A Day on the Hill

Caitlin Collis | Wayne | PR and Communications Intern

Looking straight up in front of me on Third Street stands an enormous white building with a large green dome on top and flights of concrete stairs pouring down from it. Walking up the large set of concrete steps, I finally reached the entrance. 

I entered through the bronze framed doors and, after a quick scan through the metal detector, I gathered myself and turned away. I walked straight and there I was standing inside Pennsylvania’s State Capitol building in Harrisburg. Former president Theodore Roosevelt said it was the “handsomest building [he] ever saw.” Now, I understood what he was talking about.

This was just a glimpse of my first moments on the Hill this past September. For my visit, I shadowed Margaret Durkin, one of Bravo Group’s government specialists, at the Capitol for the day, along with a fellow Bravo intern, Morgan Hocker. Our day consisted of attending hearings, lobbying meetings and getting hands-on experience of Bravo’s government relations practice.

To start our day, we sat in a meeting with Margaret and one of Bravo’s clients to discuss some of the client’s priorities. For me, this was a new experience because I never saw interactions with government representatives and staff members behind the scenes. It was exciting and informative to hear the discussions to push for change in legislation.

After this, we headed to a hearing with the PA House Insurance Committee. The committee was holding a hearing on House Bill 1605. This was one of the more intriguing experiences for me that day because I never attended a hearing prior to this. It was interesting to see the procedures and protocols of the hearing. The hearing served as an informational meeting to learn more about HB 1605 sponsored by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin). 

The bill would allow licensed insurance agents to charge a fee to consumers when no commissions are paid. In this meeting, I listened to representatives for and against this legislation pitch their stance and why it should or should not be pushed through. They also proposed their suggested changes to improve the bill.

Ideally, HB 1605 would ensure the insurance agents are being paid for their services. After a representative for this bill proposed his argument, the committee asked questions to clarify and better understand his stance on this bill. It was enlightening to hear the different perspectives on this given topic. Since this experience, I have become more interested in following all types of legislation and policies that are being proposed or pushed for throughout Pennsylvania’s government, as well as the federal government.

After this hearing, the next task on our agenda for the day was to briefly step in and see inside the Senate, which was interesting to see since the only other time I saw the Senate was via public broadcasting on Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). After our brief stop in the Senate, we headed back to the main rotunda to attend a press conference. 

At the press conference, we listened to groups rallying for statute of limitations reform. Here, it was interesting to see the multitude of sides on this legislation. Along with government officials, both the media and grassroots organizations were present for this conference. With government policy and legislation, it is especially important to listen to and understand all sides of the story because there is a bigger picture to things like this. 

Overall, my experience on the Hill was very insightful on government relations as a whole. It helped me see how Bravo Group’s government relations practice helps clients communicate with government representatives by organizing their interactions with the government, legislators and interest groups in Harrisburg. This shadowing experience also allowed me to have more insight into the process of public policy and legislation because I sat in on the processes that occurred throughout meetings, hearings and conferences that took place at the Capitol.

Bravo Intern