Sunday, Jul 31, 2016
High School Leaders Program, Class of 2016
Day 8: Saturday, July 16, 2016
Reported by: Sunita Ganesh, Maggie Walker Governor's School and Trevor Monk, Eastside High School
After almost half of the program over, the stakes were high on the morning of the 16th. For the past eight days, we had been observing, reliving, studying, and lobbying to become emulations of our respective state senators. Finally, it was time for the Virginia General Assembly simulation.
We spent the evening prior trying to figure out the personality and voting record of each of our senators. Now, it was time for us to put our preparation to good use by moving forward legislation while in character. From tax incentives on cattle to funding veteran affairs programs, each of us had debatable, well researched, and original policy ideas. At the beginning of the simulation, we were all split off into our respective senatorial character’s party caucus. We immediately appointed the majority and minority leaders for the Democratic and Republican Parties, with the Grand Old Party (GOP) having the majority in the legislature. Each of us was given a packet with the committee we were assigned to. And, like the political junkies we are, we jumped right into the simulation activities.
The start of session drowned out political niceties and any sort of bipartisanship Sorensen emphasized throughout the course of the program. In an amusing departure from the typical civilities of the program, each partisan caucus worked almost immediately to engineer party platforms amidst committee organization by majority Republicans. Democrats, however, had the strong advantage of controlling the governorship and forced Republicans to think through negotiations and bills passed in fear of veto power. Though tensions rose over the course of the simulation, ultimately a collaborative and relatively moderate Senate floor session produced over ten bills passed into legislation. The experience was certainly one to remember and clued us in on the fickle nature of politics. Whether it was constituent needs, donor services, or personal beliefs conflicting with our representative, the simulation further enabled us to understand just how difficult it is to represent citizens and be a part of the legislative process.