By Rosie Alger
Elm Staff Writer
With elections around the corner in November, Maryland Student Legislature brings together both Democrats and Republicans to focus on Maryland legislature.
MSL is a bipartisan political club on campus, but they do a lot outside of Washington College, too. The club is a delegation that is part of a state-wide, student-run, mock state legislation. Students debate, write amendments, and vote on a governor all in the style of Maryland’s government.
At the end of October, the club will sponsor a debate between the College Republicans and the College Democrats to discuss statewide issues and prepare for the upcoming election. In addition to holding events for the WC community, the club also travels to compete with other colleges in the area.
There are four major sessions that WC’s delegation attends each year. The last session is called “Annual” and is held in the Annapolis Statehouse. The sessions are highly structured with Parliamentary procedure and are held at colleges around the state. At each session, delegations break down into the house of delegations and the senate, and then into committees. Finally, the floor is opened up for debate on bills the students have written.
Sophomore Tori Venable is the president of the club and the delegate chairperson from WC’s delegation. “It’s not just a club on campus…every two months we have a weekend that we spend away at another college,” she said. “It’s just like Model UN (United Nations), but for state legislation.”
The bills that are debated are about relevant, real world issues in state and national politics. Students write bills about topics that they are passionate about and are given the opportunity to turn mock bills into actual laws. Venable said, “If bills get passed in the annual session and signed by the fake [student] governor there, they actually get sent to the General Assembly.”
Sometimes the Maryland General Assembly even passes the bills. “Within the last couple of years we have had student bills get passed and in that case you would be the sponsor of a Maryland law,” said Venable.
Every part of the mock legislation is organized and run by students. “The governor and the rest of the state council are actually students too,” said Venable. “During Annual, there are elections…We do campaigns and speeches.”
After all of the debating and voting progress that happens over the course of the year’s sessions, the end of the Annual conference brings a reward. “There’s the formal competition. We have a gala after Annual, and usually there are a couple of distinguished speakers.” Venable said. “Gov. [Martin] O’Malley spoke last year. There are awards given there, and some have actual scholarships attached to them.”
WC’s delegation is fairly small with only four people at the Sept. 23 meeting, but Venable is looking for more interested students. “We want to expand. It would make us more competitive in the actual debate,” she said. “It’s nice to get fresh ideas, and we would be able to do more things on campus, which would be great.”
If you are interested and want to get more information about MSL and WC’s delegation, check out MSL.org, the club page on WC’s website, or contact Venable at vvenable2. No prior experience is necessary to get involved, as Venable and other returning members will guide new members through the process.
The group meets every other Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Daly 211 to discuss on and off campus plans as well as to practice parliamentary procedure to prepare for the debates. New member and sophomore Alex Roberts said, “Not only is it exciting to participate in, but it will definitely also help build some skills like public speaking and debating.”