Legislative process detailed through eyes of interns
By Pat Marsh, State Representative
I try each week to give the readers of my article a close look at what goes on here at the General Assembly. It is truly an interesting place to be especially now since we are in the final days of this Session and things are moving fast and huge important legislation is being hotly debated. This week I wanted to let you all know what is happening through the eyes of the folks I work with each day.
If you have ever called or visited my office then you surely met my assistant, Brita Foti. I asked Brita to give her account of what it is like to work in the state legislature:
“I have worked for Rep. Marsh for about 2 years and I very much enjoy being so close to everything that happens in the state legislature. While we are in session, things are very busy for me, especially now that Rep. Marsh is the chairman of the Business and Utilities committee.
“I am very involved in anything pertaining to the 62nd district from constituent services to requests for traffic studies. I have had the opportunity to get to know many people here in Nashville such as the liaisons to the Departments of transportation, labor and workforce development, children’s services and others. Getting to know as many people as possible makes it easier for me to help the district when someone calls and needs help with an issue.
“This year I was also very involved in the daily running of the Business and Utilities Committee which turned out to be even more work than I was expecting! We have to monitor every single bill that comes through our committee. I helped make sure that each member of the committee had what they needed in order to understand and vote on the bill including the bill itself, the fiscal notes, all of the amendments to the bill, and more.
“I also set up weekly meetings with the committee members, our research staff, as well as our legal staff so that they could go over each bill in depth to come to the best decisions.
“When we are not in session, things are much slower around here from June- December. During this time we have big staff meetings with the various state departments so that we can get to know them and how they are able to help our district. I also do a lot more constituent work.
“I very much love working at the state level of government. I went to school in Washington, D.C. and did many internships at the federal level while I was there. I prefer working at the state level much more to the federal because I feel like I am able to make a real difference and really help people that call our office needing assistance.”
This Session I have two university interns who have been so helpful the past few months. Austin Moore is one of my interns who was assigned to serve as the intern to the Business and Utilities Committee that I serve as Chairman. Austin is a senior at Vanderbilt University where he is majoring in Political Science and History. He plans on attending Washington University School of Law in St. Louis next year. Austin is from Knoxville, Tennessee.
I asked each of my interns to give their accounts of how session was for them and the following is what Austin had to say:
“I confess that I knew very little about Tennessee politics before beginning this internship. For most of my collegiate career my studies have focused on international politics or early American history. As such, my internship for Representative Marsh has proved to be an incredible learning experience.
“One of the first lessons I learned is that the decisions made by our state’s General Assembly impacts our day to day lives far more than what occurs on the federal level. Nearly every day I heard about a bill that would affect a vast majority of people in this state. I worked as the intern for the Business and Utilities committee.
“In that committee alone I saw bills that attempted to curb online ticket scalping, fix a decade’s long dispute between utility and cable companies, legislation affecting the prevailing wages for construction workers, and so much more. These issues may seem small to some and big to others but the reality is that millions of Tennesseans were affected by the outcome of these bills; and that was in just one committee.
“If I learned one thing from my internship, it would be how important it is to be an active citizen. We must make the effort to learn about the people we elect and educate ourselves about the important issues that affect Tennessee. If we do that, then we can elect the right person to represent us at the capitol, the right person to represent us on the school board and the right person to represent us in our community. If we are active citizens we can make sure that Tennessee stays on the right path.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed this internship and would highly recommend that any Tennessee citizen come visit the capitol, speak with their elected representative, and be an active citizen.”
Our other intern, Nissi Monsegue, is a non-traditional student from MTSU majoring in International Relations with minors in Public & Civic Engagement, Mass Communications and Leadership Studies. The following is Nissi’s account of her time here in the legislature.
“As an intern in Representative Marsh’s office, my duties are numerous. I run basic errands for the office like dropping off and picking up documents from other members of the legislature, delivering Bills to the House Clerk’s office, making copies and coffee, and as a tour guide of the Capitol for Rep. Marsh’s constituents.
“But, that is not all. I have attended committee meetings which has opened my understanding of the law making process on what it takes to get a bill passed and become law in the state of Tennessee. This fascinates me as I see the bills becoming law and the direct impact that particular bill will have on the citizens of Tennessee.
“I recommend this internship to any college student as each day brings a new buzz of activity with the interaction of lobbyists, Members and committee meetings that will help forge their career in the political arena.”
Session is looking like it might be over by April 19 or the first part of the next week. We certainly have gotten a lot of good legislation done this Session and I am proud to be a part of the process.