Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, speaks during the third reading of Senate Bill 198 on the Senate floor in February.

I still recall walking into the Roundhouse on my first day as a legislative intern, mesmerized by the magnitude of the Capitol and by the energy of staffers rushing from one responsibility to the next. I remember thinking how I would love to be surrounded by this daily.

This school year, I have had the honor of interning with Majority Floor Leader Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and his right-hand woman, chief of staff Lorraine Montoya, during the 2021 special session and the 2022 legislative session. I went into it looking to gain a glimpse into the inner workings of politics and government as part of a high school elective class, made available to both Santa Fe High and Capital High students. I left with the experience of a lifetime.

Every Tuesday morning, I would head toward the Roundhouse, where Montoya and Wirth would assign me a task for the day, be it sitting in on a committee hearing, a meeting with lobbyists or, my personal favorite, being alongside Wirth on the Senate floor during bill debates. There, I was able to hear the back-and-forth arguments as the bevy of sponsored bills tried to pass the Senate. During the floor hearing announcements, Wirth introduced me to all members of the chamber, and I felt incredibly special.

As part of my internship, I was also able to follow certain bills through their entirety as they made their way through both chambers, including Senate Bill 8, the Voting Rights Act, and Senate Bill 43, prohibiting life without parole for a minor.

Ultimately, neither bill passed, but hearing the perspectives of both Democrats and Republicans regarding these issues was absolutely bewildering to me, as both sides had very compelling arguments as to why they were in support or not of the bill. It was enlightening to hear both sides of arguments instead of relying on my own bias on various issues.

However, not only was I learning during the session, I am continuously learning about all the things that make the Legislature run out of session as well. I have covered complex topics such as the state budget and the extraneous length of drafting a bill. Yet I still have so much to learn.

This experience was insanely eye-opening in terms of becoming more actively involved in my state government and learning the issues fellow civilians advocated for. Even during this short 30-day session, it seemed there was so much movement, and I would like to continue my involvement in the law.

Words can simply not express how much I enjoyed my time at the Legislature, and I especially appreciate Wirth and Montoya for giving me an opportunity I believe not many high schoolers have had. Maybe one day I, too, will have a seat at the lawmaking office as a state senator. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, I will continue to absorb all the information I can.

Valeria Ramirez is a junior at Santa Fe High School. Contact her at ramirezvaleria2105@gmail.com.

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