bills he sponsors began as constituent requests. It was good to see that the people really are represented well in our state government.

Overall, my internship was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot about politics, law, and people in general, and I realized just how much I have yet to learn. When I started, I was a nervous college student with little professional experience. Now, I’ve received a boost both on my resume and on my confidence level that I feel will allow me to succeed in anything else I decide to do with my life.

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