The Legislature of the State of Texas meets every other year for their regular session in Austin, TX from January to May. This powerful arm of Texas government has a strong impact on the activities of state government and policy that impacts all Texans. The UH Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) has partnered with Representative Garnet Coleman, Texas House Member for District 147, to offer GCSW students a unique opportunity to learn first hand how policy is created and to serve the state of Texas. Students go through a selection process in order to participate in the Austin Legislative Internship Placement. They are then assigned to staff members in House or Senate Member’s offices or as Policy Analysts for the Legislative Study Group. The GCSW is proud to currently have 9 students serving in Austin.
The students are sharing their experiences by blogging. Stay tuned as the session heats up!
I have currently been working in the office of a State Representative in Austin for about two months now, and I have to say that I am amazed by the number of social workers that take part in the legislative process. These social workers can be found in either other Representatives’ offices or as advocates for social service agencies. There are no distinguishing features of a social worker, so it is always a pleasant surprise to find out a person is one.
When a fellow social worker discovered that I was also a one of them, she (proceeded?) told me that I was a white unicorn. After she noticed the puzzled look on my face, she explained that white unicorns are males in social work are called because of their rarity. After speaking a little more about our beliefs on why there are a lack of males in social work, gender roles, and the socialization of children, she inquired into my role as a social worker in a Representative’s office. I told her that my job could be described by one phrase that is on all employees’ descriptions in small print: “All other tasks assigned by the supervisor”.
I made a list of one of my days this past week to find out what I really do. Here’s a “typical” day here at the Capitol:
8:00am (actually 8:07 amI am not a morning person) Arrive at work and process the incoming mail
8: 45am Review my e-mail and calendar for the day (Search for briefings that serve free lunch; unfortunately none today)
9:15am Begin to make a to-do list
9:17am The Representative arrives and holds impromptu staff meeting
9:32am Begin to write talking points for a speech the Representative will be giving at an immigration rally later in the day
9:45am Sent to buy milk for the office
10:12am Began reviewing any bills that have been filed regarding one of my subject areas of the office: immigration
10:45am Write letters to constituents about topics related to human services and immigration
11:30am Write talking points for the speech
12:45pm Make a sandwich for lunch
1:00pm Meet with Representatives from the United Way
1:30pm Meet with Substance Abuse providers from our district
1:55pm Eat my sandwich on the way to the immigration rally
2:00pm Immigration Rally
3:00pm Get back to the office and finish my to do list
3:15pm Research and consult with agencies to find out how the proposed budget cuts will affect health and human services in our district
4:30pm Respond to e-mails
5:23pm Impromptu staff meeting
5:55pm Review my to-do list to see what I have accomplished today (I only did 2 out of 10 things)
6:15pm Accompany Representative to a reception honoring Law Enforcement agencies of Texas.
6:58pm Accompany Representative to a reception honoring Union Workers of Texas
8:15pm Get dropped off at my car
I found it to be very useful to be able to write out my day and the helpful hint that I can give you from mine is that in order for a to-do list to be effective it should be written at the beginning of the day.
Recently, the Legislative Session Group (LSG) members were assigned to the committees that we will be working on for the remaining time at the 82nd Legislative Session. I’m really excited about the committees that I was given for the simple fact that it ties into my educational background. I will be working on Civil Jurisprudence, Corrections, and Criminal Jurisprudence. After the committee assignments were made, I went to a briefing covering the death penalty. I thought that this was going to be about how it is essential for Texans to rethink the death penalty option since we lead the way in individuals sentenced to death. This briefing was very different than others that I attended. At this briefing, there was a man named Anthony Graves who on August 23, 1992 was wrongfully accused of a crime that he did not commit. He told the story of how the man who committed the crimes lied and said that he was an accomplice to the murder. During the proceedings, the man who lied indicated that he had lied about Graves and that Graves was an innocent man. To make a long story short, Mr. Graves was sentenced to death row even though there was no evidence to convict him.. As a result, Mr. Graves spent 18 years of his life in jail, and was later exonerated. He missed watching his children grow up, and the births of his grandchildren. Mr. Graves said over and over during his story that he was sure that an innocent man would not be convicted of a crime that he did not commit. At the end, I couldn’t help but wonder what it like was to have a life that you couldn’t live. Is this the way that individuals who are living in oppressed situations feel? What can be done to ensure that we all can have the opportunity to live the life that we have been given?