St. Mary's Finds Success at Maryland Student Legislature

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The St. Mary’s College of Maryland delegation of the Maryland Student Legislature (MSL) met on the weekend of March 3 and 4 at McDaniel College, where the Spring Leadership Training Institute and Interim Assembly were held. Two bills drafted by St. Mary’s students were passed, and they will be under consideration by the Maryland General Assembly.

According to MSL’s official website, MSL is an organization that brings delegations of students from colleges state-wide to “simulate the legislative process by examining legislation in committees, reporting them to the full assembly, and then debate and vote on that legislation.” MSL elects students to positions such as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, who preside over the assemblies just as political leaders would at real sessions of the Maryland General Assembly.

Pam Schrenk, a senior and the Lieutenant Governor of MSL, explained that the student delegations “propose bills that are Maryland-centric. They represent what we want done in Maryland, and what we would want the actual General Assembly to do.”

Any bills that are passed in the MSL assemblies “are mandated in a compendium to present to the actual General Assembly. Whether or not they read it is a different story,” said MSL member and junior Alex Walls.

The two-day long event at McDaniel was composed of a leadership training program to prepare delegates for the bi-annual assemblies, and then the actual assembly event. “We have one in the fall, and a huge one in April at the State House,” said Schrenk, “and we actually get to use it and sit in the chairs and debate on the floor.”

“When we debate we use a structured debate system and try to be as civil as possible. Things get heated, but we’ve made it clear that if someone reacts to a bill a certain way it’s not personal. The people were friendly and debate was civilized and, at times, hilarious,” she added. “One proposal wanted to rebuild the Maryland statehouse in the shape of a crab, but it was done in civil language and discourse, which makes it more hilarious.”

Austin Kibler, a senior and the Delegation Chairperson for St. Mary’s, said that “at the Spring Interim Assembly we had 28 pieces of legislation, of which 13 were from St. Mary’s. At the event, we were able to debate 12 bills and only passed 5 of those 12. Three were not adopted.”

The two resolutions that were adopted included one drafted by Walls concerning the funding for a current Maryland solar energy program, which increased the funding to Clean Energy Grant Program. Sophomore Danielle Manos’ resolution concerning beekeeping zoning laws, which aims to make it easier for people to raise honey bees on their property, was also adopted.

“I chose to write a bill about beekeeping zoning ordinances, as some Maryland counties are trying to keep beekeepers from operating within residential areas,” said Manos of her successful resolution. “To most people this might not seem like a big deal, but to many beekeepers, including my father, these ordinances were threatening the beekeeping business. I was very surprised with how much support I got for my bill, and I was knowledgeable enough about honey bees and beekeeping to successfully argue against the opposition. “

The three bill that were not adopted were Nicole Zimmerman’s Act about Automatic School Meal Enrollment, which advocated the automatic enrollment of eligible children into the free or reduced lunch programs at their schools, Jonathan Holtzman’s resolution The reproach of the President of the United States, which disapproved of Obama’s use of UAV drone strikes, and a resolution submitted by the whole delegation act  Super Bright Headlights, which sought to outlaw very bright halogen head lights in certain cars.

Schrenk said, “I wrote a bill recommending that Governor O’Malley withdraw his proposal to completely shift teacher pension payment costs to individual counties. [Kibler] wrote two bills: one that would give more funding to Sotterley Plantation, and one that would increase the state tax on ammunition.” Schrenk’s and Kibler’s bills will be debated in Annapolis at the Annual Session in April.

While Schrenk said that this semester’s delegation, with a fresh crop of freshmen and sophomores, is the largest it has ever been, the St. Mary’s MSL is open to all those who are interested in law-making.

“As a Political Science major, or really any major that involves a lot of social interaction, Maryland Student Legislature is an excellent learning tool for so many reasons,” said Manos about her experience with MSL. “It helps with my public speaking, arguing and persuasion skills, gives me a better understanding of state and federal law, and gives me more self-confidence. Also being in the club is like being in a family and I encourage more people to join! It is so much fun!”

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