Interns get taste of lobbying

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HSPA’s legislative interns for this session of the Indiana General Assembly have a range of experiences they are putting to work for state newspapers.

Jesus Rivera and Alfred Degrafinreid II will split a 40-hour work week for the next four months while they maintain HSPA’s bill database and do other tasks to keep tabs on legislation that could affect public access to information.

HSPA interns Alfred Degrafinreid II, left, and Jesus Rivera sort through bills in the Legislative Services Agency bill room at the Indiana Statehouse.

During each session of the General Assembly, two law school students help HSPA executive director and general counsel Stephen Key sort, prioritize and track hundreds of bills.

“They serve as extra eyes and ears so that HSPA can cover multiple legislative committee meetings or action on the House and Senate floor,” Key said.

The interns have an interest in using their degrees in the public sector or lobbying after graduating from the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis.

“Hopefully, Alfred and Jesus will gain a good understanding of how bills become law and the role lobbyists play in that process,” Key said. “At least three former interns who have helped me in the past will be working the hallways in lobbying capacities during this legislative session.”

Rivera, 26, is in his final semester of study.

He most recently interned with the Marion County Office of Corporation Counsel, which offers legal defense for the city of Indianapolis.

During the summer, he worked as a clerk for Judge Melissa S. May in the Indiana Court of Appeals.

After graduation Rivera hopes to work in government or civil law. He has applied with the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

The traveling required as a JAG lawyer appeals to Rivera, as does serving his country.

“I think you’re doing something pretty noble,” he said of defending military personnel. “I’d like to do something worthwhile with the skills I’ve acquired through federal funding.”

The Plymouth native graduated from Purdue University in 2007 with bachelor’s degrees in accounting and management.

Degrafinreid, 26, earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from Tennessee State University in 2006. The Memphis, Tenn., native worked for a year as a political fundraiser before returning to Tennessee State and earning a master of public administration degree in 2008.

Currently in his second year of law school, Degrafinreid recently served as a law clerk for Lee Cossell Kuehn & Love in Indianapolis.

Before law school he worked as a fundraiser for the vice mayor of Nashville, Tenn., and then worked for the speaker pro tem of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

He wants a career in lobbying.

“There’s always a negative connotation associated with lobbyists,” Degrafinreid said. “But it’s protecting the people and representing the people if you’re doing it in a good way.”

In addition to maintaining the database HSPA uses to track bills, Degrafinreid and Rivera will attend committee hearings, observe House and Senate sessions and talk to legislators about concerns HSPA has with bills.

Weighing all the options regarding whether to support or oppose a bill is the most interesting part of the job, Rivera said.

“I’m learning that it’s a balancing act,” he said.

For Degrafinreid, working on the lobbying side of lawmaking is an eye-opener.

“I’ve always worked on the other side in the legislature,” Degrafinreid said. “As a lobbyist, you don’t know what’s going on, but you have to find out.”