Recap: TeenPact Congress
This week’s installment of the TeenPact Blog is brought to you by Justin Myers (NE). Justin served on the staff team for this year’s 2016 TeenPact Congress alumni event, held in Tallahassee, Florida.
Congress 2016 opened with a bang, as President of the Senate Zach Kaufman gaveled in the first joint session in the hallowed halls of the Florida Capitol. The fifth TeenPact Congress Session was one of largest ever, with almost 90 students from all over the United States. Students came for a real life legislative experience, and weren’t disappointed. The week’s events were held in the Florida State Capitol’s House Chamber, The Historic Senate Chamber, and assorted committee rooms throughout the sprawling Florida Capitol. As in past years, students had the opportunity to choose from four tracks — Representatives, Senators, Media, and Lobbyists — to then spend the week acting out their role in the legislative drama.
Legislators had the opportunity to choose and research bills they wanted to sponsor and cosponsor ahead of time. They then attended three committee hearings during the week, as well as debate during a joint session of the Congress on a Constitutional amendment and debates on their assorted bills. The media team worked to put out two papers and a broadcast everyday, as well as taking pictures and making sure that legislators were held accountable. The lobbyists divided into different lobbying teams and educated Senators and Representatives on bills that they both supported and opposed, as well as helping to make sure that the session ran smoothly as pages.
Highlights of the week included two press conferences and a number of controversies involving backroom deals between Speaker of the House Ben Sullivan and the minority parties’ leaders and party whips. On Wednesday afternoon, TeenPact President Jeremiah Fitzpatrick held a press conference on the 25th floor of the Florida Capitol in order to veto a bill he didn’t feel met his qualifications to become law. The legislators chose not to try to override his veto. However, they did pass BECC011 which removed cannabis from the list of Federal banned substances. The bill was promptly signed by President Fitzpatrick. Needless to say, each day offered riveting exchanges between the political parties!
At the end of the week, legislators, reports, and lobbyists ended the session on an upbeat note. Representative Josh Cockroft reminded students to take the things that they had learned and apply it at home. Congress is a great opportunity to try hands-on lawmaking and to go deeper into the process of the legislature. We’d love for you to join us next August for TeenPact Congress 2017!