Washington State Legislative Intern

Working in the “other” Washington

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After my first day working for Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler

It’s crazy to think about how much has changed in our nation since I’ve been here. It’s been exactly five weeks since I’ve started my internship. But first, how did I land an internship in the Capitol of the United States of America? Simple, as Ann Adams in the career center always stresses, life is all about making connections and nothing is more important in gaining a career than the connections that you make working in a professional setting. When deciding what I wanted to do with my life this summer, I was dead set on going back to Chipole, Tanzania. It’s where I wanted to be. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. After those plans fell through, I talked with some people in the Washington State Legislature about what they recommended me doing and going to DC kept coming up in conversation. I fell in love with politics during my time interning at the Washington State Legislature and decided that going to DC would only strengthen those feelings. I ended up making some phone calls to the office of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler that was recommended to me from staff members in the Washington State Legislature and in a week was landed with a full-time internship. I accepted the position and made the move within a month.

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On the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States of America after the decision on Equal Marriage

I love it in here in DC. There is so much history and being able to work in the heart of our nation always leaves me in awe. My job consists of giving tours, talking to constituents, doing research projects, clerical work, and going to briefings/hearings that interest me. Being in DC, I have realized that there are so many opportunities that I didn’t know about. I’ve always had a set plan of going to law school after I graduated from Saint Martin’s but I had never really opened myself up to other opportunities. I am constantly surrounded by professionals that all do different things. I love just talking to people about their jobs and listening to how they ended up in the positions that they’re in now. Listening to the stories of other individuals is helping me to get a sense of what path I want to take in order to accomplish my goals.

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Independence Day at the Capitol of the United States of America

I have been able to experience so many things. I was able to be on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States of America when they ruled that same-sex marriage be allowed in all states of the US. I watched the fireworks from the steps of the Capitol building overlooking the Washington monument and the National Mall on Independence Day. I attended the first ever women’s sports team, the US Women’s National Soccer Team, to be honored with a New York City Ticker Tape Parade after they won the World Cup. It’s so wonderful being able to be a part of such historical moments and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

It’s just the beginning

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With a bunch of interns at the Farewell Ice Cream Party

On April 23rd, the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House in the Washington State Legislature brought the gavels down at the same time in order to signify the ending of the 2015 Legislative Session. Not only did it signify the ending of the Legislative session but also with it, the ending of the 2015 Legislative Internship Program. It was a day filled with goodbyes and a lot of “see you later’s”. This internship did so much for me. I’ve made not only professional connections but also a lot of friendships that will last a lifetime. It was a bittersweet ending, so bittersweet that I decided to come back the following Monday to work.

I decided to volunteer for my office for the first special Legislative session. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to everyone just yet and of course wanted to be on the inside of the budget negotiations that are still taking place. It was so much fun being one of the only ones still left on the Capitol Campus. I got to sit in on media availabilities with the Senate Republican Leadership and basically just talk to a lot of really interesting people while still helping out with the office work for Senator Parlette. I preceded to volunteer until my official last day that was Friday, May 29th. On my last day, I went out to coffee with my office and it was a lot of fun to just sit down and talk with both of my bosses about the future. Graduation is only in a year and talking about the future is always really scary but it’s nice to know that I have people who are looking out for me and want only the best.

Last day with friend Jeffrey, and Legislative Assistants to Senator Linda Evans Parlette, Grace and Jimmy

This internship has changed my life. It has changed not only my outlook on politics and the law but also my outlook on the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have learned so much from being involved in the process and from just talking to people. One of the most important things that I have learned throughout this experience is that everyone has an opinion based on how they were brought up and their life experiences. Someone may have a differing opinion than you but that does not make them wrong and I think that is so important to realize. If you ask a person why they think a certain why, trust me, it is such an eye opening experience because you will see that their opinion makes sense based on their experiences. I have also learned that it’s okay to ask questions. One of my favorite things about working in the Washington State Legislature was being able to go into my office and just ask my bosses what their opinions were on a specific issue and why. We would have such wonderful, intellectual discussions that sometimes weren’t even about politics. It was so amazing and I miss working there everyday.

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Hiked to the top of Ka’au Crater with friends during my time home

So, what have I been doing for the past month? I was able to go home to Hawaii for 11 days and in that time period I spent time with family and friends, went on numerous hikes, relaxed on the beach as much as I could, and took the infamous LSAT. It was both a stressful and relaxing 11 days but it was so nice to be home. In the past month, I have also moved to Washington, DC!!! WHAAAT?! I know, it’s super exciting and new and I love it here but this adventure is for another time. I am so grateful for every opportunity that has come my way and although the future is a scary place, I couldn’t be more excited for all of the adventures that are going to be had.

Different country, different ideas

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Canadian Parliament in Victoria, BC

One of the great things about being an intern is not only do you get to work for an amazing legislator but you also have so many opportunities that are offered for you to take advantage of. The Washington State Legislative Internship hosts an exchange program every year with the interns from Victoria, British Columbia that work in their Canadian Parliament. It was so cool to be able to go to another country and see the differences and similarities between our governments.

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WA State Leg interns on the pier in Victoria, BC

The first day of the program, we toured the the city of Victoria. The BC interns told us many historical facts and showed us important landmarks. It was so interesting because I have not learned anything about Canadian history. Being able to see how the history of Victoria and the history of the US coincided was so exciting. We then were able to go inside and take a tour of the Canadian Parliament and it was gorgeous. Everything about Victoria was so gorgeous and laid back. Everyone was so incredibly nice and I ended up eating a lot of poutin (french fries with gravy and cheese, it was delicious). We went out to dinner with the BC Interns and talked about how their jobs differed from the jobs that we had back in the “states.” We talked about what issues were the most pressing in Canada and vice versa. It’s crazy to think that our countries are literally right next to each other but our values and priorities are so widespread.

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Taking the ferry back to Port Angeles!

The following day we were able to listen to presentations from important people in their parliament. They talked about some of their ministries and some of the pressing issues that their country is facing. Again, it was so interesting to be able to hear how different our countries are. After, we went into the chamber where the government and the opposition were having sort of a debate. Basically, opposition yelling at the other side. It was so cool! They were yelling at each other, banging on the desks, and making nasty comments. It was so different from watching the Senators in the Washington State Legislature have floor debate. All in all, Victoria was gorgeous and this trip made me realize how different it is living in the United States in relation to any other country. It was definitely a very cool experience.

Advocating for the people

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Advocating against raising the minimum wage in Washington State on the Senate floor

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged and so much has happened in the past month. I have learned so much and feel like this place is my second home. One of the most important parts of this entire internship so far for me was the mock floor debate where interns get to act as senators, representing a district of their choosing. The first part of the process is choosing what district to represent. Being an intern in leadership, I teamed up with friend and fellow intern Jeffrey McCrea who works with the office of Majority Leader Senator Mark Schoesler, from the ninth district. The ninth district includes Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield, Spokane, and Whitman counties. We decided as a pair to represent the ninth district in our mock debate.

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Senator Rosenberg-McCrea representing the ninth district

It was so interesting to caucus with all of the other “Republican” intern senators and talk about the different issues that were going to arise on the floor. Some of those issues included, ivory trafficking, DUI offenses, initiatives, and the big issue of whether or not to raise the minimum wage. The point of the exercise was not to represent your own personal beliefs but to best represent the beliefs of your constituents in your district. Therefore, the ninth district being a Republican district, it was Jeffrey’s and my duty to cast our votes based on the wishes of our district meaning that we had to advocate against raising the minimum wage. The other issues we decided as a caucus on how we should vote.

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Sneaking a selfie on the senate floor!

It was so interesting to me because I realized that being a senator, you can’t make it about yourself because there are so many other people that you’re affecting and you’re their voice. That’s why people get elected because the voters trust their senators to represent their beliefs and to vote accordingly. I realized how stressful being a legislator truly is. You feel so passionately about an issue and want it to get passed so badly but you have to make sure that everyone in your caucus is onboard with what you want otherwise there is no way that anything is going to get passed. It’s a lot of compromising and working with differing opinions in order to get something done. It’s about loyalty and trust. You want to be able to trust those in your caucus which we had a lot of difficulty with in our intern caucus. It’s a lot of preparation because you never want to be voting on an issue that you don’t know about. You realize how important a single vote becomes.

The day of the floor debate, Jeffrey and I sat in the desk of Senator Mark Schoesler and it was really an awesome experience to go through parliamentary procedure. Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen actually presided on the floor during the debate. Jeffrey gave a speech on the illegal trafficking of ivory while I stood up and gave a speech against raising the minimum wage. It was a rush but it was so much fun. Ultimately, every issue went in favor of what our caucus wanted because we were in the majority. In the end, I realized how much of a responsibility it is to be a legislator and how much power they have as well. It was definitely the highlight of my intern experience so far.

Figuring out what’s next

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SMU Interns attend Washington State Potato Farmer's Day, February 10th, 2015
SMU Interns attend Washington State Potato Farmer’s Day

Being an intern here at the Legislature, not only do we get to work in the office of a senator but we also get to participate in a lot of different activities that ultimately help us to gain hands on experience about the legislative process. One of these exercises was the mock Senate and House committee hearings. In this exercise, we were able to choose our position on a hearing and act out the position that we chose. Our coordinators provided us with bills that are actually going through the Legislature in real life and we as interns have to decide the fate of each bill. The positions that we could choose from were senators or representatives who were members on the committee, committee staff, or lobbyists. The four bills that we could be placed to work on dealt with minimum wage, the illegal trafficking of ivory, initiatives, and emergency fees related to rural amphitheaters.

Patricia Taylor and I take a selfie after lobbying in opposition to the Gorge bill
Patricia Taylor and I take a selfie after lobbying in opposition to the Gorge bill

I chose to be a lobbyist on the rural amphitheaters bill because my Senator is the prime sponsor and I was well versed in the issue . In the mock, I was representing Live Nation who took the opposing argument. What this bill would do is put a $1 tax on the tickets of concert goers at the Gorge Amphitheater that would support the Quincy Valley Medical Center and Fire District 3. What I didn’t realize about lobbying is that it is actually a really hard and stressful job. The week before the mock hearing consisted of making meetings with each committee member, showcasing them my argument, and trying to convince them why I thought the bill should not get passed. This meant that I had to have a solid argument at least one week before the hearing, meaning that all of the research and forming my speech had to happen before then. It was a lot of work but it all paid off in the end.

Spring has started at the capitol
Spring has started at the capitol

During the mock committee, I was able to go in front of a microphone and testify on behalf of the opposing side to this bill in front of the entire intern program. It was nerve wrecking but after putting in all of the work that I did, I was very confident in my argument. I had no idea how the committee was swaying in terms of the fate of the bill. So waiting in anticipation to hear what they had decided based on my argument was nerve wrecking. The committee of intern representatives decided to not pass the bill based on the information that I had given them and it was such a rewarding feeling. Why is all of this so important? Well, a big reason that I wanted to get accepted into this internship program was to try and figure out what I wanted to do with my life by immersing myself and seeing the legislative process. After doing this exercise, it has gotten me to consider going into the profession of lobbying. I found the experience both difficult and rewarding. It opened my eyes to all of the job opportunities that come with lobbying that I would never have even considered if I didn’t choose to be a lobbyist for this mock hearing. This internship is leading me down a very interesting path and I’m excited to see where this experience will take me.

The Half Way Point

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Going through and filing papers into the 24 bill folders

This week marks the half way point in the 2015 Legislative Session and it feels like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in intern orientation learning about how a bill becomes a law. A lot has changed in the past two months, I am now extremely comfortable working in my office, barely asking questions, and have definitely become a lot more helpful with my increasing knowledge of the legislature. I have found that I think politics is actually really really interesting which is something I would have never found if I didn’t work in the capitol.

Sen. Parlette with Senate intern Jaime Rosenberg
Talking to Senator Linda Evans Parlette in her office

Why do I find it so interesting? I think the main reason is because I think that the way that people formulate their opinions is so incredibly fascinating. Is it their upbringing that makes them feel a certain way on an issue? or was it a personal experience? Before I form my own opinion, I take it upon myself to look at both sides of the issue and when I decide on what I believe I want to know how everyone else feels about the issue and why. Everyone is entitled to believe what they want but it definitely makes someone’s opinion more credible if they have a reason to back it up. I am constantly asking people what they think about certain issues and have even changed my opinions on some things because of the reasons and information that people have given me to support their way of thinking. I found that it’s really important to be open to other people’s opinions and listen to their stories.

House and Senate interns work together on the budget exercise

Working in the legislature, there is constant talk of “what party are you, Democrat or Republican?” I typically don’t answer this question in a simple Democrat or Republican answer but ask them instead on what issue they are talking about. Personally, I think party lines are somewhat confining. What if I agree with a Democrat on one issue and a Republican on another issue? What party do I fall under? I think it’s really important to have that sense of independence when you are voting for someone to represent you. I always try to vote for the person that I believe is best going to represent me regardless of what their party is.

That is my favorite part of the internship, being surrounded by intelligent people who all have their own educated opinions on issues. I love finding out the background on someone else’s point of view. It just makes me think and question my own opinions. I find that I am constantly learning in every situation and it’s so intriguing. I never would have thought that I would be a political junkie, but here I am, telling everyone why politics is so fascinating. This experience has taught me so much and I know that the latter part of session is only going to continue to expand my knowledge. Again, I’m so fortunate to be able to work in such a beautiful and fascinating place.

Freeeeeeeeeeeeeedom

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Free Ice Cream from Dairy Day at the Legislature

I have now completed three weeks of working as a Washington State Legislative Senate Intern and it has been such a joy to work in my office. I’m so incredibly lucky to have been placed in the office of Senator Linda Evans Parlette. Not only is my senator amazing, I love working with my two legislative assistants, Thomas and Grace. They’ve helped me assimilate into my position so much and made the whole process a lot easier for me.

Often times when I go home after a long day of work, my friends will always ask me how my day was or what’s my favorite part about working in the legislature. I always have to think for while because I love being at work and feeling like I’m contributing to make our state better. But I would say, one of the best things about working in the legislature is all of the free stuff that is around! Why do I get free stuff all the time? Well, there are these great people called lobbyists and their jobs are to try to influence the decisions made by the officials in government. Lobbyists can be anyone ranging from big time lawyers to children from a school.

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Selfie with Striker the Llama for WA State Fair Association day

Basically anyone who cares about an issue can lobby for something. Often times legislators are so incredibly busy that they can only meet with a lobbyist group for five minutes at a time. So in order for a lobbyist to be remembered, they will leave tokens such as goodies or coffee mugs. When a legislator is making a decision they can think about the name on their coffee mug and remember the issue that the organization was so passionate about. Another reason there are a lot of goodies in our office is because lobbyists will send packages and note cards just to keep the relationship that their organization has with our Senator alive or to thank our Senator for putting in the time to meet with them. So our office is constantly filled with goodies such as boxes of apples, packages of chocolate, and even baked goods like cookies. My favorite day so far has been dairy day, where a whole group of people were just handing out free ice cream. The day after dairy day was Washington State Fair Association lobbying day where I was able to meet Striker the llama. It was pretty awesome. On top of all of the free goodies, I’ve learned so much about organizations and the types of lobbyist groups. For instance, I would never know that there was a Washington Fair Association lobbyist group or a Dairy Association group unless they came to lobby at the legislature. When you think about who the government affects, you often think of education, highways, or minimum wage. You don’t think of all of the other groups and issues like dairy farmers or state fair workers. It’s such an eye opening experience to see just how important and how impactful the decisions are that the legislators make.

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The Washington State Senate dressed up for Blue Friday on the Senate Floor

On Friday, the senate was on the floor for a resolution celebrating the Seahawks going to the super bowl and it was so amazing to see everyone wearing blue and green. Legislators love the Seahawks and they even mandated that for three days the state name will now be Hawkington instead of Washington. We took a group picture on the senate floor and it was followed by a series of “SEA” “HAWKS” chants. Everyone that I am working with is so incredibly nice and I love being surrounded by people who want to make a difference in the world. It’s been an amazing start and I’m so incredibly blessed to have been given this opportunity.

The beginning of 105 days

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My first day working at the capitol

“Happy first day of session!” seemed to be the greeting that was used by everyone yesterday at the Capitol. The commencement of the 2015 State Senate session is underway and I got to be apart of it. It was amazing. I watched all of the senators swear into their offices and it was such a surreal moment to be there in the gallery of the senate chamber.  My first of 105 days is over.

Although this was my first day actually working in my office there was a lot of preparation that lead up to it all. Last week I had three days of orientation that included 30 hours of lectures and briefing on what the next 105 days would be like.  We were lectured in bill tracking, constituent letters, legislative writing, the legislative process, ethics violations, and security procedures. It was a lot to take in. But even though there was a lot of sitting in classrooms for hours, there were also some fun and amazing times.  I met a lot of wonderful people and of course forgot most of their names. It was so much fun being able to connect with college students who were my age and had the same life goals that I do.  We also played jeopardy in which we were divided by school. Saint Martin’s came in a close second to the University of Washington so that was exciting. I got my key card and ID which I was so excited about because it made me feel like I belonged.  Orientation was stressful but so much fun at the same time and it made me realize how lucky I am to be working in such an amazing place.

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The Opening Day Ceremony of the State Senate Session in the Senate Chamber

Although I had a lot of training, I still felt nervous, scared, and virtually unprepared for my first day. It’s one thing to be lectured on something and it’s a whole other thing to actually do it. I was extremely scared to make a mistake. I got to my office 30 minutes early and was the first one there so I sat down and just relaxed as much as I could and it turned out that I stressed out for no reason. I met the senator that I work for for the first time, Senator Linda Evans Parlette, who is such an amazing individual. My Legislative Assistants guided me through the whole day and answered all of the hundreds of questions I asked them.  I wrote my first constituent letter, did bill tracking, sat through the opening ceremony, and a whole bunch of other office work.  It was such a rush but I loved it. I loved every moment of it. It was just my first day and I already know that this internship is going to be such an amazing and life changing experience. I can’t wait to share the rest of my journey as a Washington State Senate Intern with you all!

Always work toward your dreams

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The Washington State Legislative Building

It was 8:00 AM and I was dead tired. I was dreading walking to my Business Law class because thanks to the Pacific Northwest for being it’s gloomy self, it was raining and not to mention, 8 o’clock in the morning. I made the extremely long walk from Parson’s Hall to Harned 110, took my regular seat, and took out my laptop so that I could take notes on torts and contracts but when I actually looked up, I saw that instead of the usual power point presentation that Professor Newman has, the screen read, “The Washington State Legislative Internship.”

Two women, by the names of Paula and Emily were dressed in business attire so I knew it was serious.  They presented to my class about how wonderful of an opportunity it was. They stressed the fact that it would be an amazing way to make connections with very important people and to gain professional experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else.  Also, not only do you get a full credit course load, you get paid.  I have aspired to go to law school since high school and hearing about this experience immediately caught my attention. What I liked the most about the internship was the fact that I would be able to learn about the law in a different light. I’ve read about law and studied cases in my classes but learning about how laws are made and being immersed in the process is an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. This opportunity presented itself my first-year of college and now, two years later, I have been accepted as a Washington State Legislative Senate Intern for the 2014-2015 session.  I was chosen to work in the office of Senator Linda Parlette who is the Majority Caucus Chair and I could not be more excited.

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A selfie after meeting my coworkers in Senator Linda Parlette’s office

Now, how did I go from being a first-year to becoming an intern for the Majority Caucus Chair? Simple, it took a lot of hard work and dedication. Let me tell you, it was not easy. I spent all of my sophomore year getting involved on campus in organizations such as ROTARACT, Hui ‘O Hawai’i, The Bellower, intramurals, while keeping my grades up. Then I spent the majority of this year staying involved and immersing myself even further, acting as a senator on ASSMU, becoming a Student Ambassador, and now being a member of the Social Squad. My resume was fantastic and plus, getting involved can be exhausting at times but it’s also extremely fun. There are so many opportunities that Saint Martin’s University has to offer and I’m just one example of many students who have utilized our resources. During the application process, I was in the Career Center working with Alyssa Nastasi and Ann Adams every other week for two months, editing my resume, working on my personal essay, and doing mock interviews. Their help was crucial in me getting the job and I couldn’t be more thankful to have them as a resource but also to have them as mentors.

I will be updating this blog frequently to show everyone in the Saint Martin’s Community about my journey as a 2014-2015 Washington State Legislative Senate Intern. I couldn’t be more excited for this amazing opportunity and for what the future holds!