Students play key role in legislative session

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Students interning with the Utah State Legislature get a personal view on how legislation is formed and passed into law.

Students from six Utah universities, including Brigham Young University, have the opportunity during the legislative session to do an internship with the legislature. In many instances, students are the only staff member for legislators.

Nathan Brady, the internship coordinator for the legislature, said that they get great interns.

“It’s a nice arrangement where [the interns] provide quality service to legislators,” Brady said. “It saves the taxpayers money and helps the students get great experience.”

Brady said interns still get a $2,400 stipend at the end of the internship, but it saves the state money by not having to hire full-time employees for the session.

Every year the legislative session runs from late January to mid-March.

Students must apply to get accepted to the internship program. Scott Dunaway, an assistant dean in the political science department, selects students for the program at BYU.

“We are looking for students who have good skills,” Dunaway said. “We are looking for students that are mature and will keep their commitments.”

They also look for students who are hard-working and accountable, because legislators need interns they can rely on, he said.

Professor Adam Brown said  the legislature likes students of all majors. The bills deal with a variety of topics, so it is good to have a variety of backgrounds.

Once students are selected for the program, they go through a rigorous prep course, taught by Brown, to prepare for the legislature.

“They complete a two credit prep course in about two and half weeks,” Brown said. “Then [they are] ready to jump in.”

Brown said that interns sometimes get more training than the new legislature members.

“It is not uncommon for newer legislators to rely a lot on their intern for process questions,” Brown said.

Brown said interns have a very rewarding experience during their internships and that interns learn more about policy from this process than 99 percent of citizens.

“Very few interns get bored,” Brown said. “They are directly involved in the policy process.

The program provides interns with real-world experience that they cannot get anywhere else, Brown said.

“At the end of the experience, students don’t just get a line on a resume,” Brown said. “They feel like they actually accomplished something.”

Out of the six universities participating in the program this year, BYU is sending the highest amount of interns. The breakdown is as follows: BYU 29, University of Utah 25, Utah State University 15, Weber State University 8, Utah Valley University 6 and Southern Utah University 6.

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