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Potsdam earns top six spots at Student Congress

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MALONE - On Saturday afternoon Franklin Academy hosted a Student Congress competition with 24 students participating.

The schools bringing students for this event included host Franklin Academy, Madrid-Waddington, Parishville-Hopkinton and Potsdam.

Mackenzie Neaton, Potsdam, was elected Presiding Officer for the session. He called the Congress to order and opened the door for any motions. The first order of business involved a motion to amend the docket.

It seems that Senator Ivan Jukic, Potsdam, had composed a bill for presentation, but realized that he had another commitment in Potsdam at the time he most likely would have presented his offering. So, Senator Noah Chichester moved to amend the docket to place Senator Jikic’s bill first on the docket so he could present. The Congress agreed.

Senator Jikic offered a bill entitled “A Bill to Regulate the Tax-Exempt Status of Religious Organizations.” Although this seemed an affront to all individuals who claim membership with an organized church, Senator Jukic was not referring to the discontinuation of the tax-exempt status for common beliefs of any church, but rather when the church uses monies for strictly political reasons. His examples included such matters as funding political campaigns with church monies or actively campaigning against such legislation as California’s Proposition 8. The discussion was lively and many thought that the separation of church and state ought to be preserved but many agreed that church monies ought to be used for the improvement of the facilities or for the needy membership, not for political lobbying purposes. An interesting discussion of the First Amendment.

Next, Potsdam’s Daniel Chichester presented a bill, “To Re-Implement the Affordable Care Act.” This stimulated an intense discussion about Obamacare and the failure of the federal government to offer functional means to register for such care. Senator Chichester suggested that there was a group of college students, all involved in the technologic curriculum , who actually corrected the original web site.

The Senator went on to state that the American public deserved better than it had received in this initial offering of health care. So, his intention with this bill was to hire a team of highly educated technicians to re-create the web site, insure its functionality, and then offer it to the American public. Despite some hesitation by other members of Congress there was a good number who felt that it is now or never if we were going to make health care affordable to six million individuals who do not have any health insurance.

Madrid-Waddington’s Emily Cafarella, a novice senator, offered a bill to change arts funding. She related to the Congress that the federal government had made drastic cuts in funding for the arts between 2009-2013. She also related that there have been significant advantages to students who are able to participate in the arts while in school, both in and outside of the classroom. The burning question in the minds of several of the Senators was “where will we get the money ?” Good challenge for this Congress and the one in Albany and Washington.

Senator Gwen Deuel, Potsdam, suggested in her bill that there ought to be some consequences to the corporations which take advantage of the tax breaks and support by the federal government only to move their plants out of the area or country.

When a corporation establishes a working plant in an area and that area and its population becomes symbiotically attached to that business, there are certainly ethical issues involved in closing and moving such a business. When the man says it isn’t about money, it’s about money. The “take what we can and then bale out” philosophy leaving an area with empty buildings and destitute conditions suggests little in terms of common decency. The membership understood the anger expressed by the author of the bill, but it was pointed out that there is nothing illegal about moving a business, in whole or in part, from one country to another. Outsourcing is a real life frustration for many Americans. Should the federal government assume a more protectionistic attitude in their dealings with corporations?

Potsdam’s Senator Elijah Adams felt that the United States was lagging behind in a compassionate consideration of workers. Specifically, his bill, “A Bill to Provide Workers With State-Subsidized Parental Leave,” would give more consideration to those couples who decide to establish a family.

Passage of this bill would elevate the rank of the United States significantly in the world regarding such compassion. In fact, the author of the bill pointed out that only four nations in the world do not make such a benefit available to its workers. The United States is one. Again, after all of the discussion, the one remaining question was mathematical. Who is going to pay for it ?

The sixth and final bill to be considered during this Congress was one which would amend the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment involves the right of citizens to vote and the frank statement that such a right cannot be denied or abridged by the United States or any state. The specific target in this bill was that population who are either presently incarcerated for felonious behavior or have served their time for such actions. Presently, there are many states which do not allow the restoration of the right to vote to any individual who is considered a felon. Such disenfranchisement seems contrary to the Constitution and the author thought it ought to be changed. So did the membership.

After an active three hours of debate and discussion the judges had the daunting task of assigning ranks to those participants considering speaking time, substantive offerings in terms of evidence or opinion, and respect of the rules of Congress. In the end Ivan Jukic, only able to stay for half the Congress, earned sixth place. Daniel Chichester placed fifth. Presiding Officer Mackenzie Neaton demonstrated a good command of Robert’s rules and kept the discussion flowing. For his efforts he was awarded fourth place. Third place was presented to Michael Hobbs whose mathematical sharing stimulated more discussion in several of the bills. Elijah Adams ranked second. First place went to Noah Chichester who came prepared to discuss every bill. He offered substantive data and pertinent questions to the authors of the bills. He certainly attempted to make each bill better from the discussion. Each of these top six students hail from Potsdam.

Another interesting Saturday afternoon, but I have to admit it is difficult to keep my tongue in check while listening.

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