SCHUYLKILL HAVEN – After nearly four hours of total debate, local school students were able to pass draft legislation during Senator David G. Argall's (R-29) third annual "Senator for a Day" program on Thursday.
The program brought 12 local area schools from across the 29th Senate District to Penn State University's Schuylkill Haven campus. There the students were split into four committees Education, Finance, Transportation and State Government to debate bills.
During the committee process, students were chosen to be sponsors and opponents of legislation. Each committee featured legislative staff and organization representatives from Harrisburg to engage discussion and debate, while helping students articulate proposed amendments to bills.
"It's very interesting to hear many of the students make the same arguments we hear in Harrisburg for and against similar proposals." Argall said.
The students debated proposals including measures to ban texting while driving, sell the state's management of the lottery system, privatize the state's liquor stores, impose fees on school's extracurricular activities, and an issue Argall is currently working on in Harrisburg – school property tax elimination.
Similar to the state legislature, bills that cleared the committees were then discussed before the full "Senate." The bill sponsor and committee chairman were interrogated by the student body, amendments were offered and bills were either approved or defeated by a majority.
The longest debate was over the school property tax elimination. After nearly a half hour of debate, a measure was approved by a majority that would eliminate all school property taxes.
"We need that vote in Harrisburg," quipped Argall, who explained this is the number one issue he hears about from constituents. "None of you own a home yet," Argall explained to the students, "but a majority of you see how unfair property taxes are assessed."
Schools participating included Blue Mountain, Hamburg Area, Lehighton Area, Mahanoy Area, Marian, Minersville, North Schuylkill, Pottsville Area, Saint Clair, Schuylkill Haven, Tamaqua Area and Tri-Valley. Nearly 70 students participated in this year's program.
"I'd like to thank the students, teachers and advisers for participating. I think the students now have a new perspective on the legislative process," Argall said.