The student government seminar, held by state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, took place at Pennsylvania College of Technology on Thursday. The seminar gave the students the opportunity to exchange ideas and ask questions of key players on the federal, state and local level. They were encouraged by Yaw to voice their opinion, debate the issues and compromise on language and to let the panelists be their guide throughout the day.
The participating schools included, Athens Area High School, Canton Area High School, Hughesville High School, Jersey Shore Senior High School, Loyalsock Township High School, Mifflinburg Area High School, Montgomery School District, Montoursville Area High School, Muncy Junior and Senior High School, North Rome Christian School, Northeast Bradford High School, South Williamsport Senior High School, St. John Neumann Regional Academy, Towanda Area High School, Troy Area High School and Williamsport Area High School.
The day started out with the students gathering at the Field House at Penn College where the students had a continental breakfast and the schools were able have a group photo taken with Yaw. Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, president of Penn College, and Yaw gave their welcoming remarks.
Students attending the student government seminar at Penn College, meet in a group to come up with amendments to add to a fictional bill that would allow all school employees with a license to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds and all school sanction functions, after participating in a 10 hour training program.
Following breakfast, Drew Crompton, counsel and chief of staff to state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, who is President Pro Tempore of the state Senate, engaged the students in an entertaining lecture about the dynamics of the legislative process. To get the students to have a better understanding of the state legislature, he asked the students about what roles they would prefer to have in government and why.
He then had selected student play out different scenarios that may occur in government and the struggles that can happen to get bills passed. He used the example of roads being bad in an area and a bill is on the table to raise gas prices $0.25 cents per gallon to pay for fixing the roads. The two selected students both said that they would not support the bill to raise gas prices, even through both agreed the roads needed the work done to them.
After the lecture, the students walked over to the Advanced Technology and Health Science Center where they broke into groups for the State Government: How it Really Works sessions. The students were assigned to a proposed bill where they had to work to convince members of the group that the amendments they felt should be included in the final proposal.
In the criminal justice group, students were given a fictional bill that would allow all school employees with a license to carry a concealed firearm to be able to carry the firearm on school grounds, provided the employee participates in a 10-hour training course by a certified instructor. The cost of the training would come from the expense of the school district. The bill also stated that the firearms would be taken to all school sanction functions, including off-campus events, like field trips and sporting events.
The group broke into pro and con groups, based off whether or not they felt guns belonged in the schools. Yaw, Bobbie Kilmer, from Claverack Rural Electric Cooperative, Clint Cullision, from Greenlee Partners LLC, and Marcus Kohl, from the Department of Environment Protection, went around the room and played the role of lobbyist to tell the students how different organizations would feel on the subject. Elizabeth Regan, Lycoming County public relations coordinator represented the media's role in passing the bill.
After the pros and cons met they gathered back to share their amendments with the other group. A majority and minority chair was selected from each party to keep order on the floor. The student went through each amendment and debated back and forth about which amendments belonged in the bill and which ones did not. In the end the group came up with seven amendments that they agreed on including:
Employees with identities only known by the administration already licensed and willing to carry a firearm.
Additional annual review and psychological evaluation of the candidates for the concealed carry
Amendment only applies on school grounds
School boards have the right to choose whether concealed weapons are allowed.
Teachers and administrators are the only ones allowed to have concealed weapons.
The National Rifle Association agrees to pay for the additional 10 hours of training, along with self defense classes.
The bill passed with a majority vote among the students. Yaw then spoke to the students and explained that this is the struggle he sees with bills in the Senate, and that compromise is key to getting bills passed.
"Our government is set up for compromises," Yaw said, "That is why we have the three branches of government."
The students then breaked for lunch. During that time Yaw presented The Peggy Madigan Memorial Leadership Scholarships, named in memory of the late wife of former state Sen. Roger A. Madigan, to high school seniors Caleb J. Maenza of North Rome Christian School and Jessica M. Stevens of Athens Area High School. Both students plan to enroll as full-time students at Penn College.
After the scholarships were awarded, the students moved on to the Issues That Could Affect Your Future session. The students broke into groups based off their interests to listen to a panel of experts and were able to share ideas. The different groups included, criminal justice, education, environment and health and human services.