I started the 2021 Legislative Session with a small amount of knowledge in regard to the legislative process or who the key players are at the Minnesota Capitol. However, I was quickly immersed in committee coverage and followed daily updates on House and Senate activities, eventually taking on the responsibility of writing a weekly summary of legislative activities for a client. It took a few weeks, but once committee hearings started to pick up, I was better able to understand the weekly calendar of committees and floor sessions and learned the path that bills follow before being passed and signed by the governor.
My typical week entailed live coverage of both Senate and House floor sessions while also following different bills being heard in committee meetings that are relevant to our clients’ interests. I also worked on the aforementioned summary throughout my week by staying updated on votes, announcements, and important events that occur each day. When not doing work for the firm, I juggled three philosophy courses at Hamline University in order to complete my minor. Although I was in my final year at Hamline and had a much fuller plate than I expected, I’ve truly enjoyed my legislative work between homework and classes. Due to the virtual nature of the legislature and my university, I was able to do the brunt of my work from home, which likely had an impact on my ability to handle the demands of both my internship and school.
I would have loved the chance to work in and around the Capitol or even in-person at the firm as I’m sure it would have given me the full experience one might get outside this pandemic. Still, I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of the legislature and how a government relations team does its work; things I might not have learned without this hands-on, albeit virtual, experience. I also think that the virtual nature of the session has ultimately been helpful in regard to balancing school and this internship. I would imagine that if we were in-person, the commute between places might be a bigger issue and I may not have had the time to cover as many things as I have been. However, the ability to live stream coverage of floor sessions and committees from the comfort of home made juggling work and school seem relatively easier.
Overall, I’ve found that the legislature is as interesting and complicated as I anticipated. As someone who was never big on politics, it has been fascinating to experience the back and forth speeches and passionate debates, particularly in the strange and unprecedented context of a pandemic. Even though I haven’t been able to be in the Capitol and have spent much of my time watching floor sessions on my TV, I still had the opportunity to work within the pandemic and see multiple pivotal decisions unfold. I’ve also fortunately been able to find ways to get to know different team members in lieu of the virtual setting. That said, regardless of COVID, this internship and legislative session have given me invaluable knowledge that I’m sure will play a part in setting a career path focused on helping and advocating for others who are unfamiliar with the legislative process.