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Marine policy : A Capitol Hill perspective Public Deposited

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  • As a part of my graduate program in Marine Resource Management (MRM) at Oregon State University, I was fortunate to be able to pursue my interest in marine and coastal policy. I spent fifteen months as a Sea Grant intern in the United States Congress, challenged in ways I could not have anticipated. My unique exposure to congressional decision making from the 'inside' was an extremely stimulating education for one who had had little exposure to political science or the political process before. I had been exploring internship possibilities, and learned of the opportunity to intern with the U.S. Congress from Dr. Daniel Panshin, former Oregon State University extension oceanographer and MRM faculty member. In July 1979 he was a subcommittee staff director of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. I also discussed my interests with my advisor, the late Edward Condon, and other faculty members, and decided to pursue the congressional internship opportunity. The Oregon State University Sea Grant College Program and the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries provided me with a monthly living stipend from. October through December 1979, so I went to Washington in mid-September. In November I learned that I had been selected as a finalist for the National Sea Grant Fellowship Program, one of six graduate students from marine programs across the country chosen to spend a year learning about ocean policy on Capitol Hill. The Program began in January 1980, thus my congressional education was extended to a total of fifteen months, from October 1979 through December 1980. During the first nine months of my internship I worked with the House Subcommittee on Maritime Education and Training, chaired by Congressman Les AuCoin of Oregon. I spent the last six months in the office of Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas. I set a precedent for Sea Grant interns by serving on both sides of Congress. Congressman AuCoin and the subcommittee staff encouraged me to explore the opportunity to spend the last months of my stay learning about ocean policy in the Senate. In May, I interviewed with Senator Tsongas' chief legislative aide and learned of the Senator's interest in marine affairs, specifically outer continental shelf energy development, fisheries conflicts, and barrier island protection. The office was quite willing to take me on as a congressional fellow to work on those issues. So, with the full support and blessing of Congressman AuCoin and his staff, I moved to Senator Tsongas' office in early July 1980, where I remained for the duration of my internship. The period I spent on both sides of Congress was illuminating in many ways. I learned much about the making of ocean policy in the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. In the Senate I learned about slightly different legislative procedures as I became acquainted with outer continental shelf and coastal development policy as determined by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I was in the Senate during the highly explosive election and post-election time when the incumbent President Jimmy Carter and many members of both Chambers were unexpectedly and dramatically defeated. The education I received while interning for Congress will forever shape my understanding of and appreciation for the nature of the legal-political world in which decisions are made that affect all citizens and so many of our natural resources. I witnessed the very real impact special interest lobbying has on the outcome of legislation and policy making. Through my good fortune of interning in both Chambers of Congress I was exposed to some extremely competent and dedicated legislators and staff. I realized the numerous demands made on those elected to public office and the importance of a dependable, capable staff. Finally, I discovered the difficulty of achieving consensus in legislative decision making which sets national goals in ocean research, resource use, development and protection. •
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