By Ellen Reinhard
Eighteen Union University students attended and received honors for Best Delegation at the 41st General Assembly of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, Nov. 18–21, in Nashville.
TISL is held in the Tennessee Senate and House of Representative chambers each year and is a statewide organization to give students the opportunity to have an impact in state government. Students present bills, debate current issues and vote on legislation.
Union was one of 37 colleges and universities in Tennessee that attended TISL. The award for Best Delegation is given to the school that presents the best bills and is active in debates. Union has won this award three times in the last four years.
In addition to receiving the award for Best Delegation, Shelly Ezell, sophomore elementary education major, was elected as the speaker pro tem of the House of Representatives for 2011. Caraline Rickard, junior political science and history double major, was awarded Best Overall Senator, and Luke Trammell, freshman political science major, was acknowledged as a top lobbyist.
At TISL, students write and present bills in the mock House, and if they pass the bill, it moves on to the mock Senate. If a bill passes by vote in both legislative houses, the TISL governor signs the bill. The signed bills are then voted on by an executive committee and narrowed to the top-10, which are published in the “TISL Blue Book” and presented in the actual Tennessee legislative assemblies in 2011.
“Differing from last year, our group met every week for about five weeks to go over some of the logistics of TISL, such as writing bills and the parliamentary procedure,” said Kirby Lewis, sophomore political science major and Union delegate for TISL.
Lewis said this practice made the process of writing bills much easier to understand for people without any previous experience in student government.
Lewis presented a bill for increasing punishment on domestic violence that passed in both the House and Senate. He served as a clerk and marshall for the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge, which handled the judicial side of TISL.
Most students involved with TISL are also members of Union’s Student Government Association. Lewis said the application process is run through SGA but he wanted students to know “you don’t have to be involved with SGA to participate and it’s open to anyone.”
He also said TISL is a beneficial experience because it teaches not only about the legislative process but also public-speaking, critical-thinking and presenting yourself well.
James Barbee, sophomore elementary education major, attended TISL and wrote a bill about the awareness of “sex-ting,” the use of cell phone picture-messages to send pornographic pictures, and using the explicit photos as evidence in cases of sex offenders.
The bill passed in both the House and Senate and will be considered by the Tennessee legislature.
“I learned you should not give up on the first try when you present a bill,” Barbee said.
“If you are passionate about the idea, you should continue to defend it.”
Both Barbee and Lewis said it was interesting to hear differences of opinions on bills being presented concerning legalizing gay marriage and lowering the drinking age.
“It is a good thing to be around people with more secular views because the world is not ‘Union approved,’” Barbee said.
Lewis added, “We aren’t as radical or liberal as many of the students attending, so we are set apart,” Lewis said.
“However, we need to know how to address certain issues we don’t agree with.”
Morgan Turner, freshman undecided major and first-time delegate, said the venue of the Tennessee legislative chambers was an important part of the TISL experience.
Turner wrote and presented a bill on making smoking under the age of 18 illegal. It passed in the House but failed in the Senate.
“It was really interesting being in the Capitol because it made it seem like we were participating in a legislature,” Turner said.
“A lot of people get really into the debates and voting, which is fun.”
Barbee said, “It was a great honor to be in the Capitol and I felt a sense of empowerment being in the seats.
“TISL is about learning to hold your ground about what you believe is right and still valuing others’ opinions when they are different than yours.”
Stephen Hauss, freshman business management major, presented a bill to make it illegal to carry a handgun in a bar.
“I argued the bill in the House for 50 minutes and it barely passed, but failed in the Senate because some senators argued that it violated the Fourth Amendment,” Hauss said.
“Many people think if you are responsible enough to have a permit to carry (a gun), you should be able to carry it no matter what. I think no matter how confident you are with a gun, if you are drunk around that many people, it is just too dangerous.”
Hauss said the experience of learning to defend a bill and present a good case helped him have a “greater respect for the Tennessee lawmakers and a greater appreciation for the law itself.”