We often get inquiries asking what specific internships involve. These edited excerpts from student internship journals provide insight into the daily activities of student interns in Harrisburg. In many cases the names of specific individuals have been deleted or changed to read “co-worker” or “representative.”
The State Legislature (legislators’ offices, committees)
Brandy Brown, Penn State University Park, Political Science major, 2008
I finally had completed and proofed all of the research for the Film Tax Credit project.It was a meticulous process to ensure that my timeline was accurate, but more importantly I wanted to make sure I was actually grasping the concept of events. I sent Andrew all of the information. Within the hour I received a forward with a note saying that the memo had been sent on to leadership . . .
I was asked to go through the Pennsylvania Lobbyist Registry and find the contact information, most notably an email address for each lobbyist representing a group that would be considered a stakeholder in SB 1063. I needed to assemble a spreadsheet with all of the information for the organizations I found. It was an extremely tedious process, as the contact information listed for the relevant organization was not the same as the lobbyist that represented them. But eventually I went through the alphabetical order and found all the organizations. I then drafted an email that was sent to each of these organizations requesting that they state their position on the legislation, as the finance committee is unsure how to proceed with the bill. . .
After donuts, my colleague asked if I would go to the Legislative Reference Bureau to pick up a few amendments. Of course I did, and I wandered up to LRB. Once I returned to our office, I had to write the member’s name and district on all of the draft copies of the amendment. My colleague also explained that these amendments were filed in a timely fashion although the 2:00 p.m. deadline had already passed. This is because LRB was unable to generate the actual language for the amendment before the deadline; however, the member had already filed the concept before the deadline had passed. In this case, the amendment office will issue a certificate with a time stamp on it, explaining the situation. The certificate goes to the Chief Clerk on the floor. Once the amendment is filed, it is the responsibility of the filer to inform the clerk that the amendment is replacing a certificate . . My colleague asked me if I would come to the House floor with her to file the amendments I picked up from LRB earlier. I went with her and filed my first 3 amendments on the floor. It was kind of exciting. I told them I was filing an amendment that was replacing a certificate, and they stamped my papers and handed one stamped copy back to me, while retaining the 6 others . . .
I attempted to start on my memos once again, but then I noticed a constituent concern, and a folder full of blue backs (draft legislation), that had a note on it asking that I write a co-sponsorship letter for them. The constituent wanted to know why his company was only reimbursing its employees at 80% of the Federal Mileage Reimbursement Rate. Thankfully one of the legislative staffers had attached a print out from the IRS that explained what the Mileage Reimbursement Rate was, and how it should be applied. It turns out that the rate is only a suggested rate released by the IRS to employers. The rate is an estimation of the cost it takes to operate a vehicle on a per mile basis. This way, employers have a suggestion on how to reimburse their employees for using their personal vehicles for business purposes. However, the rate doesn’t require mandatory compliance, and the State doesn’t require that businesses provide mileage reimbursement to their employees. It was unfortunate, but the company was completely within the bounds of the law.
As I was leaving, I was asked to finish a Key Vote Analysis by Friday. It was going to be very difficult. A Key Vote Analysis (KVA’s) is much like the pro/con analyses that I have been doing for committee meetings. It outlines the practical benefits and detriments of the legislation once applied to the Commonwealth. After I got the assignment, and was told how to format the KVA, I was able to leave for the day.
David Bentz, Penn State University Park, Political Science major, 2008
Today I sat in on a meeting between my supervisor and people from a nonprofit association. They are making a request for funding out of the State Budget. I was there to take notes dealing with their requests. I really enjoyed this. It’s nice to be able to witness firsthand what this process is like. Working for a nonprofit group or having a legislative staff position are some of the jobs I am interested in pursuing at some point in my future. So being a part of meetings like this one is especially beneficial to get an idea of how the process of requesting/distributing money takes place. . .
I have been put in charge of writing letters on behalf of my Representative, asking for funding for various programs. I wrote letters to Democratic leaders encouraging them to meet the requests ... I have been informed that this is something I will be doing a lot of during the budget process which should run through the end of the month. I also went to a presentation in the evening by groups wishing to bring more movie/tv productions to Pennsylvania. I was unaware of just how great the economic benefits of these productions are for the areas in which they occur. I also got to meet M. Night Shyamalan, the famous director from Philadelphia! I’m a big fan.
I wrote more letters today. This time for a new, very broad program intended to put more state money into employment sectors that make up a high percentage of Pennsylvania’s jobs. This is an attempt to “recession-proof” the economy and create new jobs and construction projects as well as providing for facility improvements in these employment sectors. Sounds like a good idea I guess, because it accomplishes this without establishing any new taxes. I attended the Legislative Blast in the evening. It’s a party put on by legislators. It was fun to be with co-workers and see legislators in a different light, away from work and the media . . .
Today I helped answer some constituent concerns by sending out information. One lady wished to receive information on student loan information and mortgage assistance. Another requested information about veterans’ benefits. These are routine examples of the ombudsman role that has been talked about in class. It’s good to be able to make these connections. . .
I collected the names of the people and organizations in support of our pharmacy bill today. Our supporters needed to be made aware of the changes that have been made to it. I was also given the task of writing the committee preview report. I was able to pull this off without any problems. Doing this also made me very well informed as to what bills are running through the house. I feel I will learn a lot by completing this task every week. I appreciate that they are giving me more tasks to perform. That shows that they have some element of trust in me. I’m feeling comfortable enough to handle these jobs. . . So I guess I lied when I said that I wrote the committee preview report without errors. I mistakenly identified “HB1490” as “SB1490.” It was rather easy to correct though and the building didn’t collapse or anything so I guess I’ll be okay. On a somewhat humorous note; I’ve gotten replies to the emails I’ve sent to all Democratic staff from people I’ve never met expressing their love for Penn State due to the fact that my signature indicates I’m a Penn State student.
Christina Pastrana, Penn State University Park, History major, 2007
One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is the opportunity to meet and speak with many people who are on the forefront of the creation of legislation.
The Committee Preview Report has to be sent out every week on Thursday. I have to say which committee is meeting where, what bills they are discussing and a short summary of each bill that is being discussed. . . I had to almost double the size of the Committee Preview Report just on what I received today. It was interesting to read all the bills but hectic because this report has to be sent out on Thursday evening. Most of the day was spent finishing the report, but I also had the opportunity to send out materials to all of the members of the Democratic Caucus from a progressive agency whose goal involves assisting state legislators.
Today I had the opportunity to speak with representatives of a foundation to see if they would be willing to support legislation proposed by my representative that would require fire extinguishers for commercial vehicles and for school buses.
Erica Harder, Penn State Altoona, Political Science major, 2007
Lobbyists were not talked about in a good way in high school. What I learned about them was that they have very strong opinions and will do anything to get the legislature on their side. But when I started working in the legislature I met some lobbyists. I asked my supervisor questions about them. I was told that lobbyists were people with information. Yes, they have a side that they take, but it has to be the side of their client. They need to be very honest and trustworthy or they are not going to be very successful.
I drafted a letter about the autism bill because we were getting a ton of letters. The bill was passed by the House and is now in the Senate. I wrote a letter to these constituents explaining that the bill is out of our hands and is now up to the Senate.
Kelly Witmer, Penn State Altoona, Communications Major, 2008
Amidst all of the drama (indictments!) that is now happening at the Capitol, I’m trying to stay focused on my House Education Committee projects. The first project I’m currently working on is safe school environment funding. Every state has a persistently dangerous schools list because it’s required under “No Child Left Behind.” We would like to create legislation that would allow these persistently dangerous schools – all currently located within Philadelphia – to apply for government grants to use toward creating a safer environment within their school entity. The main purpose of these funds is to create a safe environment which, in turn, would prevent and lower the number of serious incidents that occur on school property. There would be guidelines, however, as to what these schools can use the money for. This is to ensure these funds are, in fact, being used for their intended purpose.
The second project I’m working on is correlated with state graduation requirements. According to Maine’s Department of Education, 85% of eleventh graders plan on continuing their education after high school, but only 53% actually enroll in an institute of higher education after graduating. We would like to generate legislation that would require 9-12 graders in the state of Pennsylvania to fill out an application to an institute of higher education with the assistance of a knowledgeable adult before they are allowed to graduate. They would not be required to submit the application if they chose not to, but we are optimistic that if the student is guided through the application process that maybe they will feel a little more comfortable with enrolling in college. This would, we hope, increase the number of college enrollees.
Evan Franzese-Peterson, Penn State University Park, History major, 2008
We basically discussed what the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission wanted from any legislation we could produce. PHMC used to have the power to force developers to conduct archaeological digs if development would interfere with a significant site . . .
This week was a bit of a change of pace. Kathi had me look up stuff regarding biofuels, specifically the viability of using sunflower seeds. I basically found that it is a much more efficient source than corn or soybeans but much less efficient than switchgrass. However, sunflower seeds may be easier to plant and harvest.
My research hasn’t come as far as I would like. It is impossible to tell how effective the laws are simply by looking at the laws (which are pretty easy to find).
Gary Gebraad, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2007
Today I sent out a letter to the municipalities about the grant workshop at Lebanon Valley College in order to stir more activity and more RSVPs. I also scheduled a meeting with the Elizabethtown borough manager to discuss how they participated in a public-private partnership with Mars, Inc.
Today was the day of the workshop and my nerves are shot. I did not know how many were going to show up. We had RSVPs for over 100 and 105 showed up. . . . The event went off with some minor glitches of course but was very successful . . . the senator was happy with the way things turned out.
Legislative Office for Research Liaison (LORL) (State Legislature)
Nicole Stettler, Penn State Harrisburg, Political Science major, 2007
Today was absolutely insane. I don’t know if I’ve ever had to multitask as much as I did today. The phones were constantly ringing, multiple inquiries were sent into the office (that I then had to write up and give to one of the anlysts), and I had my own inquiries that I was expected to complete. . .
One of the representatives wanted to know whether or not pawnshops are able to accept firearms for money (a provision in the Uniform Firearms Act says that a “chartered lending institution” may accept firearms). I contacted the Dept. of Banking Legislative Liaison . . .
Laura Kurtz, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2007
In the morning I attended lobbying meetings regarding Waste Management at the Capitol with three representatives, each one-half hour in length. One representative was especially helpful when he expressed interest in my internship and told me his perspective on lobbying as information brokers for legislators because they neither have the time or resources to learn about every issue.
I formatted and edited grassroots letters regarding smokeless tobacco and addressed them to targeted legislators that should be concerned with the issue.
I attended a workshop on message development, which involved how to better communicate with clients and act as a liaison between clients and legislators. I learned the tone of the writing necessary for letters and government writing.
Today I went to Strawberry Square for a public meeting with the PA Gaming Control Board. I have to go to every meeting they have because our client is about to open their casino. The subject of the meeting was the $50 million licensing fee that every facility has to pay. . . I spent a good portion of the day compiling press releases . . . for the client and sent them a memo and weekly report on the meeting.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I went to State College, Bedford, Johnstown and Altoona because one of our clients, Waste Management, is sponsoring a bike race called the Tour de Toona. . . I had to be there the first three days to help direct the media when the events were taking place. The client spent a lot of money on the sponsorship so my job was to help them in any way I could so they would receive the most publicity possible. I took a lot of pictures, rode around in pace cars and took pictures of cyclists in WM uniforms . . . I believe we received a lot of recognition and the even was successful.
I learned how the firm decides how much or little we do for a client. It mostly depends on the budget allotted for the campaign but length of time also is a big factor. . . I spent time going through old contracts with clients and taking notes on the time and money spent on campaigns and what times of the year they run. The more senior people are good at estimating how much needs to be put into a campaign when they hear what the client wants.
Economic Development, Private-Public Partnerships
Mary Kanaskie, Penn State University Park, Communications major, 2007
In the morning I worked on creating a detailed report on the International House in a promotional style. The report will be used as a guide for reporters and the general public as to what exactly the I-House is and how it benefits the Harrisburg community.
I attended a board meeting this morning where my supervisor introduced me as Harristown’s new interns. I met a lot of people within the corporation and I learned a little more about how important decisions are made here.
Today was a really exciting day! Along with my supervisor and two other Harristown employees, I went to Philadelphia to meet some of the developers to discuss how they’ve made progress. In the morning we took a walking tour of Manayunk and then met with the Director of Public Space and the Marketing and Events Coordinator for the Manayunk Development Corporation . . . In the afternoon we met with the Executive Director of the Center City Downtown Improvement District for Philadelphia. He had a lot of great suggestions for how they developed center city Philly, and it was a fantastic opportunity to network and meet influential people. We caught a train back to Harrisburg in the evening.
I attended a really exciting strategic action plan meeting for I-House. It was a collaboration between many of the key players throughout Harristown Development Corporation. I thought this was extremely effective because we weren’t just hearing the operational or financial side of the project, everyone was bringing their ideas together. I really got a better sense of how the different departments work together to get things done. I also think it is very rare and refreshing to see that everyone understands each other’s jobs as well as they do.
Today I attended an interesting meeting with an ad agency to discuss our company’s marketing strategy for the holidays. . . . this was a really exciting meeting for me because I am an advertising major and I really got to see the creative side of things . . . I was really interested in the campaign they did within Strawberry Square last year and plan to do this holiday season.
My boss informed me that my press releases have gone out . . . I wonder if the reporters will use my words and quotes verbatim or they will actually go out and do their own research. The mayor revised my press release slightly but I was amazed at how well my boss knew what quote he would like . . .
I spent the majority of my day crafting a press release for the Dauphin County Commissioners. I learned a lot about how politics can get involved in these projects and how certain groups want credit for press releases and the like. I ended up turning my press release into a “fact sheet” because there wasn’t agreement among those who funded the project on who should get credit. Before today I didn’t realize that a press release could be such a touchy subject, and saw it more as a quick breakdown of facts (this is how I always used press releases during my time as a college newspaper reporter). Now I realize there is a lot more to it than that . . .
In one of my most exciting days in the office, I attended a hard hat tour of the Messiah College Harrisburg Institute project with the Dauphin County Commissioners. The media showed up and I’ll be looking for myself on the news tonight! . . . I was impressed with my supervisor’s knowledge of all the ins and outs of the Messiah College project when he was giving interviews.
Today was my final day at my internship. I attended a corporate board meeting where I thanked everyone for the opportunity they gave me over the summer. I said good bye to my co-workers and gave my supervisor and my office neighbor little gifts (this is one of the most important things my boss taught me—bring presents and everyone will like you!) I was glad to have spent my summer with such welcoming and friendly people.
Pennsylvania Legislative Services (PLS)
Heather Hottle, Penn State University Park, Journalism and International Politics major, 2007
I attended a rally in the Governor’s Reception Room against gun violence. This rally was interesting because the governor and different mayors from all over the state spoke. Although all the rallies I have covered have been important to at least one of the PLS subscribers, it was nice to be given this assignment since it will most likely be viewed by many people. It made me feel like I am trusted and a real part of the staff.
I attended the Speaker’s Commission for Legislative Reform. The committee heard multiple testimonies on the issue of open public records. For a meeting like this that lasts all day, PLS usually breaks them up into a few hours each and then a new reporter comes and relieves the previous reporter, who then returns to the office and writes up their part of the story. . . Several days later I attended another Speaker’s Commission on Legislative Reform. This one was about term limits.
I went on rounds in the morning, which consists of visiting the Senate Secretary’s Office, the House Chief Clerk’s office, the Senate Democratic Communications Office, the House Chief Clerk’s office, the Senate Democratic Communications office, the House Voting Schedule, the Reporters office, and checking boxes in the Senate and House mailrooms and the Ryan office building. After that Amy and I worked on calling different chairperson’s offices to try and get testimony from committee meetings in the last few weeks that occurred outside of Harrisburg.
Part of the service that PLS provides is not only a news story about the legislative hearings, but also the commentary in the question and answer sessions, something our clients really like and use, whether it’s to track what a certain legislator says and how he/she participates, but also because sometimes questions are asked that seem to have nothing to do with the topic at hand, but may be something important that the clients would like to know about.
I attended the Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee meeting which met to discuss and release reports on a study of the cost-effectiveness of consolidating Pennsylvania school districts and to review an evaluation of the state’s organ and tissue donor awareness program. I really liked the presentation on school districts because I went to a high school that could possibly be affected by this. Because of that, I had a personal interest in the subject and was really able to capture and understand the whole presentation.
Today I noticed that a lot of the legislators ask the same questions of testifiers over and over again. I commented on this to a co-worker who explained that they are looking for the answer they want and are trying to get on PCN. When she said that, I thought about the discussion we had in our seminar class the night before about how legislators play different roles, including that of an advertiser.
I attended a House Health and Human Services committee meeting this morning. The room was packed because the committee was discussing a bill that would establish the Smoke Free PA Act. I was surprised at the amount of support that the bill received . . .
Class this evening went pretty fast. We had a guest speaker from Harristown and went on a walking tour of the places that Harristown has developed, including Strawberry Square, the Hilton Hotel, and others. It was neat to be able to see what Mr. Jones was talking about and experience the places personally.
I covered the governor signing the budget with a PLS staffer. Although this might just be because I am an intern and have never been exposed to these sorts of things before, I thought it was really cool not only to witness the event in person, but to participate as a member of the press . . . The last few weeks have been “historic” in a sense because it has so many exciting and new elements and has been the longest budget season since 1991. Not only is the leadership in the both the majority caucuses new, the Speaker of the House is from the minority party, and leadership within the Senate majority was only elected within the caucus by a slim vote. These facts, coupled with the furloughing of many state employees last Monday, has given this budget season so many dynamics and made it so interesting.
Executive State Offices and Agencies
Medita Hrnjic, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2008
Working at the PA Human Relations Commission , Educational and Community Services Division.
I’ve been working on a presentation that will be presented in mid-August to the English as a Second Language Conference. Multiple Cultures, Multiple Voices: Preparing Diverse Learners in the Era of Globalization. The presentation proposal needs to be submitted next week.
The conference will mostly concentrate on English Language Learners (ELL), who are non-English-speaking minority students. The conference will provide participants with information on where these students stand, how well they are adjusting to their new environment and also about the different programs that have been created by the Bilingual Education Act, enforced by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Our presentation, however, will also include an overview of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, define its protected classes, and explain how this state civil rights law applies to ELL. The presentation will also include an overview of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission’s Equal Educational Opportunities Guidelines, a case review of Lau vs. Nickols. In Lau vs. Nickols, the United States Supreme Court, held that the San Francisco Unified School District violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. The district had denied English language instruction to approximately 1,800 students of Chinese ancestry who did not speak English. The presentation will also include a discussion of ELL Instruction methods and teaching techniques.
I attended the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Advisory Committee Meeting. An Investigator and Trainer at PHRC and a member of the Committee, took me along with her to observe. The Committee works under the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and concentrates on the safety of schools. During the meeting there were two presentations. One focused on the effective use of School Security Technology. The second examined demographic changes and schools. The committee also talked about the new reports related to school safety. The report indicates that certain safety activities have increased while others have decreased. For example, bullying incidents have drastically increased since the previous year. However, one reason for this huge increase could be due to the fact that, previous years, not to many people were familiar with the term “bullying” and therefore, just listed the incidents under harassment. Also the number of law enforcement involvement cases as well as number of arrests has increased since last year. Meanwhile, the number of fights has decreased. There was a lot of data used to explain the current safety situations in school. However, what was most interesting to me about this meeting is just seeing how different factors come into play when it comes to school safety.
I attended a meeting with an attorney who works at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. She gave a presentation to approximately 110 principal mentors at the Principals Leadership Induction Network Meeting in Harrisburg. The presentation included a legal perspective about cyberbullying. Senate Bill 1329, if enacted, would amend the Pennsylvania Crimes Code to include cyberbullying. A first offense would constitute a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. A second or subsequent offense or a first offense if the perpetrator was previously convicted of a specified violent crime involving the same victim or school would constitute a third-degree felony, punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years.
Today was a very interesting day for me. The PHRC had its monthly meeting with the commissioners and I was allowed to be in the meeting. This was a good chance for me to meet all the commissioners. The meeting was all day long and they talked about every major event that had happened in the past month. We also had a presentation from a Senior Conciliation Specialist, at the Community Relations Service of the US Department of Justice, who gave a presentation on how to properly enforce new programs
Matthew Heffner, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2008
I am working at the Pa Department of Agriculture on biofuel research aimed at creating legislation. I was told that grain ethanol shouldn’t be the focus of my research and that I should concentrate on the next generation of biofuels like cellulosic feedstocks.
I attended the Agriculture in Balance conference in Hershey, where I learned more about the problems with the Chesapeake Bay and the nutrient overloading. Agriculture is the number one contaminant to the bay. The only way biofuels can to Pennsylvania is if it can be done in an environmentally friendly way.
Elaine Jurek, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2007
The exciting part is learning about Pennsylvania and its government. Let me tell you, I have learned A LOT about the structure of PA government. I am working with the PA State Ethics Commission. My project involves the Gaming Act (ACT 135) that was signed into law in 2006. That law gives duties to the Ethics Commission . . .
Public Policy Advocacy Organizations and Non-Profits
Megan Gangemi, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2008
As part of my duties with the PA Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), I am helping with the PA Nonprofit Congress to be held on Thursday. I called the Alliance for Justice to confirm the status of information they are sending us to go into the folders at the Congress. Attended a staff meeting to go over everyone’s role for Thursday. . .
Called to reserve the caterer and sent the application to reserve the rotunda in the Capitol.
Pennsylvania Nonprofit Congress! I assisted with various tasks throughout the day, working as a greeter in the morning, took notes on the breakout sessions on advocacy and at the press conference. The next day we had a follow-up staff meeting. We discussed and recorded everything that ran smoothly and everything that might need to be worked on for next year. I typed up my notes taken during the Congress so we can begin gathering all data for assessment.
I have been crosschecking legislative bills posted on PANO’s website with those posted on the Capwiz site and the Govnet site. I then assisted with issuing an Action Alert to be posted on our website for our member organizations about the upcoming tax bill and its impact on them.
I sat in with PANO staff members, watching the House debate amendments to the state sales tax that would directly affect nonprofit organizations.
I helped draft and released another Action Alert, this one about the lobbying bill.
I worked on the e-mail to be sent to 5,000 recipients about two major events coming up, including the 5K Walk, Run, Stroll for Nonprofit Excellence. I e-mailed and made phone calls asking for sponsorships for the 5K run. Also e-mailed the mayor’s office, asking him to attend the 5K run.
I sat in with my supervisor on a call to the representative’s office—we spoke with the committee research analyst of the House Finance Committee about the progress of the legislative bill, HB 1600.
I researched information on Maryland’s bill HB 1214 and SB605 to establish a Maryland Not-for-Profit Development Center program.
Sat in on a call to a Congressman’s office to discuss his support for HR2020, which would raise the standard gas mileage rate for charities, and what we can do to further its progress.
Victoria Prince, Penn State Harrisburg, Public Policy major, 2008
This is the first week of my internship at the PA Council on Independent Living (PCIL). In order to map out a plan for my semester at the organization, my supervisor compiled a list of goals for me. We reviewed the entire list and talked about what a day at the organization is like. My first goal involves learning about the Independent Living philosophy and becoming familiar with the Centers for Independent Living (CILS). I viewed an orientation DVD on the history and philosophy of the movement. The DVD included sections on IL history, codification of IL and disability framework and advocacy. It was extremely interesting to see how the movement evolved, especially in the government sector.
I also became familiar with the CILS. I viewed each of the 18 individual CIL websites in order to learn about the services they offer. Although they vary somewhat, they all provide four core services. These include information and referral, advocacy, peer mentoring and independent living skills training.
To see the philosophy in action we visited the Center for Independent Living of Central PA. . .
We were fortunate to attend the grand opening of The Living Well Fitness Center, the first, fully-accessible fitness center in central Pennsylvania.
Another general goal for my internship involves familiarizing myself with the Pennsylvania legislative process. In order to do this, I have been reviewing both the Legislative Directory and The Pennsylvania Manual. We also attended the town hall meeting with Congressman Todd Platts. My supervisor spoke briefly about legislation that involves PCIL.
On Tuesday we joined PCIL’s sister organization, the PA Statewide Independent Living Council (PA SILC) to watch Governor Rendell’s budget address. We then attended the Dept. of Public Welfare’s budget address with Secretary Richman. Both of these events were extremely important to PCIL and PA SILC because their funding is determined by these budgets. Both organizations had a plan of action depending on how the budget turned out.
Unfortunately, the full amount of funding was not received (1.8 million vs. 2.25 million). A conference call was held between both organizations and all the CILS to discuss strategy. My supervisor explained that it is normal not to receive the full funding right away and this is why they develop an action plan to hopefully reach full funding. The strategy included these steps: attending house and senate budget hearings, starting a Faces of IL e-mail campaign to legislators, seeking budget amendments, meeting with legislators, and a call-in campaign. It was a good opportunity to see both how the government decides to allocate funds and how an organization like PCIL works to achieve full funding.
At the end of my first week I was able to practice doing a legislative analysis of the Community Choice Act of 2007 (S. 799). This bill provides the option of community-based resources for those who need care. My supervisor reviewed my analysis and related how she uses this material to provide the background for her position papers.
This week we participated in a meeting with the PA Assisted Living Consumer Alliance. This group advocates for the rights of those living in assisted living homes. They work with people on all sides of the issue including healthcare workers, consumers and organizations like ourselves to create the best policy possible. They connect with policymakers and legislators to work on issues specific to assisted living.
We attended a meeting held by the Governor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities. The issue that I found most interesting was the discussion on how to make voting more accessible.
A press conference was held in the state capital rotunda for the presentation of the Premise Alert System, which will provide those with disabilities and their families a way to notify police about their needs before a crisis occurs. This system can help in all situations from a medical emergency to a person that has wandered from home.