You are on page 1of 10

2017 Utah Gen.

Session Internship-1

Naomi Gonzalez-Garrow

POLS Internship

Salt Lake Community College

23 January – 9 March, 2017

2017 Utah General State Legislative Session Internship

I want to start off by saying that this internship was the best experience that I have ever

had the opportunity to participate in. I was able to meet and talk with the Representatives and

Senators that help run and make laws for the state of Utah. Working with Representative

Christine Watkins of District 69 had its fun and its work. I learned some valuable information

that still helps me today understand how our own national government works and what goes into

running and maintaining a state, as well as a nation. I am also able to help those I come into

contact with if they do not understand something. I enjoy that I am able to help others understand

better our government.

The first week of the internship, we had hours of training that we had to go through. For

many of us, this was our first time working within an government institution and we had only a

vague idea of what was to come. Our training consisted of lectures, mock situations, guest

speakers, and much more.

If I had to compare the week of training to the actual 45 days of the general session, I

would have to say that the training was much more hard. Looking back, I see that sitting for

hours on end talking about what we were going to be doing was much harder than actually
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-2

putting it into practice. Once we got the hang of things after the session started, the job became

much easier.

The first week, we learned a lot about Utah, general information, facts, and some of its

governments history. The first day, we learned a lot about the nations and Utah’s demographic,

more specifically, race and political parties throughout each. Not being a Utah native or having

traveled throughout Utah, this information was very interesting for me to learn.

Our first guest speakers were Speaker Greg Hughes, President Wayne Niederhauser of

the Senate, and Minority Leader Brian King. They spoke to us about their respective jobs and

how each interact with the other, for example, how they determine which bills go into which

committees and such.

Day two felt a lot longer because we were talking about the bill-making process, bill

readings, and the committees that the bills have to go through to continue on to either the house

or senate, depending of the house of origin. We also talked briefly about the House Rules

Committee, which my Representative was a part of, the Standing Committees and what their jobs

are.

Before I learned about the bill-making process, I did not realize how difficult and lengthy

the process was. When we started to have committee meetings, I soon understood the difficulty

for bill sponsors trying to get their bill passed committee and onto the floor.

The third day was jam-packed with information. We learned about what it means to

represent constituents to our fullest potential and how they affect the bills and legal process. Our

leaders also educated us about delegates vs. trustees, and the four different types of

representation: descriptive; issue; service; and allocational ("pork") representation. Within the

lecture, we talked about how to communicate with your legislators constituents and the most
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-3

effective forms of communication and how to deal with negative feedback. After that, we

discussed how to estimate the district opinion and "the need for reelection." Professor Michael

Christensen from the University of Utah spoke to us about the 5 decision making institutions in

the legislature - party caucus, party leadership caucuses, committees, the floor of the House and

the Senate, and the executive branch. After a short break, we had a mini writing workshop to

help us understand where a lot of mistakes are made within writing bills, emails, announcements,

and other forms of writing.

As our training progressed, many of us began to become more and more excited for the

internship. We started to focus more on what our job as interns was and how we should execute

our duties and how we should be a help to our legislator, not a hindrance. We also went through

a couple more exercises. A mock caucus was held so we could get a feel for some of the

meetings we would have to attend and what they would be like. Many enjoyed because it

allowed us to imagine how we would respond if we were the legislators and it also gave us a

break from the usual lectures.

Before the session started, I was having a lot of difficulty getting a hold of my legislator

who was originally Representative Doug Sagers of Tooele. I learned that Representative Sagers

had had spinal surgery a mere six days before the session started, which explains his lack of

communication. After many unsuccessful attempts to reach him, I was ultimately reassigned to

Representative Christine Watkins and I am very grateful that I was.

She was very welcoming and friendly. We had some political differences that we bumped

head with at first but then we got past them and we got along very well. She was a great mentor;

she allowed me to ask unconventional questions without and repercussions and I was able to

learn some of the fine details about the bill process and who tends to vote more democratic, who
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-4

is more conservative, and the friendships that some of the representatives have with each other. It

was such a great experience to work for her. I became her technology go-to with almost

everything she did. It was great.

The two days before the session, Representative Watkins did not need me so I was able to

stay home. Little did I know that should have cherished those two days off.

The first day of the session, I was able to meet my representatives family and her chair

mates. I had never attended the states’ legislative session so I had no idea what to expect. It was

a lot of fun meeting different representatives, listening to Speaker Hughes talk to the House,

learning what us interns tasks were going to be during floor time, and just getting to know our

fellow interns more. Representative Watkins took a short hiatus from the legislature four years

prior to this one, so I had the honor of watching her become sworn in again.

The best part of day one was having the interns introduced to all of the representatives and guests

that were in attendance. I do not think that any of us were told that we were to be introduced,

prior to that day, so many of us were a bit overwhelmed by the atmosphere and people, but it was

still a lot of fun. Since it was the first day of the session, there was not much going on besides

introductions and an overview of what to expect for the next forty-five days. However,

committees were still beginning to meet, including Representative Watkins’ House Rules

Committee, so I had to shuffle from the floor to the committee meeting room. By the time that I

got there, the committee meeting was already over. Luckily, I was able to grab a copy of the

meeting agenda and was able to see the things that we would be going over in the next meeting.

The second week of the session, the famous Women’s March took place across the

United States, including Utah. Going up to the hill, there were many marchers and protesters that

composed a field of pink. I remember the rotunda in the capital being filled with people and
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-5

legislators and those in the gallery were having a hard time hearing because they were so loud.

Due to the protest, many legislators met with those who were leading the march, such as Planned

Parenthood, Utah Women Unite, and others.

Those meetings were a good reminder that women, not just in government, are not

represented to their full extent and that the inequality is not tolerated. Talking to Rep. Watkins

after those meetings, we discussed how we needed to err on the side of caution with

organizations like the ones we met with because the leaders are very strong-minded and become

very hard to communicate with if you happen to say something that they do not agree with.

During the afternoon floor session, the Utah Supreme Court Judges spoke to the House.

The main topic of discussion was about criminal reform and how we can help those individual be

integrated back into society and become productive citizens once they leave the criminal justice

system.

Tuesday, we had a three-hour long Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Economic

Quality Appropriations Subcommittee due to the volume of bills that was assigned to the

subcommittee. The morning floor time was more interesting because we discussed a bill for

approximately forty-five minutes which left little time to pass other bills. The bill discussed was

H.B. 12 by Representative Steve Eliason which changed how rejected absentee ballots are dealt

with.

There was also a resolution that passed, H.J.R. 5 by Representative Karen Kwan to

recognize the Lunar New Year. It was a great experience to see her family so happy after the

resolution passed. Representative Kwan is also a professor at SLCC in the psychology

department.
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-6

Representative Rebecca Edwards spoke on her affordable housing bill as well but I do not

remember if it passed or not.

On Wednesday, there was not much we did aside from floor time and some standing

committees. About the same happened on Thursday. I made a note to myself saying, “I know it

won’t last long.”

Friday, I was not on the hill for very long. We had our floor time and that is about all that

I attended, aside from our House Rules Committee. Our standing committee was cancelled so I

was able to go home a bit earlier than the other interns. We have been starting to pick up the pace

in the session so I have been trying to keep up with the significant bills by reading bill

summaries and interpreting them in a way that I understand, so I am able to relay my thoughts to

Rep. Watkins.

We have gotten along really well and we have a system of doing things in a way that

works and she is open-minded and willing to help me learn about everything I have questions

about. I really enjoy being on the hill every morning; at least some more than others.

Monday of week two was a day where I did not sit still. I was running around all morning

getting bills in order, organizing committee binders, and running errands trying to get everything

in order for the day since we had a lot on our agenda. Luckily, I really enjoy doing things of that

sort and organizing.

I have become Representative Watkins’ “technology specialist,” as in I deal with

anything remotely technical. I set up her printer, made her a Facebook page and maintain it,

made her an Instagram account and post pictures on it, help her with her laptop, you name it and

I probably do it.
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-7

The next day, I got to work early but I wasn't needed until 10:00 so I was a bit bored in

the morning. I tried to be proactive with bill tracking and such but that did not take long since we

did not have many bills in our standing committees.

The discussion on the House Floor was very heated as it was about the Bears Ears

monument. It took an hour for discussion and when voting came around, the resolution passed.

Some members of the public were not happy about that. They were shouting and booing in the

gallery. Once they were asked to be quiet, they just left. I understand their distaste for the

resolution being passed but looking back at the constituent emails, Rep. Watkins did not receive

much feedback about the Bears Ears resolution. I was left wondering if the constituents did not

care or if they didn’t know enough about it to inform their representative of how they felt

because as we know, the resolution still passed.

Wednesday was a fairly easy day. Sub Appropriations committee in the morning, floor

time from 11-12:30 and we did not have another committee until 4:00. We only went over three

bills and discussion for those went quickly. We also met with some people from the University

of Utah and talked about alternative options for power, such as nuclear power with Thorium and

molten salt reactors. It was very informative and they offered to take us on a tour of the only

nuclear reactor in Utah, which is up on the university’s campus.

On Thursday, I got to go home a little bit early! After floor time, we had lunch and then

there was a short committee at 2:00.

Unlike yesterday, I didn't get home until 6:30. The committees are starting to become

longer with all of the bills that are being introduced. I was just wondering if the committee

meetings will be more than 3 hours, like the one before.


2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-8

This week started off really well. We had committee and starting this week, we started

having double floor time. We were only there until 3:00 because Rep. Watkins had to pick her

grandson up from the airport so I was given permission to leave when she left.

Tuesday, we had one committee meeting that started at 3:50 and was still going on when

I left at 5:00 because I gave my rep a ride to pick her car up from the shop. Today was the day

that I (jokingly) decided that I need to tell someone in charge that public comments should have

a limit on how many people can talk against or in support of a bill. People kept talking on the

2nd bill in the committee and we had 5 bills in total. The time seemed to drag on. Other than

that, my days look similar.

I had had lunch with Scott and Tim as well. We spoke about how things were going, what

I usually do with my representative, and what my days look like on the hill. I forget that they can

be a really beneficial resource.

Wednesday was a typical day for us up on the hill. There were no special events going on

so many of us left after the second floor time. Things are starting to gear up as we approach the

end of the session.

On Thursday, there were no standing committee meetings today so all we had was a Sub

Appropriations meeting at 8:00, morning floor time, lunch, afternoon floor time. We had a

couple of hours to spare until we had a meeting with Lynn Pace who works in the Mayor’s

office. I don’t quite remember what that meeting was pertaining to. It was an easy day that we

took advantage of.


2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-9

Friday was a smooth day as well. We had a standing committee at 3:40 but after that,

both of us were able to go home. Rep. Watkins has to drive to Price on the weekends and she

usually doesn't get home until seven o’clock if she leaves the capital at four o’clock. She set up a

town hall at USU Eastern for Saturday at 11:00 with Senator Hinkins.

Since Monday was President’s day, we were allowed the day off.

Weeks five and six were when all of the legislators really started to buckle down.

Everyone could feel the weight of getting through all of the bills before the last day of session

and as a result, floor discussions became shorter, there was little to no debate on most bills, and

interns, such as myself, started to be hyper proactive to stay afloat of the amount of bills we were

going through.

The last week of the session was so fast. Monday was the last day for standing

committees so additional bills would not be able to make their way onto the 3rd Reading

Calendar. Our days basically became “Floor Time – As late as needed” as it was stated on our

schedules. Speaker Hughes was trying to blaze through bills because, as I remember, we had to

go through about 65 bills every day just to make a dent in the reading calendar. As an intern, it

was my job to read those bills and provide a one-to-two sentence summary so Rep. Watkins

could determine how she wanted to vote.

The very last day of the session, floor time ran until 11:59. We went through every bill on

the reading calendar as quickly as Speaker Hughes could talk. Although it was late, the energy

was high as we adjourned the 62 Utah General Legislative Session.

Though this internship, I made many friends and learned more than I could have ever

hoped to learn. It’s true about what they say about the legislative process and bills- “It’s like

sausage; you don’t want to know how it’s made.” However tedious, I learned that the process is
2017 Utah Gen. Session Internship-10

extremely important. I enjoyed my experience as an intern immensely and hope that I am able to

have future endeavors as great as this one.