Internship with state senator expands senior’s understanding of public policy
Ethan Harden has trouble identifying the best part of his internship with Sen. Joseph Getty of Baltimore and Carroll counties in the Maryland State Legislature. The senior Political Science and International Studies major wrote media releases, testified for a bill the senator is sponsoring, worked in the caucus room researching and feeding information to the senators on the floor of the Senate and more.
Harden says he values every part of the experience, which gave him a much better understanding of how state government works.
“Senator Getty assigned research and writing projects rather than having me stuff envelopes all day. I actually got to participate in the function of state government,” says Harden of Gaither, Md., explaining that he sees making positive change not only as a career but as a lifestyle as well. “Once you understand how the system works, you have a greater possibility of making meaningful change.”
Getty, who represents District 5, notes that Harden assisted with all of the major issues of the 2013 legislative session.
“Ethan’s work was exceedingly valuable in one of the most contentious legislative sessions on record,” Getty says. “He researched and prepared floor materials about the bill to repeal the death penalty in Maryland. He worked with the Senate Republican Caucus on the strategy for the floor debate in opposition to Governor O’Malley’s gun control bill and gas-tax hike. He also testified before the Senate Finance Committee on a bill to support waiters and waitresses who are confronted with table walk-offs in a restaurant.”
The experience is even more valuable, says Harden’s advisor, Political Science professor Herb Smith, because it took place in a state legislature, which have been dubbed “the laboratories of democracy.”
“Annapolis internships provide McDaniel students with the invaluable opportunity to observe and sometimes even participate, via testimony before a committee or writing press releases, in the experiments themselves,” Smith says, giving a shout out to the Carroll County delegation that has historically gone above and beyond in accepting McDaniel students for the internship program.
“This is about as ‘real world’ as it gets in ‘Free State’ government, and we are truly blessed to have this opportunity for our students.”
Harden worked much of the time with McDaniel class of 2001 grad Amanda Boyd Miller, the senator’s chief of staff, who rates her internship at the Md. General Assembly with then-delegate Getty as one of the greatest learning experiences of her college years.
“Not only was my internship a great opportunity for me to network in Annapolis, it allowed me to see the legislative process first hand,” says Miller. “I believe it was my internship that ultimately led me to seek a profession within the state legislature after I graduated.”
For his part, Harden will long remember being in the caucus room spending a fast 2-3 minutes researching a specific aspect of gun control before sending it to the Senate caucus leader, and then the thrill of actually hearing it read on the Senate floor.
He will also take with him the experience of testifying before the Senate Finance Committee about a bill prohibiting employers from garnishing the tips of servers if parties skip out without paying their bills. Currently, employers are not permitted to dock wages for unpaid bills – but the law does not specify that tips cannot be garnished.
Harden works part time as a bartender and used an unfortunate experience one New Year’s Eve as an example in his testimony.
“People say they’re going for a smoke break and sometimes they don’t come back,” he says. “One New Year’s Eve, a party walked out on my girlfriend’s table leaving an unpaid $170 bill, which she had to pay out of her tips. She made no money for working until 1 a.m. on New Year’s.”
The bill, Senate Bill 553 sponsored by Senator Getty, passed April 8 on the final day of the 2013 legislative session and will become law on Oct. 1.
As much as his time in Annapolis – four days a week in January and two days a week this semester – meant to him, Harden doesn’t have his eye on public office. Instead, he would like to work for an organization, agency or business where he can apply his understanding of public policy.
“An understanding of public policy creates a better understanding of issues in almost any field,” says Harden, who continues to consider options for career or graduate school after his May graduation.
For insider’s view of what happened during the recent legislative session:
Maryland State Senators Edward Kasemeyer '67 and Joseph Getty discuss the important issues of the Maryland legislative session at “So What Just Happened: A Report from Annapolis,” sponsored by the Political Science department, at 7-8:30 p.m. April 17, on campus in 108 Hill Hall.