Students take part in model assembly

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Seven students of the Youth and Government Club at Randolph-Henry High School participated in the 70th Virginia YMCA Model General Assembly (MGA) held at the state capitol recently.

According to a press release, “for three days more than 500 students from both public and private high schools throughout Virginia descended on Richmond to experience first-hand the duties and responsibilities of state legislators.”

Beginning in August, the youth legislators had to brainstorm on ideas for proposed legislation, narrow the topics, research the impact such legislation might have on the citizens of Virginia and author bills for introduction at the state capitol in the spring. “The culminating activity is the actual presentation of this student-authored bill in the respective committee and later on the full house or senate floor if passed.”

According to the release, Randolph-Henry’s effort was led by seniors George Thomas Sandridge, house of delegates and Bradford Webb, senate, who co-sponsored a proposal to an existing law. “Their amendment sought to increase the punishment for individuals accused and found guilty of participating in a riot causing public and private property damage. A very controversial topic generating contentious debate, this bill was effectively argued by Sandridge in the house counties, cities, and towns Committee and passed. Experiencing the complete legislative process, he then defended the bill on the house floor in full chamber, sparring and debating with fellow youth delegates, and finally won approval through a voice vote.”

Continuing with the total Virginia legislative experience of crossover, it was Webb’s turn to convince fellow youth senators of the bill’s merits in the local government committee.

“He achieved this with aplomb despite strong opposition from the lobbyist for local government. After a yes vote in committee, the bill was scheduled for a full senate debate. Webb self-assuredly argued for passage in front of the 60 youth senators and guided the bill to a yes vote from a divided senate floor. The final step in the process, the youth governor’s veto or signature, came later on Saturday when the youth governor announced in the joint session of the Model General Assembly that he had signed the bill.”

According to the release, achieving passage “of your personal legislation is the more visible aspect of the MGA experience. It is often written that making laws is a lot like making sausage — you really don’t want to know. Our students experienced it all. Even with no personally authored bill to introduce, two other house of delegate students were earlier assigned to committees and were responsible for five to six bills in their respective committees.  Junior Nicole Henry and Sophomore Trent Pettus were assigned the transportation and education committees, respectively, and had researched the proposed bills and spoke in favor or opposition to passage in committee and on the house floor.”

“One reads today of the impact lobbyists have on the legislative branch of government,” the press release noted. “The MGA is not without lobbyists. This is a major role played by the youth participants. Each lobbyist has chosen to fill that role and is assigned to a committee to lobby for or against proposed bills. This consists of hours of research and fact gathering as the expert in the field. Junior Alexa Moore was Randolph-Henry’s lobbyists assigned to the court of laws committee. As a lobbyist, Alexa followed her legislation from the senate to the house following crossover. One of the main duties of the lobbyist is to follow the debate as it is happening, conduct real-time research and supply delegates and senators on the floor with the latest information available. Because of her demonstrated dedication, positive attitude and timely judgement, Alexa was nominated and subsequently selected by the YMCA organizers to attend the annual Conference on National Affairs.”

According to the release, only 30 students are nominated out of the 500 or more students for the 15 seats allotted Virginia at the national conference.

“Rounding out the Randolph-Henry delegation were freshmen Tori Noe and Pearl Sandridge, who participated in the underclassmen program. This program mirrors the MGA and provides the students with a concise understanding of the Virginia legislative process as well as guided tours of the capitol building and adjacent government facilities.”