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Potsdam’s MJ Weirich takes top honors at Student Congress

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POTSDAM - Sixteen students from three schools attended a recent Student Congress at Potsdam Middle School.

This event serves to educate students how Congress operates in designing bills, presenting them and going through the legal process of debating the proposed changes and insuring the best outcome possible. It proved to be a busy session.

The first bill entertained was A Bill to Abolish the Electoral College. Senator Lucas Bird, Potsdam, introduced this bill suggesting that the system was antiquated, inefficient and unfair to the American voters. There were proponents and opponents and the bill was dissected thoroughly. In the end Congress liked Mr. Bird’s bill.

The second bill on the docket, authored by Potsdam’s Senator Mackenzie Neaton, was actually presented to the chamber by Senator MJ Weirich, also a senator from Potsdam. Senator Weirich offered the bill To Abolish the Patriot Act. He noted that the creation of this law was a knee jerk reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He noted that it invades the privacy of the American public, infringing on the individual’s right to privacy, a guarantee under our Constitution. Now, a decade after its creation, the Patriot Act has lost a great deal of favor among the people. Maybe it is time for it to be reconsidered. The Congress thought so too.

Senator Weirich also introduced the next bill, authored by Senator Michael Hobbs, Potsdam. Senator Hobbs had a conflict and was called away from the chamber. The bill dealt with the federal guidelines for school lunches, sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama. Senator Weirich noted that although the meals have been palatable, they do not seem adequate, especially for the athletes and those very physically active students who spend many hours at school and away from food. The bill stirred many concerns among the Senate and many voiced concerns about the present guidelines.

Several bills were resurrected for this session due to the number of students and the low number of bills offered prior to the tournament. So, the next bill was brought back from a session several years ago. It addressed the drinking age. The bill’s message was that it was time to reduce the drinking age to 16. This offering was met with tremendous opposition among the senators. It lived a short life.

Next was a bill to legalize marijuana. Again, the Congress proved to be sensitive to the issue and the possible usefulness of such an action especially for medical use. However, many of the members thought that the benefits may be overwhelmed by the complications of legalizing the drug for personal purchase and consumption. The discussion was actually quite pensive and perceptive.

Finally, there was a bill to legalize polygamy in the United States. Although not able to fully appreciate the difficulties of being in a committed relationship via marriage, the students had little trouble understanding the practical aspects of being engaged in many marital relationships simultaneously.

What would happen if a thousand people opted to be married ? How would they provide health care coverage ? These questions echoed the practical concerns of some of the members. In the end this bill met an early demise also.

The session was interesting and spirited. Senator James Miller, Madrid-Waddington, was the presiding officer for the session and was gracious enough to agree to coach an intern through her first experience associated with the chair. Anna DeRosa was the intern and under Mr. Miller’s tutelage she learned how to effectively guide a congressional session in an efficient manner. In this way the students are able to perpetuate their activity by insuring the presence of possible presiding officer.

It is a pleasure to listen to the ideas and opinions of our leaders of tomorrow. When all was said and done the actual winners were determined by the quantity and quality of the speeches given by each member of the session. MJ Weirich, the senator who stood in as co-sponsor of two bills , was determined by the judges to have been the best representative of our congressional members. His team mate also from Potsdam, Lucas Bird, jumped into the fray and offered many fine ideas and challenges and for this he earned second place. Third went to Potsdam’s Mackenzie Neaton. Madrid-Waddington’s James Miller and Malone’s Jenna Murtagh tied for fourth place. Sixth place went to Potsdam’s Gwyneth Heuser. And seventh was bestowed on Madrid-Waddington’s Alyssa Ryan.

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