Seniors Participate in the 16th Annual Model Congress


Credit: Claire McMahon

Senators vote on a bill in the choir room.

Opal Kendall, Assistant Editor

For two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled a popular Western tradition, but this pattern stops today. During the Model Congress and the weeks leading up to it, seniors taking U.S. Government to write, debate, revise and vote on bills in the hope that they will or will not be signed into law by President Larson. The return of Model Congress brought a wide range of bills, from caps on insulin prices to invading Canada, from abolishing private prisons to making pet raccoons legal, and from the right to repair to buying Greenland. Throughout the day, the Western Hemisphere staff will be providing real-time coverage both here and on our Instagram (@thewesternhemisphere) as we track what bills are signed into law, why, and how students feel about the events of their Model Congress. See photos of the day here.

Update: Morning Committee Sessions

After a lively morning of debate in committees, many bills have passed and many have not. Among the most notable passages are bills about hydroponic farming, physician-assisted suicide for terminal ill patients, reduced college tuition for public colleges, the annexation of Canada, abolishing the death penalty, prison education reform, criminalizing conversion therapy, allowing raccoons to be domesticated as pets, and creating a real-life Fortnite.

Update: Gender Equality in the Draft

Members of the House of Representatives participated in a very currently relevant debate about expanding the draft to include all genders, not just men. Some of the featured points include a potential increase in military spending and access to menstrual products for people with periods, and a provision prohibiting two parents from being drafted. Ultimately, this bill passed by a significant margin.

Update: School to Prison Pipeline 

As a law, this bill would prohibit out-of-school suspension unless there is an extreme threat or offense to keep kids in schools where they can make social connections and prepare for a career. The opposition to this bill argued that it would be dangerous and reckless not to suspend people who pose a direct threat to the school. Additionally, speakers argued that preventing out-of-school suspension would not change an outcome if students were “hell-bent” on committing a crime. The Senate has taken a paper vote on this bill, and it is unknown as to whether it passed.

Update: Death Penalty Removal

In the Senate, seniors participated in a highly polarized debate about the abolition of the death penalty, opponents of this bill arguing that the death penalty is warranted in extreme cases and that its use creates more space in prisons and decreases the costs of keeping a person imprisoned. However, ultimately, this bill passed, and once goes into effect, the United States will no longer be the only Western country to still use the death penalty.

Update: Real-Life Fortnite for Death Row Inmates

Perhaps, one of the most dystopian bills during this Model Congress, this bill would create a real-life Fortnite simulation in which the winner would be released from prison. During the debate, representatives pointed out issues with this being a cruel and unusual punishment, exposing the public to a violent convicted felon, and one member of the House asking why not just abolish the death penalty if part of the pros of this bill would be to save money. During the debate, the House passed a provision to the bill that would allow gambling on a winner, similar to the well-known series the Hunger Games. Ultimately, votes were too close to determine a clear majority from a hand vote, so the House was forced to vote with paper ballots, after which it was announced that the bill had passed.

Update: Menstrual Health Care Affordability 

If this bill were to be signed into law, it would prohibit the taxation of menstrual products by reclassifying them as a necessary good rather than a luxury good, this deficit being made up by a tax increase on hard liquor and spirits. During the debate, the Senate passed a provision removing anti-balding medication and viagra from the list of untaxed products. This bill passed unopposed.

Update: Increase the Illegality of Crystal Methamphetamine

This bill, if passed, would increase the illegality of meth, called by one representative “the most harmful one there is,” by one drug classification. There were in-depth discussions about the importance of harm reduction rather than the criminalization of drug offenses and there was potential for an additional provision about rehabilitation, but it was never proposed nor voted on. Opponents of this bill also pointed out the cost of incarceration but this bill ultimately passed.

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Update: Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide

This bill would legalize physician-assisted suicide for people with a chronic illness in which they have the state of mind to make that decision for themselves. During debate, both the Democratic Majority Leader and Republican Minority Leader endorsed this bill on the behalf of their parties. A hypothetical scenario was brought up in which a person wants to go through with physician-assisted suicide, but they are not in a sound state of mind. The response to this point was that the bill requires the consent of both the patient and the doctor. With the support of both parties, this bill passed with a clear majority.

Update: Electric Rail Systems

This bill is designed to create an electric rail system, resembling the Trans-Continental Railroad, throughout the United States. Although both parties endorsed the bill, there was still inter-party opposition to the bill on the basis of replacing infrastructure that already exists and the cost. Those in support of this bill argued for the environmental benefits. After a roll call vote, this bill passed.

Update: Opioid Prescription Accessibility and Education

This Senate bill did not pass the House. However, it was designed to address the opioid epidemic by requiring certifying classes for all doctors before they can prescribe opioids to a patient.

Additional reporting by Audrey Miracle, Margaret Lee, Zoey Sauerwein, Jack Steenburgh, Raley Baynes, Charlie Seaborn, Claire McMahon, and Lily Kine.