Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Newsletter #00067

January 19-2010

Ok, so I had just seen Josh’s status about writing a newsletter and I realized how much I as well missed doing these. It certainly has been a very long while since I’ve last written one, and when I was looking through the blog the other day I realized that we really needed to start doing these again. So hopefully this is the start of the newsletter comebacks!

This past weekend I went to the 70th AIC Model Congress in Springfield MA and the experience was so interesting that I decided to write about it today. Considering how many of you newsletter readers contributed to helping Lauren and I perfect the bill, you are probably also curious about the trip. And if you aren’t well so be it. Don’t read this then, lol. Also, this newsletter is really long, feel free to skip around. I had a lot to say.

So the trip consisted of 10 of us from Gardner, the 8 delegates and 2 observers and of course Mr. Francoeur and Mr. Aho. We left Thursday afternoon and arrived at the hotel a few hours later. What generally happens the first day is that we get to the hotel, unpack and then go eat the best pizza ever at the Red Rose in Springfield. After we eat we come back and its time for the emergency session.

Basically this is the one session of debate at AIC where everybody, observers and delegates debate the same bill at the same time. The bill is a surprise to everybody before you get there. There’s supposed to be time to socialize before debating and so Lauren and I had totally planned to do that and to make friends so that we could get people to vote for our own bill, however we were shy and unsure of how to start a conversation and ended up talking to like one person, lol.

The emergency legislation this year was a bill that would basically legalize all currently illegal drugs in the country. Seriously, until you’ve been there you don’t realize how intense these debates can be, which is generally why I saw nothing at the emergency session. Although good points were made on both sides, the bill ended up failing.

Day 2 (Friday) is when we really start to get going with the debates. After breakfast and the keynote speaker we split up into committees to debate 6 or 7 bills. We do this is usually two sessions, a morning one and an afternoon one, but if you are unlucky enough to not finish in time they make you stay after dinner and finish.

The bill Lauren and I were sponsoring on Legal Joining was supposed to be 2nd but there was a problem (well, multiple really) with getting the correct, amended version of the bill passed. To make a long story short we actually had to come onto Facebook to get the correct copy of the bill.

Anyways, one of the things most of you probably don’t know about unless you’ve done it before is what we actually do at Model Congress to debate a bill. So I’ll break it down for you.

1) The sponsor of the bill (or 1st in favor) takes the floor to speak on the bill.
2) The sponsor generally closes themselves so that no questions can be asks while speaking.
3) Once they are done speaking they open themselves and people start to ask questions about the bill, using proper procedures and whatnot (I won’t get into these here)
4) The sponsor yields the floor and a 1st opposed comes up and does the same thing but speaking against the bill.
5) Repeat with the cosponsor (2nd in favor) and 2nd opposed.
6) After all 4 of these speakers are done you enter general debate where anyone can seek the floor and speak for or against the bill.
7) During general debate any amendments that have been written for the bill are presented and then you vote on whether or not to read them. In committee if the amendment is read there must be a debate on whether or not to pass the amendment itself.
8) After everyone is done debating someone says “Motion to move to previous question”, which is basically a motion to vote on voting. (Yes, voting takes FOREVER. You have to take an initial tally, then vote on voting or vote on reading the amendment or whatever it might be. Then if that passes you vote on the actual motion. I believe they may also do another initial tally in the middle of that but I can’t remember)

This is basically the process you go through for each and every bill. On top of this there’s all the different points (of inquiry, query, order, personal preference, parliamentary inquiry…) and motions. It’s kind of a lot to take in. Plus you have to be careful to always speak through the chair instead of directly to the person you are asking the question of and to make sure your question isn’t rhetorical.

Anyways, enough with the logistics of things. In the first day of committee our group only passed 2 bills, ours and another one about funding for pluripotent stem cell research (which was actually one of my favorite bills presented). Our bill passed 13-12-0 (that is, 13 in favor, 12 opposed and 0 abstentions)

I was very happy with how debate went. Although some people didn’t seem to comprehend that our bill in no way interfered with religion, many people had some good points about the bill.

The second day at AIC they usually hold a dance. 2 years ago it was a really cool magic show. The dance was a lot of fun. All us Gardner kids also went swimming and in the hot tub which was nice.

Saturday was the third and final day of AIC. This is the day when they split you into 2 groups—House and Senate. My delegation was in the Senate this year. This day is for debating all the bills that passed through committee the day before.

My delegation (me, Lauren, Katie and Mary) sat at a table and another group of kids from Belchertown joined us. It was great actually because as it turns out, they’re pretty much our twins. We spent much of the Senate session making cootie catchers and coloring Disney pictures with crayons. Hahaha its always good to embrace your inner child.
There was another problem with our bill (2 times again actually) on the last day so our bill ended up being like 4th or something to be debated. I was surprised with how many people supported our bill. Other than the occasional person who refused to listen to a word about the bill and decided instead to talk about how it went against our founding fathers’ religion and whatnot, it was a really good debate.

Our bill passed through the Senate 44-16-1, so almost 75% of the people voted for it, which was really cool. Pretty much the rest of the first day was spent the same way, debating bills and such until Gardner decided to leave early.

Yeah so, that was AIC. This is my third year attending and I think the trip becomes more fun every year. Gardner wasn’t even hated this year! Hahaha we made friends for once.

Anyways, I think the whole process of government is really interesting and Model Congress definitely gives you a good introduction to what our senators and representatives do on a daily basis. I’d be interested in possibly pursuing a career in politics, only I don’t know if I’d ever be elected for anything since our country (and I really did read this somewhere) is less likely to vote an atheist/agnostic into office than a Muslim or a recent immigrant. Go figure. I guess I’m secretly evil or something, who knows.

Ok, well I hope you enjoyed reading this because it feels good to be back hopefully in the swing of things with these newsletters. Now we just need to get Brad back on board!

Oh, and remember if you want to read our past newsletters they are up on www.newslettergroup.blogsp
ot.com and I have a blog of my own at www.kaydotsidot.blogspot.com.

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