Legislative lessons

By Natalie Hale

U interns for the 57th Utah General Legislative Session have gained a new appreciation for the wonders of coffee’s stimulating effects.

Most of these students haven’t had time to sleep during the past two months, as the 45-day process of making law has consumed their lives. But that has not stopped them from making the most of the opportunities they have had this session to become heavily involved in the political processes of creating law.

Rosa Stahla, a junior in political science and history, plans to attend law school in the future, but said she desires to have a better understanding of how laws are created before venturing into it.

She chose to do an internship through the Hinckley Institute of Politics to get that perspective.

These students have gained a greater understanding of the creation of law and the effort invested in it by working for various parties and political groups.

“I thought that this would be a good experience to know how laws are drafted and have a better understanding how the process works,” Stahla said.

Interning for Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, opened Stahla’s eyes to issues she had not been aware of before — primarily an education crisis that has been occurring in Utah.

Patrick Reimherr, a sophomore in political science, has been heavily involved in politics and said he intends to “soak up every opportunity the Hinckley Institute has to offer” students.

He also chose to do an internship through the institute to have a personal experience in creating law.

“There are people up here who are a big part of the process,” Reimherr said. “You get to be a part of legislation that will affect your community.”

While working for Rep. Ralf Becker, D-Salt Lake City, Reimherr said he was surprised at legislation that was ignored — such as an ethics bill Becker sponsored that would block lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators.

“I was shocked to see things that seem logical, you know? Positive pieces of legislation didn’t get to see the light of day,” Reimherr said. “It is easy for the Legislature to brush things off; you begin to appreciate the small stuff that passes.”

But getting the most out of the internship does not come just by showing up every day and doing the work you’re asked to do.

“Take a personal interest,” said Emily Showgren, a junior in mass communication. “You will be more likely to research and know about the issues you are dealing with.”

Showgren intends to write the research paper required by the Hinckley Institute about identity theft — an issue that she heavily researched for her internship with Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Salt Lake City.

Jason Smith, a senior in political science who interned for Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, praised the men and women who dedicate their time to creating laws for the betterment of the public.

“You begin to know how (issues) work inside and out,” Smith said. “I have a greater appreciation for legislators doing this.”

But being part of the legislative process as an intern is not an easy job.

Students are recommended not to take any courses and to plan to be available to meet the needs of the organization or person they intern with.

“You have to be organized and prepared to be thrown off schedule and conform to that,” Showgren said.

But no amount of planning can prepare you for the light speed at which the 45-day session occurs.

“It blows my mind away how quickly the whole thing happened,” Stahla said.

Students who are interested in participating in an internship through the Hinkley Institute can find more information at its Web site, www.hinckley.utah.edu.

Mike Terry

Patrick Reimherr, a sophomore in political science, takes notes in a meeting while interning with Rep. Ralf Becker, D-Salt Lake City in the Capitol on Monday.