Learning in the Capitol Classroom
Liberty Zavorka spent the first part of her second semester at Eastern Wyoming College at the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne as an intern for the Legislative Service Office (LSO).
“It has been cool to see how each legislator has their own goal and how those goals come together to make the laws we have in the state,” Zavorka said. “The different viewpoints they all bring is what makes laws and this process so interesting to hear.”
Wyoming legislators do not have individual staff members, instead they rely on the services of the LSO to help them identify and articulate legislative issues. The LSO helps the legislators develop information and help identify possible solutions. The LSO was created in 1971 by the Wyoming Legislature and it began work on March 1, 1971, according to the LSO website (wyoleg.gov/Legislature/
One of the things that impacted Zavorka was the amount of “factual and background knowledge the legislators have to have if they want to get a bill passed,” she said. “The whole process is so much more complicated than I realized.”
At the beginning she was able to shadow Goshen County Senator Cheri Steinmetz, in the Senate Agriculture Committee. She audited the agriculture committee meetings for Senator Steinmetz. This gave Zavorka the opportunity to learn more about the process in the committee.
“I’ve appreciated that opportunity,” Zavorka said, “I have learned a lot from it about how committees work and all the inner workings of the different agriculture issues.”
The senator also gave Zavorka a research project on the land grant universities and how they are funded across the country. Which took a great deal of work and time.
“She was valuable and faithful,” Senator Steinmetz said. “Liberty filled in where she was needed.”
One day when the Zoom technician was absent, Zavorka “jumped in” and helped solve the problem, Senator Steinmetz said.
“A typical day for me is a lot of learning and observation,” she said. “I spend the majority of my days watching different committees and floor sessions to learn about the process a bill goes through and watching the debates they have.”
The Intern Coordinator would also schedule different meetings for the interns to interact with people who are important to the legislative process, Zavorka said. ‘This was super cool because you got to hear of the kind of inner workings of the process and how many different aspects there are.”
“The most fun part of the internship was definitely all the different meetings we have done,” Zavorka said. “I’ve met people ranging from (United States) Senator (John) Barrasso to (Wyoming) Governor (Mark) Gordon, to the Wyoming Supreme Court Justices. These are always fun because you get to hear their stories on how they got to where they are and even ask them questions about their jobs and what they do outside of governmental work.” She also said meeting all the other interns was a big positive to being in the internship. “Everyone (the other interns) is so fun and excited to be there that we always have a blast and have great conversations about what is going on in the Capitol,” she added.
“It was great to see someone from home, EWC,” taking part in the internship, Senator Steinmetz said.
The internship is part of the Social Science degree at EWC,” EWC professor Ellen Creagar said.
“This is often transformational for students,” Creagar said. “Liberty and I are so grateful to the EWC Foundation and the Student Senate for contributing money so that Liberty could take advantage of this experience.”
As for stories to tell, “I don’t have any specific stories,” Zavorka said. “There have been a lot of interesting days with people testifying and some of the debates on the floor. I have seen some interesting and sometimes rude testimonies that really shocked me.” This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I recommend it for anyone, because I had so much fun and learned a lot,” she said.