Austin, Texas, Day 2: Friday, September 23, 2022
Following an eventful first day of interviews and new connections, the LEAP Ambassadors were excited to hit the ground running with the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival!
Texas State Capitol
Our Friday morning began with a trip to the Texas Capitol, where we met with the Chief of Staff for Senator Bryan Hughes, Cody Terry. (Senator Hughes represents the Tyler area, where Morgan is from!) During our time with Mr. Terry, we got a surprise visit from Senator Charles Schwertner’s former Chief of Staff, Tom Holloway. We were also lucky enough to meet Caroline Harris, who, after winning the primary (congratulations!), will compete in the general election for her own seat!
Between welcomed and insightful interruptions, Mr. Terry shared a few words of wisdom regarding internships applicable to any office.
He advised us to find something we are interested in and run with it.
We also met with Scott Jenkines, Chief of Staff for Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez who represents the Valley (District 39). Mr. Jenkines gave us a more technical overview of the innerworkings of the Texas House.
From both chiefs we learned about how different offices and committees work, and what members look for and expect from interns. We were grateful to have been able to sneak some questions in, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to have met with them and learn more about the legislative session. It was a great start for our day, which we soon followed with a trek down to the Paramount Theatre for our second Texas Tribune Festival session!
This session was actually two-pronged. We had the opportunity to experience Austin’s stunning Paramount Theatre, a historic Art Deco structure built in 1915.
The second was, of course, the session topic: a One-on-One with former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, moderated by Kara Swisher!
Our main takeaway from Hillary Clinton was her stance on empowering women in politics. This was perfect for all four of us since we had just left the Capitol, where we all hope to intern in the next session..
With empowerment comes controversial issues, and in her talk, it was clear the most popular topic was her 2016 run against Donald Trump for President. He was a central topic of discussion, specifically regarding the deleted emails, predictions for future elections, and the possible criminal charges he may face.
Clinton repeatedly emphasized that she did not delete any emails and “never corresponded about classified emails.” Clinton has raised money in an interesting, but slightly self-deprecating way, by selling hats that read “But Her Emails.” [FS2] Clinton and Swisher laughed about the merch, but on a more serious note, each dollar raised from the hats is donated to the next Democratic candidate for the next presidential election.
Although she will not be running for office in the future, Clinton still contributes much to the current political officials in the Democratic party. When the question was raised if Trump is likely to run again, Clinton predicted he will run again, although this time he may also have criminal charges pending, after the search of Mar-a-Lago.
Aside from the political drama, Clinton vocalized the importance of Social Security, Medicare, and having a strong social democracy. She believes this will happen only if we continue to vote Democrats into office. But whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican, we must vote and empower one another. Hearing from Hillary Clinton showed us that you can overcome what may seem to be impossible—an excellent takeaway!
Previewing the 88th: Part Four
TTF hosts multiple sessions about the upcoming Texas Legislative Session. Although we beelined it to Raise Your Hand Texas, where the fourth session was held, many others had the same idea, and we ended up in the SRO section. Nonetheless, it was completely worth it.
The impressive panel included Senator Carol Alvarado, Senator Cesar Blanco, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Democratic Candidate for Senate District 27 Morgan LaMantia, and moderator Matthew Watkins, Managing Editor for News and Politics at The Texas Tribune. With the State of Texas’ budget surplus of about $30 billion, redistricting, and the Texas governor’s election, this session will definitely face new opportunities and challenges.
Abortion is a heavy topic for discussion during this session, after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The panel didn’t suggest that any major bills will pass to restore those rights, but they would like to pass legislation to allow for certain exceptions of abortions like incest, rape, or medical complications. For example, Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, so adopting legislation that will protect the mother’s life from risk of a full-term pregnancy could lower that statistic. Senator Blanco expects this upcoming governor’s election to be a “Roe-vember,” implying that many voters will vote solely driven by their beliefs or stance on abortion.
Another topic this panel expects will be up for much debate is gun regulations. Although gun regulations have been debated for decades, what makes the topic so complicated for this upcoming session is the increase in school shootings, specifically the Uvalde school shooting. Many people are fed up with turning on the news to another school shooting where innocent lives have been lost, and voters will be letting their legislators know that. The panel hopes to see stricter gun laws passed to help stop gun violence in Texas, which has a higher gun mortality rate than the national average. There was a call to action to the right to place more emphasis on the gun laws in Texas.
The panel also mentioned plans to focus on other issues that were “not just political stunts,” such as lowering property taxes and fixing the worker shortage, specifically for teachers and nurses.
One topic the panel did consider a political stunt wasthe border wall. The panel understands Republicans’ concern, but they do not like the way the Republican party goes about it. They would like to focus on improving the treatment of the immigrants coming in and not just throwing them into state camps or foster care. We were informed by the panel that some of these kids being thrown under state custody are dying due to the living conditions they are being put under at the border camps. Right now, the quality of care is improving due to neighboring border city communities that take kids in and provide them with better conditions, so the senators would like to see a change in that sector.
With (hopefully) our internships for this upcoming session, we found this discussion impactful and inspiring. We always enjoy getting to hear different points of views, so it will be great to ponder on these ideas until January!
Following a busy day, we met up with SHSU alumna (and former LEAP Center student worker), Annie Jamarik, Chief of Staff for Representative Hugh Shine. Annie recommended a great local pizza joint, called 40 North.
Considering Annie’s recommendations, we ordered the Classic Pepperoni (a bit spicy), the Margherita Di Bufala, the Barbe, and probably (most) everyone’s favorite, the Hot Honey.
As we ate, Annie gave us sound advice, both from the perspective of an intern and as a chief. She advised us to build our networks early and joked that we have already started with her! Along with her encouraging advice, she also had some practical advice, too. We asked about wardrobe and best places to shop, and even what kinds of shoes to wear every day.
We are very thankful to Annie for joining us for a great dinner and for all her advice and words of wisdom about interning in this upcoming session at the Capitol.