BY VAL PETSCHE
Those interning with delegates from the Md. General Assembly in Annapolis gathered in Conway Hall Tuesday evening to share their experience this past semester.
A wide range of issues affecting the state, and the Eastern shore specifically, were handled by the interns, including regulations surrounding oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay, fracking, pre-k suspension and the legalization of recreational marijuana among others.
“I’m thankful I got this opportunity. I encourage you guys to look into it,” senior economics major David Gicheru says after describing the amicable relationship he shared with his delegate.
The type of work assigned to the interns included conducting research, attending committee hearings, tracking bills, working on mailings and handling constituent problems.
Junior Ellie Brookbank, a political science major, worked with her delegate on a bill to aid rape prosecution by extending the time that law enforcement agencies hold rape kits. The kits are taken after someone is sexually assaulted, and then used for DNA evidence. Often it is the case that victims cannot prosecute, as there is a big variation in local police stations surrounding how long they keep the rape kits.
“This bill makes it so that every law enforcement jurisdiction has to keep the rape kits for 20 years,” Brookbank explains. “We still have a long way to go with it.”
Brookbank also dealt with the bill to ban fracking in the state of Maryland.
“When it finally got passed, Governor Hogan was very excited about it because Maryland is only the third state in the country to ban fracking,” Brookbank states.
She also worked on a bill to install polling stations in college campuses. This was central to her mission as the president of college democrats on campus.
Senior Shekina Hollingsworth, another political science major, shared her thoughts on the pressures of working with her delegate. “When I got it done, and I knew that it was done right, then I thought i had done well. It showed me that she really trusted me,” Hollingsworth stated.
Dani Walker is a junior political science and English major with a minor in film. As an intern, she worked on a bill about oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay and how the delegates were planning to change areas in them.
“There was a lot of outcry against it because it would take kind of the power away from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They have this control to change the oyster sanctuaries if it is scientifically proven okay to do that.”
She explained that the Md. General Assembly ultimately voted on forcing DNR to wait two years before they could do anything, and not before providing research.
Garret Shull is a senior political science major with a conflict analysis and dispute resolution minor. He discussed a bill introduced by Senator Ronald Young to ban the torment of the cownose rays, a type of stingray, in the Chesapeake Bay.
“It was asking DNR to have certain regulations saying how they can be fished. Above all else, they wanted to stop the torments altogether. There’s still a lot of watermen concerned,” Shull reports.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding this issue, and it was what Shull described as a “hot button” topic.
“You have a lot of watermen that come in with arguments that they eat clams, they eat oysters, they eat the softshell crabs and things like that, that are important not only to their lifestyle and culture, but also for them to be able to make a living.”
Shull later explained, “so that was a big clash that goes back and forth and eventually they settled on a middle ground that was honestly a good compromise between the two parties. Ultimately they decided to put a moratorium on them.”
Shull commented on the variety of people he encountered while working with the delegates, stating that some people are a little bit more relaxed while others are a little bit more stern. He stated that despite the differences, they are all very reasonable people and they all appreciate your help because they are ultimately there to represent their citizens.
He describes one notable memory when the democrats and republicans were fighting over a bill on the floor.
“The minute the bill stopped it was like something left the room. They understand that there’s a bigger picture than just themselves. It really is an enjoyable thing and I think it’s really rewarding too.”
The Md. General Assembly’s Legislative Intern program is only offered to about 100 students representing colleges and universities across Maryland. This opportunity allows students to provide research and staff assistance to legislators during each session, giving both educational and practical work experience within the legislative branch of state government.
This is a spring semester internship, and interested students can contact Dr. Adam Hoffman in the department of political science at email@example.com. Applications must be received by October 31 of the fall semester.