Friday, May 11, 2012

Nicole Wallace Completes NYS Senate Internship

Nicole Wallace, Class of 2013, spent the spring semester as an intern with the New York State Senate in Albany.  This is the final post in her series on her experience in Albany.

The month of April was especially exciting for session assistants up in Albany as we prepared for the 2012 Model Legislative Session.  The Model Legislative Session is a mock session where each session assistant has the opportunity to present their own bill that they have drafted.
The preparations began in mid March when we nominated and then elected our president.  The election was close between CUNY Baruch senior Isis Hollis and SUNY New Paltz senior Nick LaStella, but in the end Nick won by just two votes.  Immediately after that we broke into our party's by random draw.  I was part of the majority party which was entitled the Phoenix Party, and the opposing minority party was named the Vox party.  After selecting party names we nominated leaders.  SUNY Albany senior Javerea Khan was majority leader and I was deputy majority leader.  The minority leaders were Jimmy and Vincent, seniors from SUNY Albany.
The next few weeks were spent analyzing our party bills as well as the minority party's bills.  On April 19, 2012, both parties held a rehearsal in the Senate chamber where we learned the proper rules and procedures of session.  On April 20, session began promptly at 9am. President LaStella opened session with a well presented speech as well as greetings to our friends and family who were attending this exciting event.  Soon after we began presenting of our bills.  I was especially nervous because my bill was second on the calendar.  The first bill, dealing with implementing new traffic light signals, passed unanimously.  Next, I delivered my speech, which mandated a low student to teacher ratio in High School Math classes, and then nervously sat down.  I thought the hard part was over; however, the other party choose my bill to be debated.  This meant my colleagues were going to ask me questions about my bill and try to stump me.  The questions were fierce, but I articulated my answers clearly and with confidence.  In the end my bill was passed by a vote of 14-8. I was excited and glad many of my colleagues supported my bill.  The rest of session was fun and entertaining.  I debated a couple of bills and stood up in support for a few as well.

Nicole Wallace and peers voting at the Model Legislative Session

By the end of session, all but one of the bills had passed.  My friend, SUNY Old Westbury senior Jeremy Brown's bill had not passed.  Jeremy's bill gave all living things the same rights as humans.  Jeremy's intent was to write a bill that would end animal abuse.  However, his language did not specify just animals, but used the term living things, which made cutting trees down, hunting, and fishing all illegal.  Although many of my colleagues did not agree with Jeremy's bill, I voted in the affirmative based on his intent of the bill.  However, in the end the bill was defeated by a vote of 6-16.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Albany at the New York State Senate.  I met a lot of amazing people and learned about the bill process and how bills are passed.  I would definitely recommend the program to anybody thinking about it.  It was a great opportunity.

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