From the UA to the Arizona State Capitol

March 21, 2014

University of Arizona legislative interns are keeping busy schedules while the Legislature is in session. They are meeting in Phoenix with statewide constituent groups, writing speeches, attending committee meetings and hearings, conducting research, summarizing and presenting bills, preparing amendments and meeting with legislators.

The UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has coordinated the Arizona State Legislative Internship Program for UA students for decades. ASU and NAU have comparable programs. 

Interns get the chance to work with members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the governor’s office. Additionally, students selected for the Don Bolles Fellowship from the UA School of Journalism are covering the Legislature. 

All students receive a tuition and fee waiver for the semester and are paid by the Legislature for their work.

One such student is Stephanie Romero in the UA School of Journalism, who is also studying Spanish. Romero is serving as a legislative broadcast intern with Arizona Capitol Television and, during her time in Phoenix, is producing video content about the Legislature:

Now, more than two months into the internship, Romero and other students took some time to talk to UANews about their experiences. In addition to Romero, responding are:

  • Kenna Nielson, a mathematics and pre-law major, who is assigned to the Office of the Arizona State Governor, working with the legislative affairs team monitoring committees. Nielson also works with the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.
  • Nickolas Randall Olm, a graduate student studying public administration, an intern with the Arizona Supreme Court, who has been attending committee meetings, caucuses and floor hearings, among other things.

Photo credit: Aaron Benally/Northern Arizona University

What are your days generally like?

Romero: My projects include: recording live committee meetings for the Senate and House of Representatives utilizing the robotic cameras. I also write and create packages for feature stories, edit and publish archived meetings and cover Democratic and Republican press conferences. Usually on Fridays, or any time I am allotted free time, I create packages for monthly feature stories. Each story is published online and streamed live on the channel.

Nielson: Each day is different depending on which committees are meeting, which makes it difficult to describe a typical day. I usually have a few meetings I will go to, in addition to whatever committees I am responsible for. I get to hang out with my fellow interns in between our work, which is fun. We also like to go for a walk around Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza during lunch.

Describe some of your tasks. What are you assigned to do?

Olm: I am now tasked with attending the same types of hearings but in the Senate, as the house bills that I tracked and that passed third read. Further, the topic assignments I chose, which are the areas of interest that I would help with in reference to attending meetings with representatives, senators and stakeholders are administrative and civil law, court administration, pension, retirement, budget, family law, probation and public records. The project my fellow intern and I are assigned right now are summarizing the bills that the Arizona Judicial Council is proposing to the legislature and preparing a PowerPoint presentation for a meeting with them and other presiding judges from various counties in Arizona.

Romero: I typically work eight hours or more Monday through Friday. Each day varies from start to finish. Most of my day is comprised of recording live committee meetings for the Senate and House of Representatives. After each meeting is recorded, it is edited and published onto the legislature’s website within 24 hours. Aside from recording live committee meetings, I help cover weekly democratic and republic press conferences. Usually on Fridays or any time I am allotted free time, I create packages for monthly feature stories. Each story is published online and streamed live on the channel.

What have you learned this far through your involvement?

Romero: I am furthering my understanding of the lawmaking process. It helps a lot to actually witness bills becoming law. I am not only learning about how a television station is run, but also learning how Arizona government works. I am expanding my linear editing skills, strengthening my interviewing and writing skills and growing as a professional in the workforce. 

Nielson: This internship has taught me so much! I have learned a lot about communicating with others and why it is so important. I have learned about the legislative process and what a bill has to go through before it becomes law. I also am learning a lot about what the state government is responsible for. My favorite part, though, has been learning about the state budget. It has been fascinating to see where we spend money and hear the arguments people make in favor of different programs.

Olm: What I am learning of value professionally is more than just the legislative process and how a bill becomes law, but how networking is important as well as collaborating with others. I am also learning the different areas of policy and legislative affairs that could lead to a future position. Personally, I am learning that I do enjoy learning about the law, the legislative process, and politics and how the Arizona Supreme Court gets involved. This internship also has led me to consider running for office one day either at the state or local level.

How has this internship informed your practice, whether personally or professionally? What do you appreciate about the internship thus far?

Nielson: On a more personal side, I have learned to stretch myself. On the first day I was so worried about whether or not I would be able to do the work they would require me to do. It has been a great opportunity to grow and see what I am capable of. It has been great to work with supervisors that have encouraged this.

Romero: I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to participate as a 2014 Legislative Broadcast Intern. I would not have chosen to spend Spring Semester 2014 any other way.

Olm: This is a great experience and I will forever be grateful for having had this opportunity. I was able to watch the debate on HB2153 (related to the exercise of religion) live and witness this monumental moment. As an intern and representing the Arizona Supreme Court, we were officially neutral on that bill as we do not get involved in matters of policy; however, I was able to observe the protests at the state capitol and the interviews by CNN, CBS and others, and also listen to testimony on the bill firsthand. The hours can be long and arduous but the benefits of obtaining the experience outweigh it all and I would recommend this internship to any student who is interested in public policy or legislative and government affairs.

Read more about UA students' work in Phoenix online: