Students discuss a bill about funding for a statue to acknowledge the women’s suffrage movement during the 2019 Model Legislature at Winona State University’s Tau Center.
by ALEXANDRA RETTER
From greenhouse gases to real estate advertisement requirements, marijuana decriminalization and a women’s suffrage statue, Model Legislature participants discussed a plethora of topics while learning about how Minnesota’s government functions. Students served as members of the House of Representatives, Senate and Governor’s Office, as well as pages, while trying to make and pass laws.
This year’s Model Legislature took place on November 20 and 21 at Winona State University’s (WSU) Tau Center. Representative Gene Pelowski, who has been the advisor to the Model Legislature for 44 years, said about 140 students participated this year. There were students from seventh through 12th grade in addition to Minnesota State College Southeast students and WSU students.
“You have a mix of not just grade and education level; you’ve got non-traditional students, too,” Pelowski shared. “We had people here who have a family, they’re going back to school either at Winona State or at a technical college, which gives us an interesting dynamic.”
Pelowski stated students quickly grasped how to present bills, discuss bills and utilize proper legislative procedures, such as addressing the chair of the committee before speaking.
Kate Grebin, who is in eighth grade at Cotter Schools, said she took part in Model Legislature as an education committee member after her history teacher suggested she try it out. Grebin said her committee talked about education funding and school security, among other topics, and agreed with the committee chair, for the most part. She said she enjoyed learning about the legislative process as it had not been discussed much yet in school. This year was her first experience with the legislature, and she hopes to come back in the future, she said.
Maddie Lemmer, who is in seventh grade at Cotter, served as a page for the senate. She said she is glad to have learned that bills go through many stages before being passed. She was particularly interested in a bill that would lower the cost of insulin, which ultimately passed. Like Grebin, this year marked her initial participation in the legislature, and she hopes to return next year, she said.
Xavier Anderson, who is in eighth grade at Bluffview Montessori, served as a page during last year’s Model Legislature. This year, he was a member of the commerce committee. He shared that his committee discussed hunting, road upkeep and the teaching of cursive writing in schools, as well as other subjects. He explained that his committee was in agreement on most matters and either definitely agreed about bills or definitely disagreed about bills.
Keeli Meyer, who is in seventh grade at Bluffview Montessori, served as a page this year. She stated she was happy to observe the process of bills being passed and wishes to attend the legislature next year as a legislator so her opinions on bills can be heard. She said she would want to be a member of the commerce committee.
A number of schools, including Winona Senior High School, Winona Middle School, Cotter High School, Austin High School, Bluffview Montessori School, Rushford-Peterson High School, Minnesota State College Southeast and Winona State University took part in this year’s Model Legislature.
Pelowski said he feels it is important for students to value public service and the process of learning.
“There’s no partisan designation here,” Pelowski said of the Model Legislature. “We don’t have Republicans and Democrats. Now you might be liberal or conservative — you can’t take that away — but you can do a lot more without partisanship. And the partisanship is where we bog down. It’s just fun seeing [Model Legislature students] debate … and how much more they can get done.”