Reported By: Emily Carder, Douglas S. Freeman High School and Adam Sachs, Maggie Walker Governor's School
The day began with breakfast and a brisk walk over to New Cabell Hall, where the group was excited to participate in our simulation of the Virginia state Senate. Earlier, we had each been given the role of a current senator and we were instructed to research, emulate, and make decisions based on the actual voting record of our senator. We first began the simulation by separating into our respective political party caucuses, where we discussed our party platform, leadership, and legislative goals. The strategies of each party were inherently different because, just like in the General Assembly, the Republicans were given a slight 16-15 majority.
After the meeting and a quick lunch from Panera, we were divided into three committees to discuss and vote on bills authored and submitted by our classmates just a few days before. In committee, we proposed and debated the merits of various bills to underscore the difficulties faced by legislators in the actual General Assembly. We then voted on each piece of legislation; bills that passed in committee were sent to a vote on the entire “Senate floor.”
After committee meetings, we re-convened with our individual caucuses and determined which bills the Republican and Democratic parties would vote for unanimously and which bills would face greater contention both within the party and across the aisle. During this period, the Republican majority party strategized as to which bills should be proposed and their order of proposal to optimize the success of the Republican platform on the Senate floor. Democrats took a different approach due to their slight minority--they worked to ensure party unity and adherence to our legislative goals.
At last, coming together on the Senate floor, we separated ourselves along party lines and began the legislative process of proposing, discussing, and voting on the legislation that had been passed through committee. With bills such as increasing tax exemptions on energy-efficient products to planting native wildflowers on the medians of I-81, I-95, and I-64, we navigated the difficulties of gaining bipartisan support and lobbying favor. Overall, we faced many challenges throughout the day, but we learned how to successfully emulate our respective senators.
We finished the night with a trip to the Corner for a bite to eat, before coming back to the dorms to watch “The Perfect Candidate,” a documentary about Virginian Oliver North’s campaign for US Senate in 1994. After a long day, a fun night, and an enjoyable movie, we were all tired and went straight to bed.