This week on the floor of the House Chamber we heard debate on everything from equal pay to legalizing marijuana.
But in this case, it was not our members or any real legislation. It was mock legislation drafted by the delegates from the 2014 Boys State and Girls State program.
The National American Legion established the Boys State program in 1935. The American Legion Auxiliary established Girls State in 1937. Since that time, some of the nation’s brightest high school juniors have come together where an invented "state" is established.
Boys State and Girls State provides our students with an opportunity to learn how our government operates without using a text book. It teaches them through a real-life experience they will never forget.
Many go on to enter into the field of public service. In fact, 18 of our current representatives participated in the Boys State and Girls State program when they were in school.
In Arkansas, Boys State is held every summer at the UCA campus in Conway. Girls State is held at Harding University in Searcy.
The delegates hold elections for nearly every state office. Near the end of the program, those young men and women who have been elected as state representatives come to the House Chamber to vote on the mock bills they drafted previously during the week.
The bills they draft and how they vote always give us insight into the issues that are important to this generation.
This year, Arkansas Girls State Representatives drafted and passed a bill to raise the minimum age required to serve on a jury from 18 to 21. They also passed mock legislation which would allow universities to consider community service as scholarship criteria.
They voted down two bills. One of the bills that failed would have created an income tax deduction for employees of Arkansas based businesses. The other would have increased taxes for prepared food and diverted the funds to school cafeterias.
Representatives of Boys State drafted and passed a bill to increase the penalty for those convicted of driving while intoxicated on the third offense. They also passed legislation to give teachers a salary increase of up to 20%. A bill to legalize marijuana passed the House but a similar version from Senate failed to receive enough votes.
A bill that would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus failed.
We have no doubt there are future leaders among this class of delegates. We look forward to seeing how they impact our state.
If you know a young man or woman interested in serving encourage them to visit with their high school guidance counselor who can provide information on how to participate in next year’s program.