Many Utahns don’t know what Interim is and don’t know what it would be like to attend an Interim Session at the State Capitol. So we asked one of our Interns to check out Interim Session this month and tell us what it is like for someone who had never been before. Here’s what she experienced and why she thinks you should try it too!
“Interim Session” – by Samantha Kelsey, Action Utah Intern
This month I attended my first Interim Session at the Utah State Legislature. What is Interim? One day every month, from May to November, the State Legislature gathers at the Capitol to discuss and debate the issues and policies in Utah. Since these sessions are open to the public, it’s the perfect time to learn about and get involved in the issues that matter to you.
Turns out anyone can sit in on meetings or listen in online live or at any time!
Walking into the Capitol as ‘an outsider’ can seem a little intimidating. However, as soon as I sat down in my first meeting, a committee meeting on Education, I could feel that these sessions welcome the public’s engagement.
The best part for me was all the expert testimony by panelists and speakers who have been invited to talk to the committee members. Professors from Utah’s universities, members of the state government, researchers, and other experts are there to tell you what they know, explain the importance and answer questions specifically as they relate to Utah.
I do not have any expertise or even any background in policy or any of the issues that were covered, but you don’t need any. Sessions are held on a range of issues such as education, business and labor, natural resources, health and human services and many more. Most of the sessions are easy to understand and relatable, as they are conversations about the issues we face as Utahns every day.
The sessions start with an agenda and the first speaker is introduced. Committee members may question the speaker during or after their presentations. There are often visuals to follow along with as well. Meetings last from 8:30-11:15 a.m. or 1:15-4 p.m.
Before you go to Interim, you can look up the agenda for each committee meeting and choose one or multiple you would like to listen to. One woman sitting next to me even had an earbud in, and was listening to the Business and Labor meeting online using her smartphone while we were sitting in on Education.
Be sure to bring a laptop or notebook so that you can write things down, or look up terms if you are new to learning about a particular issue. I personally found that writing notes on the agenda sheets that were handed out was helpful.
During the lunch hour there are events as well. Action Utah hosted a panel on housing followed by a tour of the Capitol building. So many groups and individuals are there to help observers feel more involved and included. No matter if this is your first or 10th Interim Session, there is always someone there to talk about the issues with you.
I highly recommend that Utahns check out Interim as a perfect way to start making a difference because civic engagement, knowledge of Utah’s current issues, and civil discourse is a pathway to fact based solutions for the state we call home.
Want to learn more about Interim Sessions? Check out these resources.
Interim Action Guides: Action Utah puts out an Interim Action Guide before each Interim Session. Sign up for Action Utah emails to get the next guide before Interim Session on August 21st.