Beginning an Unusual 87th Texas Legislative Session

Earlier this week, the Texas Legislature kicked off its 87th Regular Session, as 14 University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) students kicked off their immersive legislative internships as part of the GCSW’s Austin Legislative Internship Program.

For the first time in the history of this program, however, only some of these students welcomed Opening Day from the Texas Capitol. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these legislative placements will range from 100% virtual, to hybrid experiences, to 100% in person. Some students will intern in the Capitol daily, while others will remain in Houston, completing internship tasks from Houston. Those working in the Capitol will do so while adhering to previously unheard-of rules adopted this week by the Texas House and Senate; these rules focus on masks, social distancing, and COVID-19 testing, explicitly shaping the behaviors of legislators, staffers, interns and Capitol visitors. Those students who experienced the Capitol in person on Opening Day did so as both militia groups and state public safety troopers gathered on the Capitol grounds.

The 2021 cohort of graduate social work legislative interns – individual bios and photos are posted here – will immerse themselves in the policy and politics of the legislature, working full-time for the entire 5-month legislative session, at a transformational time in U.S. history. In our pre-session conversations, each intern has shared ways in which the massive societal challenges and deep racial injustices highlighted over the past year have heightened their desire and commitment to jump full speed into the policy arena in order to learn how to work effectively to advance meaningful systemic policy changes.

Over the course of Texas’ 87thLegislative Session (January-May 2021), each intern will share their unique experiences on this blog. They will share their observations as policy analysts with the Texas Legislative Study Group chaired by Rep. Garnet Coleman and as legislative staff in the offices of Rep. Rafael AnchiaRep. Mary GonzálezRep., Jarvis Johnson, and Rep. Penny Morales Shaw. We hope you will check in regularly and follow this blog for posts about interns’ unique experiences during this unique legislative session, insights into the legislative process, observations about legislation of interest to the social work profession, and tips for how social workers can become involved in policy-making.

by Suzanne Pritzker, Associate Professor and director of the Austin Legislative Internship Program

Originally posted from University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work’s Austin Legislative Internship Program. The College selects graduate MSW students to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. This post was syndicated with permission from its authors.

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