Legislative interns play an active role in the legislative process
The dawning of each new week of my internship arrives with expectations and contemplations in the form questions like: What new opportunities will this week bring? Who will be the key players in the legislative process? And what will be my key takeaways?
Since this week was the run-up to the first date on this session’s cutoff calendar (Feb. 7), the key player in the legislative process this week was the sundial that sits in front of the legislative building: Father Time. The cutoff calendar associates calendar days to legislative days and marks the deadlines for committees and floor action. Of the many bills that were racing against time, none was more important than SB 6492, a bill that would protect funding for Washington’s historic investment in financial aid for students made last year.
On the evening of Feb. 6, after hours of debate, the House passed SB 6492. Although passed late in the evening, SB 6492’s sundial showed noon, the sun’s highest point in the sky. Once signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Workforce Education Investment Act and its effort toward equity will shine brightly on all students, especially those from low-income income families with the full funding of the Washington College Grant.
On Tuesday, I attended the executive session for HB 2299, a bill which would decrease recidivism (the tendency of a formerly incarcerated person to return to prison), increase public safety and expand educational services to incarcerated individuals both while they are incarcerated and after they are released. An executive session is held after the public hearing and is where the committee decides how it will report the bill to the next stage of the legislative process, whether it be another policy committee, fiscal committee or the whole chamber — the Senate or the House of Representatives. A bill can be passed by a committee either as is, as amended by the committee, or as a substitute (the committee offers a different version of the original bill). As a supporter of HB 2299, I was excited when it was reported as a substitute to the whole House of Representatives before the cutoff date.
On Thursday, the answer to the question what opportunities will this week bring came when I was asked to testify before the Senate Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation Committee in favor of SB 6576. Senate Bill 6576 is the companion bill to HB 2299 and would also decrease recidivism, increase public safety and expand educational services to incarcerated individuals both while they are incarcerated and after they are released. A companion bill is identical legislation introduced in the House and the Senate at the same time. While I struggled to control my nerves and my voice, testifying in favor of the expansion of educational services was well worth the anxiety I felt as I addressed the committee. Sen. Jeannie Darneille is the chairperson of the committee, and, as one of her constituents in the 27th Legislative District, it was an awesome experience to address her during my testimony and to personally thank her for sponsoring this bill.
My big takeaway for the week? I learned that in the process of trying to improve the lives of others, you end up improving your own life. For instance, I would not have known that I had the courage to address the Senate committee, were it not for the more than 360,000 Community and Technical College students for whom I am an advocate. Having courage will make me a better advocate and representative.