Students learn about government

Students from 13 school districts in Northcentral Pennsylvania gained hands-on knowledge of the workings of government at the annual Sen. Gene Yaw Student Government Seminar Thursday at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The event allows students and teachers to interact with local, state and federal officials, lobbyists, special interest and media represents in order to explore the legislative process.

“The purpose of this is to just give you a little bit of a taste of what the legislative process is like,” Yaw told the students at the opening of the seminar.

“You have an opportunity to really interact with a group of diverse people that you normally probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet,” he said. “Take advantage of it. Talk to them. Participate in the legislation that we’ve prepared for you to at least act on. And probably one of thing you might recognize by the end of the day is that compromise is a really important thing in doing any legislative work.”

Students were introduced to the dynamics of the legislative process by Drew Crompton, the counsel and chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway.

“This is about the legislative process. What I call the push and the pull of state government,” Crompton said. “We’re not going to worry so much about what’s going on, the nonsense in Washington. We’re going to look at what happens in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, and try to work through some hypotheticals, some Q & A’s, some different things.”

Crompton challenged the students to think through the question, “Who has more power in the state government? Governor, senator, representative, or a new addition, the courts?”

Throughout his presentation, Crompton urged the students to think about what goes into crafting and passing a law.

“I want you to think about something and every answer alluded to it. Who goes first in legislative process? Representatives, senators. If you want a bill passed, you’ve got to start it over here. Who goes second? The governor. He or she goes in the middle, gets to evaluate the work product of the legislature. Who goes third? The judges. They get to evaluate the handiwork of the legislature and the governor and decide if it’s constitutional,” he said.

“They all have benefits. It can’t start unless you draft the law. But once you pass it, you lose control of the law,” he added.

He also discussed who has the most influence in what legislation gets passed–legislators, lobbyists, the media or the public.

Crompton cautioned the group not to make policy by talking points after one of the students said, “I think by having elected officials, going along with their party, a lot of times that means pushing their agenda– that’s what they want. And it’s hard to compromise…”

Following Crompton’s presentation, the group broke into sessions to discus how state government really works. With the help of mentors from special interest groups as well as legislators, the students were charged with making changes to mock legislation. At the end of the seminar, students participated in a mock general voting session.

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