Postcards Home: Legislative intern German Baquero masters week one
by Kathleen McCoy |
As I write this, I've been in Juneau and working at the State Legislature for about a week. Even at this early stage, I can share some thoughts that might help my fellow students if-in the future-you decide to take on the challenges of being a legislative intern.
First off, I give you one word: Housing. It may seem like your last worry after applying for the internship, but secure your housing immediately. The next most important thing: Secure a deposit. Getting to Juneau may be easy with the travel stipend, but save some of that for the security deposit you'll need. To stay in a decent place for work, you'll need a decent deposit. Try Legislative Housing as soon as they're available; I'm now living right across from the Governor's Mansion thanks to them!
Second, after our first day of orientation, I can't forget what Senator Charlie Huggins mentioned to all of us new interns: "Don't let this job go to your waist!" You will work in an office Monday through Friday, 8-5. Food is available if you're savvy enough, but it can build up. Take advantage of Juneau's outdoor recreation. Or manage your finances when you get here to pay for the local gym; It'll be worth it.
Next, to quote former Vice President Al Gore from Futurama, "Read the Constitution!" That is, read the State Constitution (and the Federal one as well).
Regardless of how your legislator will use you or what he or she will teach you while you're here, the Constitution of the State of Alaska is THE blueprint for all government procedure. You don't have to memorize everything, but be familiar with it. Uniform Rules will follow, and the same idea applies. (Plus, the Preamble is pretty nice, too).
So far in my time at the legislature, I haven't been totally overwhelmed. Yet. But little by little I am being expected to carry my own weight. There's no getting around it: No matter what, you will be a "go-fer," running errands and doing whatever is needed. But if you show commitment, you can do more. And they really would like you to do more.
I have already been assigned to carry a Senate bill for my boss, Majority Leader John Coghill. And while it's on the simpler side of things, there are procedures and technicalities to improve on so that the bill can actually be processed by the legislative machine.
And another thing: As an intern, sometimes you have to wait to get assignments, and sometimes you have to go get them. Once in a while you can twiddle your thumbs, but try and find something to do. And if you are overwhelmed, ask for help. Every other legislator and staffer will help you in some fashion.
If you do get to carry a bill, you'll need to create a sponsor statement, sectional analysis, legal text, perform additional research, request testimony, etc. Sometimes all of it from scratch!
Staff will help. Do not hide from them! On the other hand, don't follow them around like a puppy. They have too much on their plate as it is. Learn on your own. Despite political partisanship, this legislature and its participants are still rather close knit; people are good sports to each other about the small things.
Here's one last thing to remember. After Senator Huggins gave his speech to the new staff/interns on Day One, Representative Craig Johnson followed and made the most important point he could have made: "... You will make history."
As a history major myself, this is priceless. As an Alaskan, I feel like I have the responsibility to make that history a real page-turner. And so will you.
This Postcard Home was written by UAA history and political science major, German Baquero (pronounced Her-man). Read more about him in this overview, and listen to him on KRUA's Student Storyboard where he was a guest after sharing victory in this year's Madison Cup competition based on his knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. Check out progress and comments on the intern program Facebook page.